Alice K. Boatwright

The Writing Life

Notes on writing, reading, publishing and life

Still a gunslinger, any time I want

In her novel Real People, Alison Lurie wrote “… you can’t write well with only the nice parts of your character, and only about nice things. And I don’t want even to try anymore. I want to use everything, including hate and envy and lust and fear.”

My first ambition was to be an actress. Then I discovered that actresses could only play the parts assigned to them, in plays written by other people, and governed by the vision of the director, the set decorator, the costume designer, and the budget.

This did not suit me at all. I wanted to do something more like playing, where you have the freedom to be anyone, anything. A gunslinger, a spy, a villain, a dog. That’s why I became a fiction writer. When I’m writing I can “use everything,” be anyone, do anything. There are no limits.

One of the enduring appeals of the mystery genre is that these books explore the darkest sides of human nature, but good (usually) triumphs over evil. As a mystery writer, I have to be willing to give my all to every role, including the dark ones, but I am also the one who delivers justice in the end. A very satisfying job, if I do say so myself.

Read more on my Paris Writer tumblr blog