With an ebook on its way in two weeks, normally I'd be promoting with a vengeance in this space. I will not do that today. Expect it next week.
A crime fiction writer is, in case you hadn't noticed, a weird animal. We spend our time thinking up odd ways to kill people, justifying them with motives that sometimes border on the bizarre, and call it "entertainment." We concoct puzzles in the shape of killings, and those of us who do so with a veneer of humor often see our word referred to as, among other things, "a romp."
Most of the time, we are concerned with the mechanics of plot. We create characters, yes, but after they are established and their voices are well embedded in our heads, we can stop worrying about getting them exactly right, because they'll tell us what is and is not in their bag of tricks. We think about dialogue, but only when it's not going well,because when it is going well, it's a conversation taking place that we simply transcribe. It's plot we concern ourselves with most of the time. How did the crime take place, who perpetrated it, what made it so difficult to solve? And most of all, why?
Then comes a day like last Friday.
An unimaginable crime like the one that blackened that day is beyond description; it is a horror and an atrocity and an act so terrible it can physically hurt to think about it. We may never know exactly what happened, although even the most cursory of accounts would be unbearable. We might be satisfied that we know who brought this awful thing to our world once the evidence is clear. We might understand the mechanics of the plan and its execution. But we're not ever going to know why. There is no why. Nothing can explain this.
And if you think that it's too soon to be talking about something that can control the easy access to firearms in this country, you have missed the point entirely. It is not too soon. It is, tragically, much too late.
Often, when crime fiction writers hear of some real life act, there might be a moment--and we're not proud of it--that we'll wonder if there's something there we might eventually be able to us in a story. There's a reason we got into this business to begin with, after all. And a professional interest can take odd forms.
Not this time.
How do you do it--how do you go on after something like this hideous moment, and go back to writing about crime in a lighthearted fashion? How can one absorb something this unconscionable and then return to plotting murders as a form of amusement?
People have often asked me how a writer makes murder funny, and I always answer that, at least, I don't ever try to do that. I think murder is the worst thing a person can do, and I don't think ending a life is ever funny. It's the reaction of the survivors, I'll say, that can be seen as comedic.
I think it's going to take some time to get back to that place in my own head. How will I do it? Right now, I don't know, but I'm sure I will.
It's not going to be easy. I'll tell you that.