News & Views

Why? Why? Why?

I’m sure all the writers out there have been asked some variation of this question: Why did you become a writer? And I’m sure we’ve all given thoughtful answers. I know I’ve given my share of what I believed were honest answers and hoped were interesting ones, too.

But when I really think about this question, the most honest answer I can come up with is: I don’t know. At least, I don’t know of a single reason. There are really a bunch of reasons, some of them profound, some of them less so: I write because I have something to say about the world/because I can create my own world and not bother with the real one; because people’s lives fascinate me/because I don’t have to change out of my pajamas and deal with those annoyances known as people; because I love the intricacy, music, and rhythm of language/because I haven’t a clue how to do much of anything else. All true.

Inevitably, I’m asked why I write crime fiction. That one’s a bit trickier to talk about in polite company. How can one politely say, “Because I like crime?” “Because murder is interesting?” “Because murderers are interesting?” When saying these things to questioners, it’s not unusual for their follow-up to be either peculiar looks or some variation of “How do you sleep at night?”

Sometimes, in order to inject the conversation with something more palatable to my interlocutors, I’ll point out that crime fiction often deals with issues of justice or lack of it. This seems to interest — even satisfy — the moral sensitivities of some of my questioners. For more intellectual types, there’s always the issue of The Puzzle, the satisfaction of following clues to arrive at whodunnit. For questioners who insist on challenging the literary integrity of crime fiction, I remind them that issues of life and death, of murder and its consequences, have been explored by history’s most lauded literary lights. Homer, anyone? Shakespeare? Victor Hugo? This often results in thoughtful nods of the head.

But there is another answer to the question of why I write crime fiction, and though all of those other answers are true, this one is the answer I like best: because I don’t know how it will end. Some crime writers know the ending to their stories. I’m one of those who don’t. Who lives and who dies, who’s guilty and who’s not, who gets away with it and who meets justice, reveals itself as I write. The stakes are thus very high for my characters. And for me.

Okay, I guess I have to add yet one more answer to why I write crime fiction: for the thrill of it.

—Ann Aptaker

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Lambda and Goldie winner Ann Aptaker isn’t shy about telling you how much she loves her hometown, New York City. She swears she even feels its history; all those triumphs and tragedies of the famous and the forgotten. She’s now old enough to be part of that history, which she likes, except for the “old” part, which she’s iffy about. Ann is happy to bring you into that history in her Cantor Gold crime series.

2 Responses

  1. I assume you’re writing what you like to read. For me, there’s the logic behind a crime story in addition to the puzzle. Plus we get to write really great female characters like your Cantor Gold and my detective, Chiara Corelli. Brave, daring, exciting women on opposite sides of the law.

  2. Jerry Lenaz says:

    The thriller from Gotham Whatever the reason Write. Marvelous stories emerge Just read Ann’s work and you’ll see magic at work.