It’s a sad fact. Readers have chided me for it.
I gripe about being considered a "regional writer."
It might not bother me as much if I lived in a region with a large population — and that population supported its authors. But the Southwest just doesn’t come close to "The South" or "California" or "The East Coast."
So, I sulk.
I’ve been convinced that my series — even with its national nods — hasn’t "hit the big time" because those darn New York editors (and reviewers and bookstore owners) don’t understand that a book written with New Mexico as its focus can still have a broad appeal. Hell, I know it can. My readers come from all over the country, and beyond.
I know for a fact that THE BELEN HITCH was passed over at one NYC house because the publisher already had another Southwestern female protag and the marketing department didn’t believe it could "support" two.
Now, some Southwestern authors have done quite well: Tony Hillerman (Navajo Indians), Michael McGarrity (Western lawman), James Doss (Indians/shamans), Rudolfo Anaya (Hispanic culture). But has it been overdone?
Or, are editors bound by their own stereotypes about the region?
Who else but me writes about a moderately urban, whipped-cream guzzling, reform Jewish gal with a wicked wit and an unending supply of ambitious clients gung-ho about putting their towns and projects on every travel agent’s and tourist’s map? Who else ever wrote a mystery set in Clovis, Belen, or Socorro County?
I’m unique, gosh darn it. I’m fresh! I’m, um, regional?
It’s enough to make me scream.
Well, sort of.
Lately I’ve been rethinking my stance. I’ve taken to wearing elegant native New Mexican jewelry. At some conventions or signings, you might even find me sporting a classy red-and-green chile (yes, it’s spelled with an "e" in NM) tie.
You see, it occurred to me that all my grumbling was wasting energy and time. Frankly, if every reader in New Mexico bought my books, I’d be close to that big time success I so crave.
So, writing about New Mexico — being called regional — isn’t bad in itself. It gives me an initial identity.
The question I have is: Will being "regional" doom me to be considered a quaint, "little" writer?
It’s the same kind of question I ask about being published by a smaller house. The University of New Mexico Press has been very good to me; it gave THE CLOVIS INCIDENT a voice when no bigger publisher would even consider it. But, will starting with a small publisher — having limited distribution and endorsement from national book chains, limited attention from national news media — doom me to oblivion as well?
(Lest you think I’m being melodramatic, note that I spoke with a well-known, national reviewer who told me that until my books were published by a big house, she wouldn’t consider looking at them.)
Oh, I don’t know.
My hope is, eventually, that when I’ve written enough Sasha books, a broader audience will actually turn to my work to find out about this region — in the same way people turn to Tony HIllerman to find out about Navajo country.
Until then, I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep getting better at my craft, at storytelling.
Each of my books has brought growth. THE CLOVIS INCIDENT is a great first ride. THE BELEN HITCH is a better written and plotted mystery. THE SOCORRO BLAST, my newly finished manuscript, tackles ethnic profiling and how our paranoia — born of the events of 9/11 — have changed the way we treat each other. (Believe me, it still has humor.)
Book # 4 will take a hard, hot look at the chile pepper industry in southern New Mexico.
Book #5 will explore the culture surrounding alternative energy in my state.
After that, I’ll focus on the role New Mexico plays in the space industry; we’re getting a space port (or the sciences at Los Alamos and Sandia Labs).
Obviously, I have many more Sasha stories to tell.
Will they find a bigger audience? A major publishing house? The big time?
Only time will tell.