In my last post I predicted that someone would find something to question in A Fatal Fiction and that it would be something it would never have occurred to me to do differently. I hate it when I’m right!
There’s a scene in which my seventy-year-old sleuth, Mikki Lincoln, is obliged to sneak out of her own house. She’s fully aware of the absurdity of her situation, but at that moment, the best solution she can come up with is to use the “fire escape” her father set up for the family when she was a child—go out onto the little balcony off what was her bedroom and is now her office, climb over the railing onto the gently sloping roof of the garage, and jump off the lower end onto the neighbor’s lawn. I made every effort to clarify that this wasn’t all that dangerous. If she dropped straight down, onto the path between the properties, it would be a fall of 6-7 feet, but the neighbor’s yard is up a bank, cutting the distance in half. What I failed to make clear is that Mikki, like me, has nice dense bones, the kind that don’t break easily. Since I didn’t clarify that point, a reviewer for an online review site devoted an entire paragraph in an otherwise favorable review to detailing why no woman of Mikki’s age would risk making such a jump. She found the scene unbelievable.
Picture me grinding my teeth (which are also quite durable). Some days you just can’t win. What was intended to get Mikki where she had to go, but also add a bit of comic relief, obviously failed with at least one reader. And, naturally, she had to tell the whole world (or at least her entire readership) about it. That’s her right, of course. In fact, it’s her obligation. And I’m probably making matters worse by talking about the same scene here. Anyone who reads that review or this post and then reads A Fatal Fiction is going to be looking hard at those details, which may well pull them right out of the story. My fingers are crossed that the detecting that follows and the maneuvering Mikki has to go through to get back inside the house on her return, will make up for it any momentary loss of what the pundits call “willing suspension of disbelief.”
Really, though, the worst part of having failed to make this scene work, for at least one reader, is that I didn’t have to have Mikki jump off the roof. I just wanted her to. You see, her house is my childhood home, and I always wondered if Daddy’s “fire escape” would work. Being a rather timid kid, I never had the nerve to try it. And, thank goodness, we never had to use it to escape from a real fire.
On the typo front, I’ve also heard from a keen-eyed reader who spotted one. For anyone who cares to look, it’s on page 77 of the hardcover edition: “Steering around yet another a gigantic pothole . . . ” At one point it must have read “a gigantic pothole” and then I must have decided to change it to “yet another gigantic pothole” and in the process, the “a” was left behind. Aaarghh! As I’ve said before, there’s always at least one that slips through, no matter how carefully my editors and I have gone over the manuscript. One of these days, though, I’m going to manage a perfect, typo- and mistake-free book.
And if you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d be happy to sell you.
With the publication of A Fatal Fiction, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-two books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes, but there is a new, standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things, in the pipeline for October. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, contains over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen.