|Irreverent art by Alison Bruce|
(In which we explain how an otherwise mild-mannered crime writer defected on her first novel)
By Melodie Campbell
A funny thing happened on the way to the mystery novel…it became a fantasy!
I was supposed to be writing a classic mystery, not a comic time travel like Rowena Through the Wall. How did that happen?
For twenty years, I had been known as a writer of short mystery and suspense. With over 30 short story publications and 5 awards for mystery fiction, my first novel had to be a mystery. Everyone said so. I started three of them. Two weren’t bad. But somehow I could never get up the energy to complete them. Instead, I was tempted by the ‘lure of the virgin project’, usually a short story.
Then a strange thing happened. I was sitting at my desk one day, totally overwhelmed with work and family and parental caregiving, and thought, if I could walk through that wall over there into another world, I would. Rowena had her start that night. If I couldn’t walk through that wall, dammit, she could!
What I needed was to escape, not ‘plan’. Mystery novels have a lot of planning to them. I had enough of that at my day job. Why not just start writing something that is a total escape to write?
For a mystery writer, this is akin to walking off the job. For the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada, it feels like treason! Write 80,000 words of comic fantasy?
The surprising thing is how easily it came. Finally I figured it out, and the discovery shocked me: I was writing the kind of novel I wished someone else would write, so that I could read it. A no-holds-barred adventure story…sexy, funny, and a wild ride of fantasy.
I waited for the reaction. It was strong and varied. One review said: “I’ve never read anything like it before, and I love it!” I said, “Are you married?”
“Melodie, you are a Literary Slut,” said another. Believe it or not, he wasn’t referring to smutty writing in my novel (although, as they say, some like it hot, and Rowena Through the Wall would probably score a humidex rating.) No, this fellow was referring to my tendency to write in several genres – and sometimes several genres at once.
The title stuck. “Literary Slut” is what I am and what, I bet, secretly a lot of you are as well.
So…what’s a Literary Slut to do? Cross those classification lines, I say! I call this book comic fantasy. The romance market calls it paranormal suspense. Under fantasy, it is classed sword and sorcery. In our mystery world, it would be labeled romantic suspense. And then – out of the blue – Amazon decides to call it Time Travel, and I get notification that it cracked the top 100 bestseller list for Time Travel Romance. Then number 1. Author is thrilled, yet totally baffled, as she had been promoting it under an entirely different sub-genre.
Alas poor Rowena. She is destined to reside in classification purgatory, along with her author. Which is not unexpected for a Literary Slut.
“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
Melodie Campbell is the author of seven books, four of which are crime. (Still sleeping around in different genres.) She is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada and teaches novel writing. For a sample of of what she teaches, check out:
Building Atmosphere! (A sample of what you get when you take my writing classes)
Find Melodie and her books at: