I'm stepping aside today--and just today, so don't get your hopes up--to let my dear friend Julia Spencer-Fleming give you her view of one aspect of the crime fiction biz I've never encountered. Julia, whose brilliant Millers Kill series continues in April with One Was A Soldier, is not only a terrific writer and a good friend, but also a wonderful person, an exemplary mom and for all I know, a standout pipe-fitter. I said something about stepping aside, didn't I?
By Julia Spencer-Fleming
I was going to write about friendships among the mystery community today, which I thought was appropriate, since Jeff and I met through our writing and have been friends for many a year now. (Although it wasn't friendship that got me this guest blogging gig. I had to introduce Jeff to my associate, Mr. Andrew Jackson, to seal that deal.) However, I just discovered something amazing about myself, so let's kick bonds of relationship and fond respect to the curb and talk about me.
I have fanfic!
No, I don't mean I've got Naruto h/c slash downloaded on my hard drive. (Don't know what that means? Ask your 13-year-old.) I've found stories about my characters, Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne, written by people who are not me for the enjoyment of others.
I think that's SO cool.
Technically speaking, my oldest daughter found the fics. Apparently Smith College doesn't keep her so busy as to prevent her from browsing multiple fanfiction sites looking for stories based on the Millers Kill mysteries. (I don't know what else she's looking for out there, and I don't WANT to know, either.) Now admittedly, my fandom is smaller than J.K. Rowling's. Actually, I think there are probably more fics out there written about Hagar the Horrible than about Russ and Clare. But I can't tell you how affirming I find the fact that there are readers out there who love those characters so much they aren't satisfied with what I can write about Millers Kill.
To me, fanfiction based on novels says the author has created characters so real, so alive, that they attain a sort of freedom from their original works. The characters walk around, as it were, in the common imagination, existing not just in the mind of the author or between the covers of a book, but in the hearts of the readers, the people who make John Gardner's “dream of fiction” a reality.
And in my case, it's probably a good thing, since I have a lot of trouble keeping to the one-book-a-year standard approved by the publishing industry. When One Was A Soldier comes out at the end of April, it will have been two and a half years since my last novel; I Shall Not Want. That's a lot of time to keep readers waiting. So let a dozen fanfics bloom! (I did mention there aren't a lot out there right now, yes? A dozen would be a significant bump up in numbers.)
For those of you who prefer authentic, copyrighted, 100% Julia Spencer-Fleming produced fiction, I have an Advance Reader Copy of the above mentioned One Was A Soldier to give away. Just leave a comment letting me know what book or character you'd like to see (or create!) in fanfiction. At the end of the day, I'll draw a name at random (translation: my 10-year-old will pick a slip of paper out of a hat) and one lucky winner will walk away with the 7th Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery.
And we have a winner! My 10-year old already went to bed, so my husband Ross did the pulling out of a hat honors. And the ARC goes to Carolyn, who thought she was going to have to wait until her birthday to read One Was A Soldier. Carolyn, if you contact me with your address at julia at juliaspencerfleming dot com, I'll have that winging it's way to you in no time.
Don't worry, you can still read the book even if you didn't win. One Was A Soldier is available at:
And of course, your locally-owned independent bookstore.