One of my favorite general market mystery authors is Margaret Maron.
She has two series, but is currently only writing the Judge Deborah Knott series.
I love Maron for lots of reasons.
1) She’s a lovely person, kind, and generous and thoughtful.
2) She breaks some of the writing “rules” and it works!
3) She knows her characters inside and out. They will never do something that isn’t in their makeup or without a compelling reason.
I was fortunate to be able to drive Ms. Maron around Fresno when she visited here in 2004. I got some one on one time with her and she’s all that I said above, plus some.
The How-to-Write-Fiction books give rules, such as:
- Don’t have sprawling family trees because readers can’t keep track of that many characters.
- Don’t have elderly characters because you might have to kill them off as time progresses and readers hate that.
Maron breaks both of those rules and her readers love her for that. Deborah is the only daughter of Kezzie Knott, a former bootlegger in North Carolina. Deborah has eleven older brothers. Thankfully, only a few of them live close by. And each book includes a family tree for easy reference. Kezzie is elderly and would be long gone if literary time kept pace with real time. But that’s the beauty of fiction: it doesn’t have to! The books move ahead nicely, but are now several years behind “real” time, so Mr. Kezzie is safe for quite a while longer.
Another popular author has lost credibility with me because of her lead character’s propensity for going into dangerous situations, knowing she shouldn’t. But she does it anyway.
The only time Deborah knowingly puts herself in danger, it’s because she really has no choice. Someone else’s safety is on the line. If Deborah is in a life or death situation, she doesn’t just blithely walk in, telling herself she’ll be fine even though the basement is dark, there are strange noises and she’s only armed with a rolling pin.
The first book in the series is Bootlegger’s Daughter. And they only get better.