Q: What made you choose to write a mystery novel, as opposed to a mainstream novel?Read Part One of the interview.
A: Partly because I think it's important to read the genre you write, and write in a genre you read. I grew up reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction, but my college roommate introduced me to many of what are now my favorite mystery writers, and I began to find that while I was buying and borrowing both speculative fiction and mysteries, the mysteries were getting read much faster. Looking back, I think that at the time, the mystery genre was going through a wonderful period of expansion and diversification, with the debut of many writers who have become giants of the genre, while the speculative fiction shelves were heavily populated with bad Tolkien clones and worse Star Wars ripoffs.
I'm not saying everything in the science fiction and fantasy field was rotten -- at the same time I began to discover writers who are still among my favorites, such as Barbara Hambly, Lois McMaster Bujold, Steven Brust, Tanya Huff, and Terry Pratchett, to name a few. But back then I found a lot more to love and admire in the mystery field.
And I also think I write mysteries partly because it's the genre that still respects things like a well-constructed, comprehensible plot and engaging characters. I'm not the only mystery writer who sometimes feels baffled when reading books in the mainstream or literary fiction genres -- and they are genres. One writer friend jokingly said that she got halfway through a critically praised mainstream book and felt so frustrated that she wasn't sure she was going to finish it. "It wasn't the fact that I hadn't seen a body yet -- I could live with that," she said. "It was the complete absence of any hint of a plot." I understand what she means.
I also find myself mildly annoyed when someone talks about a book "transcending the genre." Sounds a lot like the written equivalent of "overcoming his unfortunate upbringing." If I read a mystery that really blows me away -- Laura Lippman's Every Secret Thing or To the Power of Three, for example -- I don't feel obliged to say that it transcended the genre. Just that it's a really great book. Period.
(h/t to The Rap Sheet)