Saturday, November 19, 2011

Canada Calling: Sheila Kindellan-Sheehan

Why Mysteries Continue to Attract

Sheila Kindellan-Sheehan is a Canadian writer. ‘If you like John Grisham or are a fan of TV’s Law & Order, you won’t be able to put one of her books down.’ ~Brenda O’Farrell, The Gazette

Mortality isn’t a choice or an option. That’s good news for mystery writers. Today, every form of print is overshadowed by the accelerating run of technology with innovations like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, Kindle and Kobo. Large publishing houses and independents are shrinking or closing. Booksellers like Borders in the U.S. who fell behind the electronic pace, closed, or are reducing their book space and turning themselves into boutiques like Chapters in Canada. The mystery genre has not only survived these dramatic changes but has become the most popular form of fiction today. Any good agent will tell you the competition in the genre is fierce.

The question is “how”?

Mysteries had to earn their way into the print world. Although the genre is very old and heavily rooted in religious texts, Arabic, Chinese and English literature, it was the poor cousin of mainstream fiction and a guilty, almost secretive pleasure. When such notables as D.H. Lawrence and W.H Auden stepped forward, followed by a host of others, the genre exploded onto the literary scene and has even picked the pace. Today, mystery writers are respected for their distinctive voices and their prose as well as their stories.

A second question might well be “why”?

Why do we take up fiction that explores the underbelly of the chaos all around us, in particular, murder most foul? Mortality is the answer. Nobody gets out alive. Death is our common bond, fascinating and frightening. Humans are drawn to death, because we want to know what it’s all about. Like the brain, there are tones of information about its working, but nobody understands it. Mystery readers can watch and judge the journey of crime from the fatal blow to the carnage to the day of reckoning, all from the safe distance of a page without spilling a drop of blood.

We read to see how a certain individual played a part in his own demise, and we take a lesson from his errors. We judge, we track the path of death and evaluate the loss. We see the collateral damage of a single death, all as silent observers. In our mysteries we find a moral order. When goodness and evil collide, we know that goodness most often prevails. There are no logic holes in mysteries. There is an assuring catharsis in that knowledge. We find comfort in the ‘complete’ story this genre offers up. In our fiction, justice and law are bonded.

The advantage for the reader is that while he is in the thick of death and feels its reverberations, he can close his book and walk away unscathed. After all, it’s only a story. Satisfied, the reader can turn to other things. Looking for justice in life often leaves us in despair and dismay. Life, unfortunately, serves up pieces of its puzzle, saving the key for last.

Death may be our fate but that doesn’t stop us from learning as much as we can to stave off the inevitable. The mystery genre is a good teacher for that deception. We learn afresh that clichés still apply. When you find yourself in serious trouble, silence is golden. Self-incrimination is like a pothole - you might be in it before you see it. We know that interrogation rooms are purposely claustrophobic with little mics above us, eye-level and under the table. Investigators are never on our side and they can lie to us to get at the truth. Don’t give yourself away with body language because another investigator is in the next room video-taping your every move. Most important, we know about our rights, we know about judges and juries. The irony, of course, is most mystery readers will never find themselves in an interrogation room, but if they ever did, well, they are forewarned and ready!

Ironically, John Updike composed his own eulogy. He wrote, ‘For life’s a shabby subterfuge,/ And death is real, and dark and huge.’

In the end, mysteries are all about death. No one can deny the fact that every mystery has a dead body and that’s the reason we buy the books. The setting, the characters and the plot, no matter how much we praise them, all support the ‘body.’ Way back, nobody believed guys read Playboy for the articles. The fact is, death attracts us.

Perhaps mysteries, rather than acting as escapes from reality and interesting puzzles, are really preparatory meetings with death, softening the blow, helping us to feel less frightened, providing us with an aura of power while familiarizing us with the truth of our demise. In this genre, the shock of a single death demands attention and justice and sympathy. It has an audience. For a time we can forget that Updike was probably right when he said that death was real and dark and huge and mattered only to the one who died.

That might be the reason why mysteries have formed a bond with their readers that is almost pedestrian. Since there has been no news about a change in the status of our mortality, we’ll continue to buy our mysteries and stay up till two in the morning reading them because we can’t put them down. In the meantime, if some techie uploads and solves the death problem, I’ll definitely make some changes to my blog.

For more information about Sheila and her books visit her website and find her on Facebook.


Louise Morin said...

Congratuations to Sheila Kindellan Sheehan, best seller mystery writer!!!

Love your books!

An award is coming your way. Keep on writing!

Den Coupal said...

Sheila, your talent is “real and dark and huge…” and matters to your many fans! Before death takes me, I certainly want to read more of your books! So keep ‘em coming!

Maria Della Rocchetta said...

I have read many of Sheila's books. They are insightful, creative, exciting, inspiring and brilliant! She is on par with David Baldacci, Micheal Connolly, James Patterson, and Greg Iles. Sheila is a truly gifted writer.

May you continue to enthral the many readers who devour your books like children eating candy.

I look forward to your next thriller.

Bob Dillon said...

Me, my family & friends absolutley love all your books. So get to work , we are anxiously waiting for your next on.
Congratulations on your success & thank you for entertainig our minds.

Lise Pingitore said...

I have just finished reading Sheila's 6th novel. As all the others, you get yourself wrapped up in the lives of all the characters and there are many of those never forgetting Caitlin and Carmen of course. Sheila has a way of writing that has you feel like you are right there in the room, be it the morgue or the police headquarters.

Keep them coming Sheila.

Anne Marie G. Laurin said...

I enjoyed your analysis of why people love murder mysteries. That explains why I am such a fan of all your books! I was enthralled by the story lines and the characters, especially Caitlin Donovan and Carmen DiMaggio. I am looking forward to your next book!
PS I am currently reading your memoir, Sheila's Take, and am touched by the humanity and love described by this great family.

Sonia Sa said...

I met Sheila, I think it was ,,Setember at Chapters and I decided to buy 2 of her last books for Christmas gifts, and she signed these books. I was curious and I peeked at the first 3 pages and I loved it! I run to Chapters and bought a copy of The Red Floor for myself and when I fineshed I went back and bought copies of each of her books. She is amazing, a master story teller. Her books are so easy to read, full of adventures and mistery that you cannot put them down.Her characters Caitlin and Carmem are adorable.To tell the truth and what I felt : She is a wizard of words who cast an uncanny spell over her readers. I hope Sheila continues writing forever and as Louise Morin said and I hope too, that an award is coming her way, because she deserves it!

Gina Pingitore said...

Love this blog!! From the very first line to the last, your writing pulls the reader in and reminds us why we love your books. Your writing is brilliant. You are one of Canada's great writers. And yes, we will definitely continue to buy your books and stay up all night reading them, because you're right, we can't put them down. Can't get enough of Caitlin & Carmen, and indeed, all your other characters that seem so real and somehow familiar. Please keep on writing.

Irene Choma Pingitore said...

Couldn't agree more with the previous comments. Your books are indeed difficult to put down once you start reading them. They are getting better & better. Keep up the good work. Best of luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of you for visiting and commenting this weekend.

Anonymous said...

That was an exceptional treatise on why mysteries have such resonance and appeal. And Kindellan-Sheehan's mysteries take us through the dark night of somone's soul - guilt and lack of a moral compass. Good stuff.

Jocelyne Dionne said...

Read all your books and you rank amongst the best thrillers writers. I always look forward to you next publication and just can't wait for it to go to print.

Valerie Miller said...

I laughed and cried through Sheila's Take, and have thoroughly enjoyed the Caitlin/Carmen murder mystery series. Look forward to the next book, please keep it up, you have us hooked !