Faye Kellerman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in Sherman Oaks, California, and she now lives in Los Angeles and Santa Fe. She has a BA in mathematics and a doctorate in dentistry. Her first novel, The Ritual Bath, was published in 1986 to wide critical and commercial acclaim, and there are now well over 20 million copies of Faye's novels in print internationally. They include Sacred and Profane, Justice and Prayers for the Dead, listed by the LA Times as one of the best crime novels of 2001. In this post Faye tells of her love of Crime Fiction.
Faye Kellerman on Crime Fiction
When Norm first approached me to write about a single book that had particular meaning to me, I blanched. So much genius has passed through my brains because of the written word that it's really too hard to talk about one specific novel. After giving the question some thought, I decided to be evasive. Instead I'll write about why I adore mysteries.
I did not grow up reading a lot of Nancy Drew. My favourite books were written by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott. The girls in the novels were always headstrong and independent, often making mistakes but just as often learning from the mistakes. As I got older, I graduated to the Gothics - books centred around a girl and a house. I gobbled up the Brontë sisters and their ilk, until I discovered Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart', the absolute perfect ghost story. What really made it special was the revelation that psychological drama could be just as compelling as physical danger.
In my early twenties, my husband Jonathan introduced me to Ross MacDonald. His body of work included stories with a strong plotline, social commentary, elegant writing and characters that personified the highs and lows in southern California. The big three hardboiled writers - Raymond Chandler, Ross MacDonald and Dashiell Hammett - had a profound impact on me. Once I started reading Crime Fiction, I found that the genre engaged me in a very real way. When I discovered James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, I was blown away by how much could be said in so few pages.
When I finally decided to try to write, I went through many permutations of stories and characters from Romance to Coming of Age. It took a while and a lot of maturation, but I finally decided that it might behoove me to write what I loved to read.
Mysteries have beginnings, middles and ends, which keeps the plot from meandering into places where it doesn't belong. Crime Fiction also deals with life and death situations. General angst is OK for a page or two, but it doesn't sustain. Finally a well-written thriller is a thing of beauty. There is no law that says one has to sacrifice style for plot. It is possible to have both. You just have to work a little harder.
If I had to give credit to the one person who inspired me, hands down it would have to be my husband, Jonathan Kellerman. Without his encouragement, I wouldn't be writing today.
And that's a fact.
[All the pieces that have appeared in this series, with the links to them, are listed in the index here.]