Kath here. Please welcome award-winning crime fiction author Libby Fischer Hellmann back to Writer Unboxed today. Libby is writing her way around the genre, taking risks and pushing boundaries,which is why we were delighted she agreed to guest with us again. Her 2012 literary thriller, A BITTER VEIL, takes place largely in revolutionary Iran. Her other stand-alone, SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE (2010), goes back to the late Sixties in Chicago. She also writes two crime series, one with PI Georgia Davis, the other featuring video producer and amateur sleuth Ellie Foreman, which Libby calls a mix of “Desperate Housewives” and “24.”. Her short story collection, NICE GIRL DOES NOIR, was released in 2010. She has also written a cozy novella, THE LAST PAGE, and a police procedural, TOXICITY. She is currently working on another stand-alone thriller set in Cuba. We’re inspired by her willingness to march to the beat of her own drum and write the unboxed novel. Thanks for guesting with us again, Libby. Enjoy!
I remember writing an article when I was first published called “Doing it by the Book.” I was very proud of myself for following the rules everyone schooled me in: show don’t tell, write what you know, follow the genre’s conventions. But now it’s twelve years later, and my 10th novel, A Bitter Veil, was released this past April. This time I didn’t do it “by the book.” I broke some rules.
Probably the biggest rule I broke was “Write what you know.” We’ve all heard that canard, and for years, I obeyed. I set my protagonist on the North Shore of Chicago, which is where I live and what I know. I made field trips to virtually every other location I wrote about, including Douglas, Arizona; Lake Geneva, Wisconsin; neighborhoods in Chicago I’d never visit alone; even Cuba.
But A Bitter Veil is set in Iran, and I did not go to Iran. Nor am I a part of its culture. And yet I set it in that part of the world during the late Seventies and early Eighties. This was not without risk, and I was prepared for some people to find it unacceptable, especially Iranians. How could I write about a time and a place I’ve never seen? How could anyone? How could I understand their lives? Their pain?
I’ll try to explain. [Read more…]