by Randy Munch
A long time practice of mine is to remain quiet when all the Asian cuisine diners are reading their fortune cookies. Invariably they insist that I tell them what mine says so I offer with something to the effect …. “there are gorgeous women who think you are handsome and intelligent who are asking about you” …. Most smile and my wife always replies … “you are such a liar”
Getting home last Monday after writing class I sat down beside my wife as she worked on her easel. I boasted of my creative endeavors and of my next assignment. I opened my fortune cookie while she watched and I read it exactly word for word … “A romantic mystery will soon add interest to your life” …. “she promptly put down her paint brush and said …. “You are such a liar”.
At that point my fortune cookie had added more ridicule than interest to my life. Knowing full well that the chances of a romantic mystery actually occurring in my modest existence is about as likely as seeing a screen door on a submarine. I therefore presumed that the fortune was proposing that the writing of a romantic mystery would bring interest to my life.
Wikipedia tells me that a romantic mystery generally refers to a work of writing where the mystery is the prime interest of the plot with the love interest being secondary. The romantic aspect allows the author to give some reality and life to the protagonists.
In keeping with the cookie wisdom my wife tells me …. “expand your horizons and write some romantic fiction”. She’s saying that to a husband who loves her dearly but gave her the extra-large, gift wrapped order of Omaha steaks for a Christmas present. Anyway Margaret Attwood, a highly successful Canadian novelist, says that a good writer is a good reader and you must read reams of work written in your genre of interest. Nora Roberts is a highly successful romantic mystery novelist and she has written more than 200 novels. There are 500 million of her books in print. She began writing under the pseudonym of JD Robb because she was writing too many books to publish under one name. The exclamation mark of my ignorance regarding romantic mysteries stands with the fact that not only have I not read any of her 200 works but I didn’t even know who she was.
Actually I completed four years of an undergraduate degree and a couple of post graduate years in a college of engineering in the late 1960’s. That’s six years of continual reading books on technologies. Unlike Frank Lloyd Wright’s school of architecture in Scottsdale there was no requirement of engineering students to have any or to learn of any of the fine arts. For that entire period the closest I came to reading a work of fiction was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Her book marked the beginning of the environmental movement and at the time I was studying for a career as an environmental engineer. Thus there was an underlying motivation to read it. Since then I have found little other motivation to read fiction.
Except of course the time when one of my daughters was at university majoring in English literature. She insisted that her Dad, if he was to purport to having even a semblance of worldly intelligence, had to at least be familiar with well-known Canadian fiction writers. Subsequently I read a couple of the works of Robertson Davies. His books “The Fifth Business” and “The Manticore” were my ventures into the world of fiction. While his books were strangely entertaining the one thing that I remember thinking was that the dude that wrote that stuff had a mind that worked in some weird and bazaar ways. I politely passed on any more recommended readings from my daughter.
So it’s no mystery why I won’t be writing a romantic mystery or most any noteworthy fictional work. I read biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, some history, and I especially like investigative journalists. I think Margret would see me and romantic mysteries as likely as those screen doors on submarines.