Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A Glamorous Day in the Life of This Writer: Guest post by Marcia Muller

Marcia Muller grew up in a house full of books and self-published three copies of her first novel at age twelve. Fast forward to the early 1970s, having moved to California, Muller found herself unemployable and began experimenting with mystery novels, because they were what she liked to read. After three manuscripts and five years of rejection, EDWIN OF THE IRON SHOES, the first novel featuring San Francisco private investigator Sharon McCone, was published by David McKay Company, who then cancelled their mystery list. Four more years passed before St. Martin's Press accepted the second McCone novel, ASK THE CARDS A QUESTION. In the ensuing thirty-some years, Muller has authored over 35 novels--three of them in collaboration with husband Bill Pronzini--seven short-story collections, and numerous nonfiction articles. Together she and Pronzini have edited a dozen anthologies and a nonfiction book on the mystery genre. In 2005 Muller was named a Grand Master by Mystery Writers of America, the organization’s highest award. Pronzini was named Grand Master in 2008, making them the only living couple to share the award (the other being Margaret Millar and Ross Macdonald). The Mulzinis, as friends call them, live in Sonoma County, California, in yet another house full of books. Someone Always Knows (Grand Central Publishing) is her 31st Sharon McCone mystery.


I am awakened too early—much too early—by the dulcet sounds of the cat throwing up. It’s her signal that we should rise and feed her, but give better food than the last time. I decide to malinger, feign sleep. My husband, writer Bill Pronzini, gets up, tends to the cat, makes coffee, and fetches the newspapers. He enters the bedroom, sets coffee on my nightstand, puts his lips to my ear, and whispers, “I know what you’re doing.” I sigh and flop over onto my back. Another day has begun.

There’s been a sprinkle of rain the night before and both papers—the San Francisco Chronicle and Santa Rosa Press Democrat—are a little soggy, in spite of their plastic wrappings. We both plow through them quickly. I start to do the Sudoko puzzle, my daily guilty pleasure, but the page it too damp to write on. I grumble and check my laptop.

Lands End and L.L. Bean really love me.

Delete, delete.

I noodle with my next book a while, but then the phone rings. Another family crisis. (I won’t share these with you; you’ve probably experienced them, or will shortly.) I resolve it, and then Bill calls from below my loft/office, “I finished the book! Let’s go celebrate!”

I’m happy for him, I really am, but I’m sure wishing that this albatross (as I’ve begun to think of my book) were done.

Lunch is Mexican, served outside under a canopy of trees. The breeze stirs their leaves, making the day seem cooler. Ceviche, enchiladas, a Margarita.

Once home, I fall asleep in my big chair. (And drool.)

I miss both reruns of “The X Files”.

Feeling groggy from too much afternoon sleep (to say nothing of tequila) I go up the spiral staircase to my office. I imagine that my computer is glaring at me, but I notice that my plants need water. I go downstairs for the watering can, reminding myself that if it wasn’t for these stairs I’d probably weigh 800 pounds by now. The plants happy, I settle down to write.

The first of the political calls comes half an hour later. Then the telemarketers join in. I screen all my calls—I’d probably screen one from my long-deceased father—but the intrusion is there nevertheless. I soldier on until nine o’clock.

There’s a great aroma coming from the kitchen below. What…? Oh, yes—Bill’s signature dish—garlic bread.

Later that evening, I find Bill has taped the X Files episodes I’ve missed. We watch them. Then we go to bed (the interim of this is none of your business) and sleep well. But in the middle of the night, as so many writers do, I awake and mentally write this explanation.

A professional writer’s life is not easy, no matter how high you climb on the best seller lists. For one thing, you work for yourself, and that self is the most demanding boss you’ve ever had. I don’t know about non fiction writers, but those of us who deal in fiction are never left alone by our characters. They haunt you, they tell you what to do. There are times when I feel my detective, Sharon McCone, is sitting on my shoulder, saying, “No, not that. Do this.”

Usually she’s right. But I’m waiting for the day I’ll prove her wrong.

Someone Always Knows (2016)

Fully established in their new shared offices and finally settled into their home after losing their previous house in a fire, private investigator Sharon McCone and her business partner husband Hy are starting to feel comfortable. That calm is shattered when Hy's former colleague Gage Renshaw - a shady troublemaker who they had presumed dead - reappears, and it's unclear what he wants from his prosperous former associate.

Meanwhile, Sharon has a new client with a desire to rid a derelict house he's just bought in the city's notorious Western Addition neighborhood from intruders, drug users, and thugs. However, the abandoned house holds its share of secrets, and soon Sharon is contending with more than a simple eyesore as she searches for the individual who is obsessed with destroying her life...


Bette Golden Lamb said...

Stop thinking you get to lead a normal life and everything will be fine.:)
Marcia, you are the best!

Diane said...

Loved your day, especially being awakened by the sound of the cat vomiting; an experience I share. I admire writers - creating, plotting, procrastinating, purservering, bringing joy to your readers. Thank you.

Maggie said...

Marcia, you've long been one of my favorite authors. Recently, I re-read The Vanishing Point.

In 1996 you signed a copy of The Broken Promise Land at Book 'Em in South Pasadena. I refer to it in my debut mystery.

I'm looking forward to Someone Always Knows.