Several months ago, I began corresponding with fellow mystery novelist Denisa Nickell Hanania, whose debut novel, A Talent to Deceive, has just been published by Avalon Press. Denisa’s book is set in present-day Indianapolis, IN, and features five close friends, conservative wives and mothers who comprise a book club which meets regularly to discuss literature and, incidently, solve crimes. Her book was inspired by her real-life book club. She says that when her club first started meeting, it seemed to make their husbands nervous. They’d hear the women laughing and ask, “what are you talking about?” The men’s nervousness appealed to Denisa’s sense of humor, so she decided to blend her love for books with the idea of the women having a secret life. And thus was born her “Ladies of the Club.”
Denisa lives in Indianapolis, manages a network marketing business, and has a husband and six sons! Somehow she manages to write novels in her spare time, whenever that may be. She says that the best tip she can give for finding time to write is to look for pockets of time and be disciplined in using them. “This fall most of my writing has been done in the parking lot while her son was at soccer practise,” she wrote.
So don’t give me any excuses about not having time to write.
I asked her about her writing journey – how she came to write her novel and how she got it published, and she told me that after writing a long novel that never saw the light of day, “I studied every writing book I could get my hands on — even doing all the exercises … I spent about 2 1/2 years studying the craft. So when I wrote A Talent to Deceive I knew what I was doing and the editors received a refined manuscript instead of a first draft.” Her book was accepted by the second publisher she submitted it to.
I was interested to discover that Denisa spent much of her professional life writing training manuals on supervising techniques, because if I had a nickel for every manual I wrote in my teaching and librarian days, I’d be a lot richer than I am now. I commented to her that I can’t think of any better training for a novelist on how to write clearly and concisely.
Outwardly, it appears that Denisa’s book is different from my historical mysteries, but we’ve discovered that our motivations for creating the kinds of novels we write are quite similar. Following are a couple of paraphrased excerpts from our correspondence:
ME:I think that the great appeal of the traditional mystery is that, unlike the real world, justice is usually done in the end.
DENISA:I would go so far as to say we believe so much in justice that our writing is a way to encourage others to use their personal power to right justice.
DENISA: Fiction definitely gives license to tell the truth.
ME:Your comment that fiction is in its own way truer than fact is one of my own favorite ideas.
But here is my favorite common point between us – we both experienced a thunderbolt moment that inspired us to create the characters we did.
For me, who spent much of her life as a lefty feminista, it occurred when I suddenly realized that by so completely rejecting the traditional roles that had always been associated with women, I was somehow buying in to the idea that there is something inferior about them. What a shocking idea! There is nothing lesser and much superior about women, now and in the past, no matter what kind of lives they live. And so was born Alafair.
For Denisa, her moment came, “one night, [when] I was sitting there looking at my friends and thing about what incredible women they are. It occurred to me that people pass them on the street and dismiss them as ordinary without ever taking time to get to know them. I decided to write a book to show the world how misleading ordinary can appear.” And thus we have the Ladies of the Club.
Denisa’s web site contains a lot more information about her philosopy and writing life, and about A Talent to Deceive, the Ladies, and how it all came to be. The address is : www.denisahanania.com.
I have one more event this year – this Thursday, Nov. 29, at 7:00 p.m. at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ. I hope to see you there. Afterwards, you can go to downtown Glendale and be awed by the fabulous holiday lights.