Life Lessons from Murder Mysteries—and a Giveaway!

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Now, Lauren has added one more hit series to her list with the Chris Matheson Cold Case Mysteries. Set in the quaint West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry, Ice introduces Chris Matheson, a retired FBI agent, who joins forces with other law enforcement retirees to heat up those cold cases that keep them up at night.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites and blog at:

E-Mail: writerlaurencarr@gmail.net
Website: http://mysterylady.net/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lauren.carr.984991
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page:
http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries?ref=ts&fref=ts
Acorn Book Services Facebook Page:
https://www.facebook.com/AcornBookServices?ref=hl
Twitter: @TheMysteryLadie

Once, during a radio interview, the topic of my husband came up. The lead host, a long-time fan, announced the interesting fact that my husband of almost thirty years has never read any of my best-selling murder mysteries. I’ve written and published over twenty mysteries, over four series, and Jack has yet to read a single one.

New to the show, the other host, who hadn’t had a chance to read any of my books, was shocked—as many people are.

“It’s okay,” I said with a shrug. “It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. My husband reads non-fiction and is supportive of my writing in every other way. He doesn’t have to read my books.”

I was surprised when across the table, this co-host sighed with relief. “Me, too. I don’t like reading fiction. I prefer non-fiction.”

By the end of the show, this co-host asked for an autographed copy of my latest book and promised to read it. I’ve been back on that radio show several times and know that he has yet to read any of my books. I still enjoy our interviews and we get along well. He’s a very nice man, respectable, intelligent, and I like him. It’s okay that he doesn’t like fiction or murder mysteries.

During the course of my journey as a fiction author, I have learned many things about the world.

√ Everyone is different. Each one of us views, feels, and thinks differently about everything. Even in fiction, one reader may see a message that other readers may not.

√ Just because someone perceives something differently from you, doesn’t mean he is stupid, wrong, or have some ulterior motive.

When I was a college student, I remember hearing more than one literature professor declare, “The whale in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick symbolizes …”

At which point I would think:

“How do you know that was what Moby Dick is a symbol of? Did Herman Melville say that is what Moby Dick symbolizes? Maybe he just wanted to write a thrilling book about a big white whale and Moby Dick doesn’t mean anything.”

Over the years, I have concluded that I was right.

The plotline for my ninth Mac Faraday mystery Three Days to Forever and the Washington DC backdrop of the Thorny Rose Mysteries were inspired by numerous sources—mostly a series of news events involving terrorism and disagreement in our country about how to handle the rise of Islam and the spread of terrorism—even the debate of “Is it really an issue? Is our country really safe?”

As a writer, I asked myself many “What if’s…” Among them, “What if traitors to our country, supporting Islamic terrorist groups, managed to achieve positions high up in our government—even to the point of being a trusted advisor to our president.” Thus, one element of the plot in Three Days to Forever involves fictional characters in the fictional president’s administration.

Since I don’t live under a rock, being aware of the political divide in our country, I issued Three Days to Forever with a disclaimer reminding readers that this book is a work of fiction. “It is not the author’s commentary on politics, the media, the military, or Islam. While actual current events have inspired this adventure in mystery and suspense, this fictional work is not meant to point an accusatory finger at anyone in our nation’s government.”

This disclaimer held true for the first installment in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, Kill and Run, as well. While much of the mystery revolves around the military and Pentagon setting, Kill and Run was never meant as a commentary against the military in any way, shape, or form.

My job as a writer is to observe things—how things, people, circumstances, are, and ask, “What if …” Based on my observations during my years as an editor in Washington, I created a compelling backdrop for Kill and Run and the premise for the Thorny Rose Mysteries.

In the third Thorny Rose Mystery, Murder by Perfection, I explore our society’s obsession with perfection and it’s dark side.

In spite of the disclaimer, I was not surprised when a few readers interpreted the fictional plot of Three Days to Forever as an attack on then-President Obama and a political message. One reader actually pointed to the note saying, “tells me that deep down she probably knows better.”

These readers who read unintended messages between the lines and cast judgment on the deliverer of that assumed message have just as much right to their opinion and beliefs as I have to write a series about an elite special ops team working off the grid for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During the course of my writing career, in speaking and corresponding with readers, reviewers, and writers from diverse backgrounds, I have learned that every single person has different likes, dislikes, beliefs in sex, politics, religions, and worldviews.

Yet, our country is so widely divided with such raw feelings on both sides that it is virtually impossible for a fiction writer to pen anything with so much as a hint of reference to sex, politics, religious belief, or worldview without wounding a sensitive reader.

In normal times, offending one overly-sensitive reader would not be any great concern. But, these are not normal times. With social media, it is not out of the realm of possibilities for a single reader to blow a gasket over a perceived offense and blast it to her friends and followers. The next thing a writer knows, that throw away line in her novel, spoken by her serial killing antagonist, has been twisted and perverted to suggest that the novelist herself is racist misogynist homophobic pedophile who gets her jollies eating cheeseburgers in front of vegans. Recent news events are filled with examples of public figures (or even non-public figures), on both sides of the divide, having to walk back comments made in passing that have been snapped up and twisted into the most unpleasant image by their foes.

A few books ago, I was bouncing potential plotline ideas off another writer. Our conversation went something like this:

“I’m thinking of having the killer escape from the crime scene dressed like a woman,” I said.

There was a pause before my friend asked, “Do you mean he’s transgender?” There was trepidation in her tone.

“No, he dresses up like a woman to fool the police when they see the CCTV recording,” I explained. “They’re going to be looking for a woman when the killer is actually a man. He’ll slip into the bathroom of a gay bar a couple of blocks away. He’ll change out of the dress and then leave out the front door. How do you like that twist?”

“And then when you have the big reveal, some readers are going to think that you’re making homosexuals and transgender people out to be homicidal maniacs—”

“The killer is not homosexual or transgender,” I said.

“Is he homophobic?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “He’s straight. Whether he is homophobic has nothing to do with it. He killed his wife’s lover and is trying to get away without being detected.”

“But he’s wearing the dress and wig and he escapes through a gay bar.”

“Exactly,” I said. “And if the police figure out via the house’s security system that it is a man in a dress, and they find the dress in the bar’s bathroom, they’ll think the killer is a transvestite.”

“Then you’re slamming the LGBTQ community.”

“It’s a plot device,” I argued. “The character is simply—”

“That’s such a hot topic right now,” she said. “Do you even want to go there?”

What sounded like a good twist was shelved for another time. Maybe in ten years I can use that twist.

The problem for fiction authors is this: Our plotlines are fiction. Our characters are fictional people created to fill a role in our make-believe drama.

It is common for a writer to create positive characters whose belief systems are contrary to their own. Good writers do this. Any fictional writer who insists on depicting the world within the confines of their own belief system is doing themselves and their readers a disservice. The world encompasses many different types of people with different views of how things are and beliefs of how things should be.

Studies have proven that when it comes to siblings, each child is born into a different family. Think about it. The first-born begins life as an only child. The second child is born into an established family. The last child may be born into a big family. In each case, the circumstances—family dynamics—are different. Therefore, each comes away with different experiences and impressions of their childhood. How many of us know of siblings in which one remembers their childhood as something from “Nightmare on Elm Street”, while one or more saw their family as role models for “The Waltons”?

That means we are all different—which makes a vast global pool of characters, plotlines, and themes to inspire writers fearless enough to explore them.

The vast majority of fiction writers are not writing to make a statement about anything. However, some of us have become so gun shy that we strive to not write anything that could possibly be perceived as a statement.

Truthfully, there is no way possible to write a book that’s going to please every single reviewer and reader. Nor is it possible to not offend someone reading something between the lines—even if that message is only in the reader’s mind—not unlike literature professors who view Moby Dick as a symbolic figure.

One reader posted a two-star review for Open Season for Murder, the tenth Mac Faraday Mystery, because I had named a minor character Corey Haim.

“What really got to me in this book though was that one of the lesser characters was named for a deceased Canadian actor, Corey Haim, who died in 2010 of a possible accidental drug overdose. Seriously?? Fine, use the name Corey or Haim but to link the two together? No, I wasn’t a fan of the young man but I found the use of his name offensive.”

My first response? To google “Corey Haim” to find out who she was talking about. I had never heard of this actor. Nor had I ever seen any of his movies.

The minor character by that name in Open Season for Murder bore no resemblance to the actor. He was not an actor. He was not a drug addict. He had no emotional issues at all. This minor character was positive in every way shape and form—which begs the question—how is using the name of someone who had lived a tragic life for a positive character offensive?

Is it really any wonder that authors, reviewers, or readers don’t see the same book in the same manner? Are those who read “messages” between the lines (like the reader offended by the name Corey Haim) that I did not intend (since I had never heard of Corey Haim) wrong or stupid or judgmental? Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

My only intention is to write thrilling mysteries with plenty of twists and turns. As a human being and author, I respect those readers whose strong beliefs, whether they be political, religious, or whatever, differ from mine. I only ask that they reciprocate with their respect.

After all, how else can billions of people, each one different in their own way, get along on this planet we call Earth if we don’t respect each one’s differences?

So, when it comes to people, whether they be readers, reviewers, lovers of non-fiction, or my most devoted fan who still won’t read my murder mysteries—who disagree or dislike my books or are offended by the name of a minor character or what they perceive to be my worldview, I say, with a shrug of my shoulders, “That’s okay.”

That’s what writing about murder has taught me about life.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To enter the drawing for an ebook copy
of Murder by Perfection by
Lauren Carr,
just leave a comment answering this:
What do you think Moby Dick symbolized?
The winning name will be drawn on
Friday evening, July 20th.

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7 thoughts on “Life Lessons from Murder Mysteries—and a Giveaway!

  1. I have no idea. I’ve never read Moby Dick. In fact, I’ve rigorously avoided reading Moby Dick because I didn’t want to see the whole whale hunting thing. As far as I know, Moby Dick is a big, white whale, nothing more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I read the whole thing, Allison. It’s good and LONG! We had to read the unabridged version, which includes several chapters describing the whale and whaling. Personally, I failed to see the symbolism, which is why I suggested this question.

      Like

    • Thank you, Kathleen. You wouldn’t believe some of the things professors have claimed the whale symbolized, which I considered proof that based on our own beliefs and worldviews, people can conclude anything from a book or story.

      Like

  2. I read it, the whole durn thing, way back in early high school. On the one hand, I was monumentally bored; on the other, it was my first real taste of the cruelties and terrible waste of whaling and the need to put some restrictions on it. So, for me, maybe the symbolism is that the whale stands for the need to realize that humans are the only creatures here who become obsessed.

    Then again, if Melville meant to make a point, he wasn’t very good at it and that big old shark in Jaws certainly had an obsession, didn’t he? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel better. As a literature major back in college, I was certain there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t see any symbolism. As a writer, I kept thinking it was just a big long book about a nut chasing a whale.

      Like

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