Thursday, June 14, 2007

Coming Out of the Closet

by Kristine Coblitz
For some reason, people are often shocked when I tell them I write crime fiction.

I was a quiet child. I liked my time alone. As an only child, my best friends were fictional characters in books. I got more pleasure from reading in my bedroom than from wrecking havoc with other kids in my neighborhood. I think at one point my parents became worried I would grow up to be a recluse. I was raised to be polite and not break the rules, qualities that are admirable in a child but not necessarily helpful as an adult writer.

I like to think all that time alone in my bedroom prepared me for the solitude required to live as a writer. My parents are still stumped, however, about where my fascination with crime came from. I attribute most of it to my father, who loves puzzles and enjoys challenging me to see which one of us can figure out how movies or TV shows will end. I've gotten pretty good at it over the years, I must say.

It took me a while to come out of the crime writing closet. For a long time, my family and friends knew I was a writer, but they didn't know what I wrote about. When I started sharing details of my work, let's say the news was staggering to them. I would get the worried looks of caring aunts who wondered what had gone wrong. She was such a nice girl.

A few months ago, I had coffee with two friends I hadn't seen since high school. They found me through my MySpace page. When we reunited, the first thing we did was congratulate each other on how young we still looked (Ha!). The second topic of conversation was crime fiction. They were stunned to learn I write about murder. One of them remarked, “...but you were always so nice and quiet!”

As I told them with an evil grin, it's always the quiet ones.

They are trying to convince me to attend our 15-year reunion this year because in sharing stories and gossip about our fellow classmates, the two of them decided that we've turned out pretty well, especially me, who even though I write about serial killers, haven't managed to kill anyone. (I like to think there was a compliment in there somewhere.)

This past weekend, I had lunch with my cousin, who just graduated from high school. We were talking about writing, and she asked me how I could research and write about murder and crime every day without losing my mind. Her burning question was whether or not I scare myself when I'm writing my scenes.

My response? Yes. If I'm scared, I've done my job as a writer.

Have you come out of the closet yet?


Joyce said...

I was one of those quiet ones, too. One of my mother's cousins said he never heard me say a complete sentence until I was 16. I, too, was always buried in my books. My fictional friends were more interesting than anyone I'd met in real life.

No one is surprised I write crime fiction. Most people think it's cool. And at work, the Chief is surprised I HAVEN'T killed anyone yet--especially the guys I work with!

And you should definitely go to your reunion. I went to my 20th and it did my heart good to see that all the people who were good looking in high school were now toads. And it's always a good thing to make fun of the cheerleaders.

Annette said...

I was also a quiet child. But no one seems surprised that I write crime fiction. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I had imaginary friends when I was little in addtion to the fictional ones in books. I had a pretend dog (it looked just like Lassie) and a whole pretend family lived in our barn. Guess everyone already figured I was a bit whacky, so the crime writing thing comes as no great surprise.

I wrote a while back about my impending class reunion, too. I've decided NOT to go to mine.

Cathy said...

We're going to Alan's class reunion in a few weeks (class of 600). He's thinking about buying a sport jacket for the formal dinner Saturday night. I reminded him that he never bought a sport jacket for me, so there must be some red hot past girlfriend he's trying to impress. He thinks I'm pretty good at fiction, especially in this instance.

Glad you're out of the closet with the crime writing, Kristine. I'm not sure if I'm out of the closet or on the back deck somewhere, as I don't talk much about what I do. I'm not being secretive--I guess the Sisters fulfill my need to talk about writing. My parents aren't very interested.

Tory said...

First I had to come "out of the closet" about being a psychotherapist. Crime writers don't understand how bad that is. Most people look at you wierd and start inching away. Especially at single's events.

So, after I started writing my first manuscript, when I was asked, "What do you do for a living?" I'd say, "I'm a psychotherapist and I write fiction in my spare time." You could see the look of relief coming over their faces as they instantly responded, "What's your book about?" Serial killers are a lot less scary than shrinks!

And I chose not to go to my High School reunion this year. When all the people who I was good friends with in High School didn't come up on the reunion page as living OR dead, I had my answer. My group of friends obviously disappeared in a time warp some time after college.

Kristine said...

Tory: You are always welcome in this group. We embrace your talent (if you don't mind us picking your brain every once in a while!).

Lee lofland said... really should watch out for hidden meanings when speaking with crime writers. When they say, "Pick your brain," they just may mean it, literally.

Kristine said...

Lee: LOL! You know, I even thought about the double meaning of "pick your brain" after I posted the comment. Similar minds think alike!

Lee Lofland said...

Now, I do feel sorry for you.

Christa M. Miller said...

I'm out of the closet, but only one member of the family besides my husband enjoys my writing - an uncle who's an editorial writer in Arizona. I guess the writers have to stick together. Otherwise, I try not to talk about it in front of family. My parents, for instance, think I should be writing like Leonie Swann. Soooo not my cup of tea, so to speak (and I do love tea)!

Also: I was also one of the quiet ones, but not so much that my teachers couldn't figure me out enough to encourage me to write for a living. :)