The writer life: Why crime fiction?

While at my first few book signings in 2018 and 2019, I was surprised how often I was asked if my book was nonfiction or based on a true story.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. In the Texas Panhandle, my name was strongly associated with my background as a reporter and editor of the Amarillo Globe-News. But after explaining that I’d ventured into the world of fiction and that, while my characters and settings were realistic, the events were from my own imagination, I was then asked: Why?

Why, after ten years of reporting the facts and finding stories based in truth, would I not use those skills when writing a book? Surely writing true crime would be easier, right?

They were legitimate questions, and I didn’t have a great answer. Since then, I’ve figured it out: Writing fiction is more fun.

Every day I can, I get to look at real life and ask, “Wouldn’t it be crazy if …”

Wouldn’t it be crazy if this was the reason a crime was committed? Wouldn’t it be crazy if that was the identity of the criminal?

I chose the genre of crime fiction because it was the best way to make sure the characters and settings were realistic. I soon realized there was another benefit, too. I knew how to research crimes and find sources to help me.

I get to be half journalist, half Hemingway, and I love it.

Now, I didn’t come up with this strategy on my own. I am one of approximately a bajillion authors to have made the jump from working at a daily newspaper to writing crime fiction.

One of the most popular right now is Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer books. Other bestselling examples include John Sanford and Stieg Larsson. (Hemingway was a war correspondent, but didn’t write crime fiction.)

Perhaps these questions are one reason the main character in my second novel (which has become my first thriller series) is a true crime writer.

And I haven’t ruled out writing narrative nonfiction.

But right now I’m having too much fun making things up.

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