For most of us, February is the dead of winter. Yes, there’s Valentine’s Day – a hot spot in one of the chilliest months. (And we pay homage to that holiday in these pages.) But by and large, come February most of us are hunkering down in front of fireplaces or space heaters trying to keep our bodies warm and our imaginations fired up.
Instead of focusing on the chill of winter, however, we decided to focus the pieces in this issue on the dead of winter. Of course, it was a short leap from there to expand our theme to thrillers, murder mysteries, suspense novels, crime stories and even eulogies.
We don’t mean to be morbid or morose. In fact, we believe you’ll find the stories in this issue uplifting and encouraging. Why? Because in each case, the article is squarely about the craft behind the story. Roy Peter Clark breaks down the elements of writing effective eulogies – and you may find the tips work for any kind of character development. (Check out Tom French’s elegant example of a very fine dual eulogy, too.)
In a companion piece to Clark’s lively story, best-selling thriller writer John Katzenbach not only shares a new preface to a recently re-released printing of his 1987 novel The Traveler, he also shares his process for thinking about and creating his work. Additionally, Lori Roy, whom we caught up with at the Miami Book Fair International in November, offers her insights into writing authentic crime fiction.
On some level, the through line here isn’t only about genre writing but about the responsibilities of good writing. Novelist-turned-memoirist Monica Wood (also in this issue) nailed it when she said: “My advice is so simple: Don’t lie.” It’s solid advice – whether you’re working on YA fantasy novels based on fairy tales (Marissa Meyer’s interview) or fantasy scenes for erotica (Minal Hajratwala’s story).
And yet. And yet. Writers lie all the time. It’s their job to make it up, to fall in love with characters, then turn around and kill them. “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” wrote Emily Dickinson. Also solid advice, and I suspect every person reading this letter relates to that line far more deeply (and sheepishly) than non-writers.
In the end, we all have literary obligations: to the characters and story, to the subjects we interview (Laura Collins-Hughes’ essay) and to ourselves, our vision and imagination.
We hope this issue thrills you.