Working Stiff Paula Matter is pleased to give up her usual spot to welcome the delightfully funny Toni L.P. Kelner........
Writing is funny. No matter how much I think I’m keeping myself out of my novels, I manage to sneak in.
Take my latest, Who Killed the Pinup Queen? If you’d seen me while I was writing it and asked, “What are you working on?,” I could have given you a bunch of answers.
1) * A murder mystery.
2) * The second in my series about Tilda Harper, a freelance entertainment reporter who specializes in “Where are they now?” stories.
3) * A homage to TV cowboys.
4) * A celebration of fifties pin-up queens.
I would not have said, “It’s about freelancing versus keeping a steady job.” But that’s partly what it turned out to be.
Fifteen years ago, I left my day job. I’d been a technical writer for ten years, and I liked the work. During most of that time, I’d also been writing, and in 1993, Down Home Murder, my first novel, came out. Dead Ringer followed in February 1994, and I went right to work on Trouble Looking for a Place to Happen. Speaking of trouble, in late 1994 I found out I was expecting my first child.
I’d been able to juggle a day job and writing, more or less, but I had a feeling that adding a child to the mix would change things. So I quit the day job to write fulltime. It was not an easy transition. To go from a steady job to working as a freelancer in an uncertain field was a blow to my ego. Even though my husband’s income was enough, I felt guilty about letting him support me, particularly during the inevitable slow periods and dry spells. I often wondered if I was nuts for trading a salary with benefits for a career filled with uncertainty.
Eventually, I did come to terms with the change, and these days, I can’t imagine going back to the working world. I like my freedom and the flexibility, and feel very lucky indeed to be able to work in my pajamas. I’m still a fulltime writer, after all.
But I guess a lot of those conflicted emotions were still floating around in my brain. Without my really planning it, I added a subplot to Pinup Queen about freelancer Tilda trying to decide whether or not to take a fulltime job with Entertain Me!, the most lucrative of her usual markets.
Don’t get me wrong. The main thrust of the book is still solving the murder of a former pinup queen with clues and red herrings and danger and all the elements that are supposed to be in a mystery, plus cowboys and Tilda hunting down old TV stars. It’s not all about her career choices.
But I guess those issues strike a chord with people. After my mother-in-law read Pinup Queen, her first comment was “I’m so glad Tilda did the right thing about that job.”
And you know what? Most days, I think I did the right thing, too.
We at Working Stiffs think so, too!
One lucky commenter will win his or her choice of one of Toni's books! Winner will be picked at random and will get to choose between the first of the "Where are they now?" series: CURSE OF THE KISSING COUSINS or Toni's newest, WHO KILLED THE PINUP QUEEN?
Winner will be announced tomorrow morning!