Mystery author Martha Crites sits for an interview today. Learn more about Martha at her website.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Late bloomers take heart. I didn’t have the nerve to write until I was over forty. In fact, I dropped out of creative writing in college because in-class critiques seemed too terrifying. Fast-forward twenty years. A coworker brought a paper bag of used mystery novels into the psychiatric unit where I work, I paged through them and said, “I bet it would be fun to write one of these.” Everyone encouraged me, so I did. I’ve since learned to love the critique process.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
I started Grave Disturbance (then titled She Who Listens) in 1999. Winning a Malice Domestic Grant in 2003 encouraged me. Rejections from traditional publishers took the next couple years. The desk drawer stage was the longest–a decade.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
Hybrid, meaning that I have paid half the costs and my publisher paid half. I am very thankful to Waverly Fitzgerald of Rat City Publishing who had faith in my forgotten manuscript.
By the time I began shopping my book around, traditional regional mysteries seemed to have fallen out of favor with big publishers. Today thrillers, cozies and Scandanavian noir are more noticed. My novel is cozy in the sense that Grace Vaccaro, the protagonist is a mental health professional, not a detective. The setting is a small town, but the issues are more dark than humorous. The Pacific Northwest scenery and gloomy weather saturate Grave Disturbance. Nationally, I think of Margaret Maron and Louise Penney continue to carry the flame of the regional mystery. And I think readers still love them.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
I work in the mental health system and write about it. Because of confidentiality, I can only take the smallest seeds of ideas from real people. Oddly, I made one character up from scratch, and I think I have met him since.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
It is much bigger than a peeve–homelessness in a rich country. Political writing is not popular in American fiction, but popular fiction, mysteries in particular, have often taken on serious issues of our times.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I love authors who take genre and turn it into literary fiction. My favorite is Deliverance by James Dickey. I was surprised to be impressed by such a male-oriented book, but Dickey took an adventure story and used it to examine the nature of being a man in modern society.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I am working on another mystery featuring Grace Vaccaro, in which a young woman who struggles with mental illness is arrested for the murder of a famous author.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I would love to hear readers’ opinions on what kinds of mysteries they enjoy reading and if that has changed over the years. Is it changing now?
When a neighbor and a man with paranoia are found bludgeoned to death on the banks of the Snoqualmie River, Mental Health Evaluator, Grace Vaccaro’s search for answers leads her from a Seattle homeless encampment to the rainy forests of the Cascade foothills. The results are never clear. A Mexican immigrant fears deportation and refuses to talk to the police. A Native American elder works to conceal the location of ancestral gravesites. And a pregnant woman Grace just evaluated is terrified. Are her statements delusional or does she have information leading to the murderer?