Diverse Voices in our Mysteries
In a changing publishing landscape, many readers are actively seeking out more diverse voices in our mysteries. This demand may flow from our readers’ desires to more closely identify with characters in our mysteries that better reflect their own life stories. In other instances, our audience may want to enrich their reading experiences by learning more about others’ distinct backgrounds. The concept of writing across cultural backgrounds or “transcultural” writing may include characters and situations involving different ethnicities, races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, ages, gender identities, or geographic locations. In creating diverse protagonists and supporting characters, here are several key points to consider when making our mysteries more inclusive.
Write What You Know. Writers are often advised to write about what they know. The protagonist of my new mystery series is Marguerite “Monty” Montez, a young lawyer who straddles the old world of her immigrant Portuguese family and her contemporary world as a homicide prosecutor. My parents were the children of immigrants from the Azores and Madeira who settled in a Portuguese neighborhood in East Cambridge, MA. As a young attorney, I later lived in this same neighborhood next door to my maternal grandmother. Based on my background, I am able to intertwine aspects of Portuguese-American culture and generational conflicts from an intimate perspective into my mystery. But no group is monolithic, so my take on my Portuguese-American heritage is simply my personal view, and not that of an entire group. Think about how your own background may inform a diverse voice in your mystery.
Do Your Homework. Whether borrowing from your own background or injecting other distinct voices into your mystery, be sure to do your research. Nothing will throw a reader out of your story more than a diverse perspective that does not ring true. You will need to do research on gaps in your own cultural history or your lack of first-hand knowledge about another culture. That research may involve interacting with members of that diverse group, interviewing local or national experts, participating in cultural events, listening to relevant podcasts, attending speaker panels, and reviewing online or print sources. The greater exposure you have to and the more information you learn about a relevant group, the better prepared you will be to channel diverse voices in your mystery. If you have the opportunity, consider asking someone from that culture to serve as a beta reader of your work. They may be able to provide valuable feedback by illuminating cultural nuances and helping you avoid major mistakes.
Recognize Cultural Sensitivities. The introduction of diverse voices into your mystery can be fraught with challenges. Some readers may raise concerns about improper cultural appropriation, superficial characterizations, and offensive stereotypes. Yet the mystery field needs to be more inclusive by offering more diverse voices in our books. Mystery writers are expected to imagine a broad range of characters in their fictional tales, including those from other backgrounds. For example, the late Tony Hillerman featured Navajo protagonists and culture in his mysteries, and ultimately received an award from the Navajo nation for his culturally accurate and respectful portrayals. As stated above, doing your homework will help to avoid potential inaccuracies or shallow representations. But be aware that certain readers may be sensitive to your efforts to represent individuals and circumstances derived from other cultural groups. Respect these criticisms and think about how you might address any inaccuracies in future books in your series.
Deadly Sacrifices – A Marguerite Montez Mystery
You always remember your first time. Monty’s first happened in St. Stephen’s church, directly beneath a statue of the Virgin Mary, right after morning mass. A local soccer mom is bludgeoned to death in her suburban parish chapel outside of Boston. In her first homicide case, prosecutor Marguerite “Monty” Montez endangers her life digging up evidence that shows the police nabbed the wrong man. Monty’s investigation uncovers disturbing memories and fresh leads in an unsolved murder of a childhood friend in her close-knit Portuguese community. Her dauntless search for the true killer is a wild thrill ride into a dangerous world of lethal secrets.
Amazon Print: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Sacrifices-Marguerite-Montez-Mystery/dp/1533376697/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
Kindle Version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01I0VK28A
About the Author
Bridges DelPonte has published two novels, Deadly Sacrifices and Bridles of Poseidon, three non-fiction books, several science fiction, fantasy, and mystery short stories, and numerous legal, travel, and business articles. Her mystery, Deadly Sacrifices, received a Royal Palm Literary Award (2nd place – unpublished mystery) from the Florida Writers Association (FWA) and her underwater fantasy, Bridles of Poseidon, was a finalist for a Royal Palm Literary Award (unpublished fantasy). She is a member of FWA, Sisters in Crime, Inc., and Citrus Crime Writers. When she is not tapping away on her laptop, she teaches law courses, creates educational game apps, and lives happily in sunny Central Florida. To learn more about Bridges DelPonte and her writing, please visit her author web site at http://www.bridgesdelponte.com or her Amazon Author Central page at http://www.amazon.com/Bridges-DelPonte/e/B00BW7BZYU.