Solving the Mystery of My First Love
by Kim Fay
One morning in January, I opened my email to find a message from the marketing manager assigned to my novel at my publisher: I just heard the Edgar news and wanted to send you my congratulations!
Edgar news? Congratulations?
Although I didn’t know what she meant, my heart still skipped a beat. I quickly Googled “Kim Fay” and “Edgar.” There it was. My novel, The Map of Lost Memories, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. An Edgar! The mustachioed Oscar of the mystery writing world! Incredible! Except for one thing …
My novel wasn’t a mystery.
Since its publication in August of 2012, it had been marketed as a historical novel. As a literary novel. As an adventure novel. And, unsurprisingly, a historical-literary-adventure novel. Not once that I knew of had it been slotted into the mystery category. Yes, it had been chosen for one of Poisoned Pen bookshop’s monthly book clubs, but it was a Modern Firsts pick, not a First Mystery or Mystery of the Month or Thriller pick. This would explain why it wasn’t just me who was caught unawares. My editor, publicist and agent (none of whom had submitted the book for nomination) were surprised too.
Then I started to think about it. My mind wandered, all the way back to my childhood, when I couldn’t get enough of Nancy Drew and Phyllis A. Whitney’s gothic stories of suspense and Betty Cavanna’s mysteries set in Marrakech, the Spice Islands and Thailand. My first first novel, written at the age of ten, was The Mystery of the Golden Galleon. I recalled my early forays into literary fiction and how intensely I was drawn to Graham Greene. Then I reconsidered The Map of Lost Memories: its quest for a lost Cambodian history, its suspicious murder (was it intentional or was it an accident?) and its family mystery that slowly unfolds. I realized that, without my knowing it, I had stayed true to my first fiction love: the mystery.
|Kim at the Edgar banquet. Photo by Steven Speliotis|
I have worked for years in indie bookshops, I have made the literary rounds, but never have I belonged to a literary world so welcoming and supportive. Since January I have been surrounded by mystery writers—at Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America meetings, at the Tucson and L.A. festivals of books—and bar the odd exception (aren’t there always odd exceptions!), they have opened their arms and taken me in.
Along with the above-mentioned Jeri Westerson, there is Patricia Smiley, the oh so hospitable president of Sisters in Crime L.A. Naomi Hirahara, generous author of the Mas Arai mystery series. Travis Richardson, equally generous editor of the Sisters in Crime L.A. newsletter. Hilary Davidson, author of the Lily Moore mystery series and terrific partner in margarita-drinking crime. Susan Elia MacNeal, my fellow nominee and keeper of my foot-in-mouth secret after the Edgar awards banquet. Hank Phillippi Ryan, the gracious and deserving winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Margery Flax, hand-holder extraordinaire and Administrative Director of Mystery Writers of America. And, and, and … I could go on and on. About how great these people are. About how much fun they are. About how at home they’ve made me feel. About how inspired I am, to fully explore the mystery in my next novel and even to pull out a series I’ve been secretly plotting for the past few years.
As for the Edgar Awards, when my category was called at the banquet at the Grand Hyatt New York on May 2, I sat on the edge of my seat, surrounded by my husband, agent, editor and dozens of new friends. I did not win. Did I feel a bit boo-hoo about this? Of course. But even if I had won, that wouldn’t have been the best part of the experience.
I didn’t prepare a just-in-case speech for the awards, but if I’d had the honor of standing up on the stage, I know how I would have finished it: If I was given the choice to belong to any group of writers in the world, it would be this one. Thank you for inviting me to your party.
Kim Fay is the author of The Map of Lost Memories, published by Ballantine Books/Random House and available in paperback on June 18, 2013. www.kimfay.net