When Simon first asked me to guest blog here at Murderati I was pleased and since I don’t know Simon all that well I wanted to put on a good show and not make him regret asking me. I think that went well.
And then Mike MacLean asked me to fill in for him.
I know Mike. I reeeeeaaaally know Mike. But we’ll keep it nice here anyway, because we’re mostly nice people (Jim Born’s not here is he?). The characters we create though are not always nice. I’m well into the manuscript of a new novel and I’ve been thinking a lot about the "tone" and "color" of the novel. Another well-respected writer read the manuscript for my last novel and mentioned that my style is more in line with Robert Parker and not as dark as many current practitioners of the field. I agree with that assessment, but it makes me think.
My books have always had a lighter tone to them while my short stories are almost entirely dark (see Donkey Show or Alter Road). I’ve tried writing darker books, but it doesn’t work. I just turn my brain off and my writing subconscious on and inevitably what comes out every time is "light." That doesn’t mean everybody is always joking and there’s lots of scenes with exploding whoopie cushions, but in general there is an optimistic tone and I don’t dig too deep into the really dark parts of my characters. Why is this?
Laura Lippman is famously quoted as saying she wanted to be more hardboiled but, like Jessica Rabbitt, she just wasn’t drawn that way. Now Laura’s recent short story work has gone a long way to redrawing her, but her books still lean more toward the lighter side of the spectrum and it certainly hasn’t hurt her sales. Are some writers just drawn lighter than others? Is it easier to write darker characters and themes in short works instead of novels?
So here’s the question for the day: What color are you? Do you mix lighter and darker styles? And if you do write dark and long, how do you look at yourself in the morning?
Next week: The talented Toni McGee Causey takes over the Sunday spot!