My dear old husband Howard died at the end of August 2005, just as Hurricane Katrina hit. It was four days after we retired to our dream house in a mountain village in California, not far from the Los Angeles sprawl.
Whew! Retirement has been a little different than I planned.
Howard had been sick a number of years and keeping him going took up a major part of my time and thoughts. When he died, I was in a new community where I knew few people. And there were empty hours and days I needed to fill. I just didn’t have the psychological wherewithal to pack up and move back to Santa Monica.
Writing had been part of my life, yes. I worked at the University of Southern California and had free tuition to the master’s creative writing program. But I wanted to write complicated literary novels about unhappy families. I wrote four of them, all unpublished. I see now they weren’t very good, but I didn’t know that at the time.
Mysteries were what I read for secret pleasure. Why not try one since my life had taken such a twist? Why police procedurals (mysteries where a law enforcement officer is the protagonist?)
I’ve always been a cop watcher, trying to decide if it was just one bad apple spoiling the barrel or was the whole barrel spoiled. The Santa Monica Police Department offers the Citizen Academy, a 13-session program inviting residents to peer behind the blue curtain. I saw two cops parked watching a demonstration I was involved in and recognized them as detectives.
An idea captured me. I’m writing my sixth mystery now; five of them have featured those fictional detectives. Another one, Payback, features a patrol officer in the village where I live.
You can start your writing life at any age.
I wish I were 25 again, sure. All that energy I once had. How I’d love to direct it in my writing life. I’ve got so many ideas bubbling in my head, places I want to take Mason and Delgado, Stafford and Holly. I can’t focus the way I once did.I don’t have the confidence they’ll all get written.
However, this is the best time in human history to write novels called mysteries. That’s the only reason I wish I were 25, really. I leave it to real 25-year-olds to live in the world of today. I’m not sure I’d survive it.