I would like to say: “I didn’t give up on writing my crime novel. Nope. No way, no how. Didn’t happen.” and it would be a lie.
I gave up on it a little bit. Just a little.
I dug out a half finished romance novel from last summer, dusted it off and hugged my characters, and here I am, 23k words later with 57k of romance novel (it needs only another 5-8k and then it’s finished!) and I’m very, very happy. I love this novel and I love the characters and it’s unconventional storytelling structure and all the different ways these people are trying to be happy. It’s fluffy and funny and sad and it’s real. It’s queer and it’s straight and it’s all the things between. I don’t regret picking it up again – I never put it away deliberately, but Life happened, and I didn’t get the chance to finish it when I wanted to.
Then a friend recommended Broadchurch. I’d been writing nonstop for a couple of days and knew I’d need a proper break or I’d actually start burning out, so I put it on.
I’m six episodes into the first series* and guys. GUYS. Forgive me for the rant I’m about to go on, but.
Much as I’m enjoying Broadchurch (and I am genuinely enjoying it), I can’t help but be really annoyed that the DI is yet another random dude with a tragic back story. I’m annoyed that Ellie didn’t get the job, like it was literally taken away from her in the first five minutes of the series before she even had a chance to work the job and then she was relegated to be the sidekick! I just. Why. Why does the lead investigator have to be tragic!back story dude? Why couldn’t we have had happily married Ellie with the stay-at-home househusband whose only “tragic past” is her still alive “can I borrow more money” sister?
I literally just had this conversation with my brother the other weekend (we were discussing queer representation in popular culture as he’d just come out to me as gay). I am sick of crime fiction protagonists always having to be middle aged men or women with tragic pasts, like dead spouses or divorces and no contact to children or some major fuckup on a former job that hunts them in the present or depression (always pictured as extreme sadness, no other symptoms exist. Gross.) or other illness etc. etc. I just described 95% of Scandinavian crime fiction. The twist to make it American crime fiction would’ve been the male lead picking up a new woman every book as the inevitable “prize” for solving the case. (This btw is a major part of the reason why I detest Män som hatar kvinnor**, because it has all these failings and then more.)
It’s very hard for me to empathise with DI Hardy when every time I look at him I don’t see DI Hardy, I see a clone. I see a walking cliché. (In the beginning, all I saw was David Tennant and a beard, which was equally disturbing, but that’s besides the point.)
I’m enjoying Broadchurch despite this, because it’s doing a lot of things that I didn’t expect and it’s actually making me work for it – who did it? It’s hard to tell when you’re suspecting every single citizen in the town. It’s refreshing and beautiful to behold (remind me to visit Dorset on my next visit to England…and remind me to tell you about that time I chose Dorset as the location for a crime in an old story of mine! Fun times), and it’s so well done. It’s an excellent piece of writing and I’m marvelling at it and the complexity and all the characters and their diversity.
I would’ve loved it so much more if Ellie had been the DI because I can literally not think of a single piece of crime fiction I’ve consumed in the past decade in which the protagonist is well adjusted and has a happy home life and also isn’t burdened by some past mistake.
I just want that. For once.
So, I decided to get back to my crime novel. No motivation to write like righteous anger and frustration, amiright?
Let me tell you a few things about this novel of mine to put this all into perspective:
The setting is a small (picturesque) town in Iceland.
The protagonist is a young woman who left home to study abroad (the US), and who couldn’t get a job when she graduated. She returned home to live on her dad’s sofa, and ended up taking a job as a cop in the local town because that’s all there was. She is severely overqualified for this, but here’s the kicker: She does not have a tragic back story – bad childhood, abusive parents, terrible relationships, illness, depression, past mistakes, what have you – she’s just a recent graduate. She’s young and inexperienced. She’s queer (aroace). Her sidekick is also a young man, about the same age. Also queer (gay).
Her biggest problems is the fact her shifts at work coincide with her favourite TV series and that Ben & Jerry’s isn’t available in Iceland. Oh, yeah, and the fact that she wants to make a career, and it’s kind of hard when the local police station a) doesn’t even have a crime lab and b) the most exciting thing to happen in this community is a stolen bicycle (found in a hedge two days later).
There’s a murder mystery, of course. It shakes the community, and it’s all very tragic and exciting. Protagonist gets exciting things to do because of this murder mystery.
My protagonist’s personal journey is not to accept that she’s stuck in her tiny home town and somehow love it and decide to stay – her personal journey is to reconcile with the place and realise that small communities also have value, and just because she studied in an American town five times the size of Iceland, it does not mean that it’s better, or that she’s better. She eventually leaves her hometown and she gets a job better suited to her dreams somewhere else, in a bigger town.
She will not find ~true love. She’s aroace. She has a cat. She will get a platonic life partner, but it will not happen in the first novel (ah, yes. I have a whole series planned out).
I decided to write this novel because I wanted fiction for ME. I wanted something that catered to ME. I wanted something with people like ME in it. I’m a queer young woman who’s enjoying life. I’m not a depressed middle aged man with a tragic back story.
And I think that now, more than ever, I need to write this. For me. And anyone else who will have it.
*I’m fully aware that I have not finished watching this series and that I may well have surprises in store for me.
**I really loathe this novel. I’m sorry for going on about it – it tends to crop up every time the topic falls on crime fiction – but I literally cannot help it.