19 December 2012

What Kind of Writer are You?

 A guest post by Juliet Blackwell

Hello, and thank you for having me on Stuff and Nonsense!

Lately I’ve been writing a lot of blogs, and giving a lot of talks, and answering a lot of interview questions to promote my latest novel, MURDER ON THE HOUSE, the third in my Haunted Home Renovation series featuring Mel Turner, a general
contractor with a knack for finding ghosts behind the walls of the historic homes she renovates.

But recently a friend asked me a question that made me stop and think.

“What kind of writer are you?” she asked.

“Um…a mystery writer,” I responded, surprised she didn’t know after all this time!

“I know that,” she said. “I mean, do you see yourself as a career writer, as someone fooling around, as serious literature…or what?”

And as I thought about it, I realized: I’m the kind of writer who feels like she’s getting away with something.

Seriously. Most people I know are condemned to spending a goodly portion of every day doing things they would prefer not to. And I’m not even talking about the folks who unclog city sewers or pour asphalt on hot summer days or serve fast food.

As a friend of mine used to say: “Work is work; if it were fun they would have called it fun.”

But I thoroughly enjoy my work. There’s something…downright un-American about that, isn’t there?

Even when I’m not taking actual pleasure in my work-–because yes, it can be bone-crunchingly, soul-numbingly hard-- I’m still compulsively driven to do it. I wake up before dawn and start to write; by the time others are coming on home in the evening, kicking off their shoes, and mixing a pitcher of mojitos, I still would rather keep writing than join them. Makes me a bit of a freak in my tight-knit neighborhood.

When I was working full-time as an artist, painting custom murals and portraits of children in the guise of Raphaelite angels, architects and bookkeepers and computer programmers would stop by my Berkeley studio, look around at the easels and paints and ask me: “How come you get to do this?”

Good question. A lot of luck, certainly. And plenty of hard work, and the fortitude to forgo a whole lot of consumer items. But mostly, the enticing idea that I might get away with doing what I want to do.

I managed to stay in school for years, studying anthropology. When the whole anthropology doctorate thing didn’t quite work out, I became a professional artist. And now, a fiction writer.

Clearly I’m not cut out for a real job!

But I’ve never regretted my choices. For me, being a writer means getting to live in my head, to look around at the world and imagine an altered reality full of characters both real and imagined; and to enjoy myself, and my work, just about every single day. It’s a lot like being an artist, or an anthropologist for that matter: The pay sucks, but the working conditions are awesome.

Juliet Blackwell is the NYT bestselling author of the Haunted Home Renovation mystery series (IF WALLS COULD TALK, DEAD BOLT, MURDER ON THE HOUSE) and the Witchcraft mystery series (SECONDHAND SPIRTS, A CAST-OFF COVEN, HEXES AND HEMLINES, IN A WITCH'S WARDROBE). 
As Hailey Lind, Juliet penned the Art Lover’s mystery series, including Agatha-nominated FEINT OF ART. 
A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked and studied in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France. She now lives in a happily haunted house in Oakland, California, where she is a muralist and portrait painter. 
She was a two-term president of Northern California Sisters in Crime. 

Visit Juliet at www.julietblackwell.net; http://www.facebook.com/JulietBlackwellAuthor; and Twitter @JulietBlackwell

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