Hello my lovelies! Today we have a special treat–a guest blog by the lovely Juliet Blackwell! I’ve been so lucky to get to know Juliet, and I absolutely adore her books. Her latest, Hexes and Hemlines, came out this week. There’s information about that book in this post, and there’ll be information on how to enter a contest to win one of Juliet’s books after she’s done talking. 😉
But first of all, let’s have Juliet’s very awesome bio. She’s done so much and she’s definitely one of my heroes.
Nationally bestselling author Juliet Blackwell writes the Witchcraft Mystery series (Secondhand Spirits, 2009; A Cast-off Coven, 2010; Hexes and Hemlines, June 2011; Obsidian). If Walls Could Talk launched the Haunted Home Renovation series in 2010; Dead Bolt, the second in the series, comes out in December. As one-half of the sister duo dubbed Hailey Lind, Blackwell wrote the Art Loverâ€™s Mystery Series–including Agatha-nominated Feint of Art and the most recent, Arsenic and Old Paint (September; Perseverance Press). A former anthropologist and social worker, Juliet has worked in Mexico, Spain, Cuba, Italy, the Philippines, and France, and is now a painter in Oakland, California. She served two terms as president of NorCal Sisters in Crime.
Misunderstandings and Magic: Why Bring the Paranormal into the Mystery Genre
Itâ€™s such a pleasure to be asked to write for the blog of a good friendâ€¦and Nicoleâ€™s the best! Do we have conference tales to tellâ€¦;-) Thanks for having me, Nicole!
Iâ€™ve been asked many times: why muck up the mystery genre by adding the supernatural? Why bring witches and ghosts into a classic mystery story?
(Besides the obvious, of course, which is that paranormal themes are cool, and fun, and interesting. And you get to hang around extraordinary people like Nicole Peelerâ€¦)
But as a writer, the very best thing about bringing the world of the â€œparanormalâ€ into the mystery genre is that it opens up a whole new world of mysterious possibilities in fiction.
It couldnâ€™t have come at a better time: The advent of modern technology has killed off a huge chunk of old plot stand-bys.
Cell phones are a particular bane. Consider the free-floating angst that motivates so many storylines, all those misunderstandings that could have been cleared up with a simple phone call: In Casablanca, what if Ilsa had just been able to call Rick and explain why she didnâ€™t meet him at the train station? Or in An Affair to Remember, if Deborah Kerrâ€™s character texted Cary Grant from her handy Blackberry to tell him sheâ€™d been hit by a taxi?
In a mystery novel, letâ€™s face it: anyone investigating a murder these days would probably make sure they had their cell phone with them, and that it was charged. How often can you manage to get your protagonist stuck somewhere without the possibility of calling for rescue, or back-up, or a simple clarification? There are only so many dead zones.
And donâ€™t even get me started on the internetâ€¦what happens to all those wonderful scenes where characters used to need to track down reclusive experts or ancient libraries to dig up arcane information? Now so much of that info is available with a few clicks of a mouseâ€¦and unfortunately, to paraphrase author David Sedaris, â€œtapping at a keyboard is not an inherently dramatic activity.â€
Itâ€™s boring. And boring has no place in genre fiction.
A little magic throws a fabulous monkey-wrench into the banality of modern life. The cell phone doesnâ€™t work becauseâ€¦um, yeah, it throws off a witchâ€™s vibrations, so she wonâ€™t use one. Thatâ€™s the ticket! Besides that, maybe someone cast a spell to bend time, and there are a few ghosts and maybe a demon or two lurking, and they sure as heck donâ€™t adhere to conventions of modern physics. And thereâ€™s only so much information available on Google when it comes to things like that.
Suddenly, a person finds herself with a plot.
Often in novels that feature so-called â€œamateur detectivesâ€, one doubts motive: normal people donâ€™t often get involved in murder investigations, and if they do, they work with the police, and/or wisely halt their snooping as soon as theyâ€™re threatened/ shot at/beat up. But bring magic into the mixâ€¦and suddenly thereâ€™s a crime that the all-too-normal-human police canâ€™t figure out, and maybe a hex or two left on doorsteps, and whatâ€™s a witch to do but step in and take care of matters?
In my latest Witchcraft Mystery, Hexes and Hemlines, natural witch Lily Ivory steps into a murder investigation that has the police stumped: the leader of a local rationalist society is murdered amidst symbols of bad luck: a black cat, a broken mirror, on the thirteenth floor. As someone with special paranormal talents, Lily is in a unique position to help suss out whether the manâ€™s death had anything to do with tempting the fates. And when the main suspect turns out to be someone Lily knows, and a friend is threatened by an evil practitioner, and an aging Satan worshipper enters the mixâ€¦a witch might be compelled to use magic to find the murderer before everyoneâ€™s luck runs out.
Lily may not have a cell phone, but sheâ€™s got a direct line to ancient powers. In fiction, as in life, thatâ€™s a lot more interesting.
How great is this post? As an urban fantasy writer, I’ve thought a lot about what bringing the supernatural into “our” world does for writers, but I’ve never thought of it from the “genred”-perspective of the mystery writer. It’s so true about how much technology has mucked up the author’s job, and I love Juliet not only for applying this to the paranormal-trend in today’s fiction, but also that she effortlessly quotes Sedaris’s “Nutcracker,” one of my all time favorite essays.
So Juliet rocks, her books rock, and I hope that this post not only made her fans smile but also made some new readers want to pick up her books. To facilitate this call to Juliet, I will hold a contest to win any one of Juliet’s books, including the new one, Hexes and Hemlines. The winner chooses!
To enter, please comment below with one thing you like about adding paranormal elements to fiction! I’ll choose a wiener at random next Friday, June 17th. I know you’ll love Juliet’s books as much as I do!