Monday, September 13, 2010

My Lighthearted Approach to Crime by Robin Spano, Guest Blogger

I'm pleased to introduce Robin Spano who is currently on a whirlwind virtual book tour for Dead Politician Society. She has been kind enough to stop here and talk about injecting humor into a novel about murder.

A virtual tour, or blog book tour as it's sometimes called, is another great way for authors to promote their new releases. Take a look at Robin's tour schedule to see where she has been so far, and where she's going to be. Tomorrow is a double post day, with one appearance at Yes, Virginia and a second at Birds and Words.

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea, if you prefer) and read on:


Why I Take a Lighthearted Approach to Crime by Robin Spano

Yes, I take a light approach to murder. If a critic wants to knock me, that’s the first think they should jump on. I don’t think crime is funny, and I don’t think death is light. But this is absolutely the genre I want to write in, for a few reasons:

1. I like to explore human darkness, but I don’t like to be scared or depressed.

Murder forces you to go inside the head of a killer. Even if you don’t spend time with them as a point-of view character, you need to understand who they are, why they kill, and how they justify murder to themselves and to the world.

But while this dark side of human nature intrigues me, I don’t want to go deep into a dark place and get stopped there. Some writers can do that, and some readers love books that are scary or depressing (think Stephen King or Oprah’s booklist). But I don’t want to invite dark demons into my life; I like things positive and upbeat. I like that I can explore negative emotions, but I want to do that within the lighthearted structure of a crime that will get solved.

When you’re writing a book, you’re living in it for a year. I want to write about a place where—minus the murders—I’d be happy to spend my time.

2. I like the interplay between realism and improbability.

Sure, I know how unlikely it is that a 22-year-old would be undercover on such a high profile case as the murder of the mayor. Since it’s central to Dead Politician Society that Clare is in that situation, I created as realistic a circumstance as I could to make that happen.

Characters can do outrageous things like stake out hotel ice machines or start email dialogues with potential killers—both of which are seriously fun to write about—but I try very hard to make sure that their emotions and dialogue are true to how real people would feel and react.

So while I like that this genre takes me on adventures I would never get to have in real life, I also like that I have to rein it in and keep it real on a human level. It’s a fun balance.

3. I always wanted to be one of Charlie’s Angels.

Writing is the perfect little virtual reality machine—if I die on the page I don’t die in real life.

Since I have no idea how to shoot a gun and less of a clue how to self-preserve as an undercover operative, following Clare around on her assignments is the closest I will ever get to realizing that childhood dream.

While Clare is not such a flat character as Charlie’s Angels are—it’s important to me that she learns and grows through the series—I like that she can crack a joke and make mistakes and be relatable to most of us non-cops.

I would like to enjoy each book while I’m writing it. Ideally that will translate into an enjoyable ride for the reader.


Robin, thanks so much for being here today. I wish you great success with Dead Politician Society and future Clare Vengel mysteries.

To learn more about Robin and her novel, you can visit her website. Follow her on Twitter and become a Clare Vengel fan at Facebook.

And to see the entertaining book trailer for Dead Politician Society, check my post from yesterday, or Robin's website, or go directly to You Tube.


Clarissa Draper said...

I'm glad you wrote this because I remember when I reviewed it, one of the things I touched on was the realism factor but I wasn't aware that you were making it a light novel. Now that I know that, things make a little more sense. Thanks for this.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

Patricia- thank you for hosting Robin.

Robin- you are a gal after my heart. I love thrillers and mysteries, but without the depression. If I am reading a book for pleasure, I don't want to be grossed out while reading it. Yours sounds like a book I will definitely enjoy.
And can I tell you how much I love the cover.

Erica said...

hear, hear.
i love reading crime novels but i don't like putting them down and feeling like i've been injected with someone else's darkness.
your book sounds wonderful and i can't wait to read it!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

I love mysteries and this sounds a very good book. I don't like depressive reading being a positive sort of a person.

Thank you Patricia for having Robin as a guest,


Margot Kinberg said...

Patricia - Thanks for hosting Robin.

Robin - I know exactly what you mean about not wanting the darkness of murder to pervade one's life. I struggle with that, myself, as I write. How to be honest about the sadness of murder without being mired in it - that's a tough balance. I think there's a good argument for your lighthearted approach, and I sometimes wish I could do that. I was born without the humor DNA, though ;-).

Jan Morrison said...

That's the way we CatchWord Productions' writers feel! We write for murder mystery events (evenings and weekends at hotels) and we want our mysteries to be very out there, outrageous and wildly fun. Apparently so do our clients as we've been doing them for 24 years. I'm not quite that way with the murder series I'm writing but somewhat. Most of us don't want to live in the really and truly tedious and low life world of true crime! So hurrah! Your book sounds great.
Jan Morrison

Robin Spano said...

Thanks you guys! It's exciting to hear that there are more like me out there!

Clarissa, that's a cool point. Clarissa reviewed the first chapter on her own blog (great critique), but never got the rest of the book to give it context. Thanks for giving me this tip: my challenge for book 2 is to nail down a killer 1st chapter (bad pun totally intended) that sets up the tone of the book with more clarity.

Karen Walker said...

Thanks Patricia and Robin. I'm with you, Robin, I don't like the darkness without some light. This is a mystery I think I might enjoy. Good luck.

Holly Jahangiri said...

I like dark humor.

And while I like intense thrillers, too, I want a healthy dose of comic relief. I normally hate screen adaptations of favorite books, but I don't think Silence of the Lambs was hurt at all by the line they added to the end of the movie. ;)

Dona Matthews said...

one of the things i like best about robin's detective, clare vengel, is her outrageous sense of the absurd-- clare is funny, sassy, and doesn't take herself seriously, but she does take murder very seriously, and her job to bring murderers to justice -- a great main character, and definitely one i look forward to spending more reading time with!

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Patricia; Thanks for hosting Robin today!

Robin; Your book sounds fun - and why not take a lighter approach? I applaud you. I completely agree with you about setting up a world you want to spend time in - I try to do the same thing. I also try to create characters I enjoy- my reasoning being if I don't like spending time with them, why should anyone else?

Patricia Stoltey said...

As most of you know, I read all genres, and I read everything from dark to light fiction. But if I pick up a crime novel and find at least one fun character or fun moment in the novel, I'm hooked. From what I've learned about Robin and Dead Politician Society, I'm looking forward to an excellent read.

It's great having you here, Robin. I hope you're enjoying your tour and making lots of new friends.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I agree - I don't mind dark movies or shows, but I prefer my reading (and writing) be lighter.
And I wished I was Charlie!

Talli Roland said...

Sounds like my kind of book. I like light-heartedness when I'm reading!

Thanks, Robin!

Robin Spano said...

I wish there was a Like button on blog comments...I'd click it on all of these! Alex, I think you'd make a great Charlie. Pat, you're right: one of the best parts of this tour is the people I'm meeting. I especially love seeing people who come stop to's like having new friends on the road!

Patricia Stoltey said...

And you have such a great tour schedule, Robin, that you've probably made a whole army of new friends. Definitely makes blogging (and virtual tours) worth the time and effort.

I appreciate all of you who stopped by to read Robin's post today. The next step, of course, is to read "Dead Politician Society." If you're not buying books these days, please request that your library order a copy. We love having our books in libraries.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

I love to read books that make me smile and laugh so this sounds right up my alley.

Jemi Fraser said...

Love light hearted crime novels - sounds like a great book!! :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Robin and Patricia. I agree wholeheartedly with number 2. I put a book down if it's too outrageous and improbable.

Jayne said...

I totally agree about spending a year in a fictional place. Even though there must be some dark moments, it had better not be unendingly grim.

And which Angel did you wish you were? I wanted to be Kate Jackson, which I realize gives away my generation if not my actual age.

Robin Spano said...

Ha ha. Yup. Kate Jackson was my favorite, too. The others were entertaining, but she seemed like the smartest one.