By Chris Grabenstein One of the most interesting panels at this year’s MAYHEM IN THE MIDLANDS out in Omaha was one moderated by William Kent Krueger called “The Me You Never See: The Secret Life of Your Favorite Authors.”

When he asked, “What’s your sign?” I thought at first that Mr. Krueger, apart from being an Anthony Award-winning author and all around great guy, was a time traveler from a 70s Single Bar. But, when about half the writers on the panel responded Virgo (or at least some Virgo influence), I knew he was on to something.

What my wife and I call Virgosity.

You see I was born on September 2nd. I am a Virgo. This explains why I eat the same whole grain muffin with peanut butter and honey every day at 9:32 A.M. Why I have two mugs on my desk: one for black pens, the other for red. Nothin’ but Sharpies.

Wait. Looks like someone snuck a baby blue ball-point into the red mug when I was in the other room preparing my 3:30 p.m. cup of coffee.

The ballpoint is dead to me.

Yes, to create the chaos of my mystery and thrillers requires lots of order and structure. Not outlines. More important stuff like two coasters: one for the coffee mug, one for the bottled water. Always to the left of the computer screen. The right is where the note pad has to sit.

Here’s what one Internet stargazer said about Virgo, the Virgin, the only female sign in the Zodiac: “Virgo wants to make sense out of the world, and will observe, study, research, compare, and record. Virgo likes paper, where ideas are presented in tangible form. In fact, an ancient picture of the Goddess shows her with a papyrus headdress. Virgo is often a fine writer, or poet, or critic.”

I’m ordering up one of those papyrus headdresses, pronto. And a rhyming dictionary so I can move into my poet phase.

Agatha Christie was a Virgo. J.K. Rowling has some heavy Virgo influence. Theodore Dreisser, D.H. Lawrence, Lilly Tomlin, Leonard Bernstein, BB King, Sean Connery and Sophia Loren – Virgos all.

But then again, so was William Howard Taft, America’s 27th (and fattest) president. WHT probably could’ve been a writer if he hadn’t been so busy doing other things such as consuming mass quantities of mutton.

Virgos crave routine. Be it regular servings of mutton and hash, or a daily writing schedule that begins to resemble the Bill Murray movie Groundhog Day.

The major pitfall of Virgo is worry.

I was afraid of that.

It’s why we Virgo writers never think we’re finished rewriting even after the hardcover and paperback have already come out. When I do a reading from one of my books, I always see words I should’ve changed, sentences I could’ve cut.

We always want to make things better. Maybe it’s why so many mystery writers on that panel were Virgos.

In mysteries, order is, typically, restored at the end. The loose ends are all tied up. All the pens are in their proper containers.

Now, if you will excuse me, it’s 4:30 p.m. Time to take my dog Fred out for a walk, the same walk we took yesterday at 4:30 p.m.

Fred, the dog, has a schedule, too. We suspect he may be a Virgo and is secretly writing a mystery where the cats don’t solve the crimes but are the victims.

Chris Grabenstein

17 thoughts on “VIRGIN WRITERS

  1. Patty

    I always knew we Virgo’s were special! I share my birthday (Sept. 21st) with Stephen King – not a half-bad writer himself. . .


  2. Lisa

    Oh God — I have two coasters on my desk as well — also for coffee and water… Sept. 20. I’m moving this weekend, and am practically unhinged at the lack of order and routine.

    Perhaps lack of mutton in my diet is the problem. Must get to work on that.

  3. Louise Ure

    Well said, Chris!

    I’ve heard it reported that Virgo writers are such worriers and revisers that they would change the wording on their tombstone if they could.

  4. pari

    Chris,Welcome to Murderati! It’s great to have you here.

    Speaking for your astrological opposite — I still think we share some similarities when it comes to worrying. But the whole order thing, well, it’s your purview — not mine.

    I got paranoid though and wondered how many Pisces were famous writers. There are many of them: Dr. Seuss, Carl Reiner, Douglas Adams, Victor Hugo (We share a b-day with Johnny Cash. But I digress), William Gibson, Helen Fielding, Ralph Ellison, Jonathan Lethem. You’ll notice a lack of mystery writers. It’s making me wonder . . . .

  5. Chris Grabenstein

    I’m still out there being Virgoish. I just did a radio interview where they asked me to read a paragraph. I think I changed a word in sentence number four! It sounded better.


    : )

  6. Jeff Cohen

    I’m a Libra, Chris. Probably explains something. But then, so was Groucho Marx. DEFINITELY explains something.

    As for changing a word in a radio interview: don’t you think some words need changing when reading aloud? I do it all the time at readings, when I can’t shame someone else into doing the reading for me.

  7. billie

    I’m seeing Virgos a whole new way – for some reason I never thought of Virgos as being creative! Clearly that is wrong. It makes total sense now that I’m thinking of the attention to detail and the focus and organization.

    I’m a Pisces too, Pari. There are many of us in the book world. 🙂

  8. Mike MacLean

    Virgo here (Sept. 14th)

    I really don’t buy into astrology, but I must admit, much of what you said describes me. I don’t think of myself as organized, (got paper everywhere) but I do see TWO coasters on my desk. And I do revise, revise, revise. So maybe you’re on to something.

    In any case, nice post and welcome to the ‘rati

  9. JT Ellison

    It’s so great to see you here, Chris!

    I’m a Taurus who craves order too. I never thought about that affecting my writing style, or others of my bullish ilk. I went and looked up some other Taurean writers — Machiavelli (Hmm…) Dante (uh-oh…) Shakespeare (well, not too bad) Charlotte Bronte (I’m not seeing a trend)

    When you step away from the creative types, you hit other lovely Taurus’s like Hitler, Lenin and Saddam Hussein. Maybe Dante was a clue after all. Yikes!

    Thanks for the fun post!

  10. Felicia Donovan

    Wait now! The Libra writers need to balance this out, as we are so inclined to do. William Faulkner, e.e. cummings, T.S. Eliot, John LeCarre, Elmore Leonard, Doris Lessing, Anne Rice, Gore Vidal… All born under the sign of the scales. We balance our writing, worrying that plot doesn’t overshadow character, nor character override conflict. The only thing “unbalanced” is that we choose to be writers in the first place!


  11. Fran

    Okay, so now I understand why I can’t quite finish the three manuscripts I’ve started, but why I’m good at selling books.

    I’m a Gemini (Look! Something shiny!) with strong Virgo influences (Stop that! Sit down! Revise!)

    Good post!

  12. Robin Burcell

    Pisces here, not relating at all to that whole organized thing. I do think it would be interesting to see the breakdown of who is what sign and what type of book they write.

    Anyone else have trouble writing last week? My sister, an astrologist of sorts, assured me that some house was out of whack (whether that is planets, stars, or signs, it’s beyond me) but that within a few days all would be aligned and I’d be back to writing. Me, I just chalked it up to not sitting down and making myself write. But what do I know?

  13. Alex Sokoloff

    Pisces, too (Scorpio rising) and Robin, last week was a total disaster for lots of people I know. Car breakdown, fights, work disturbances – I’m SURE there must have been something planetary going on.

    Well, I did say Pisces.


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