Was it murder--or something serious?
Philip Marlow in Murder, My Sweet

Friday, May 16, 2014

Madam, Will You Write?

I was always a storyteller.

When my sisters and I were very young, coloring away in our coloring books, I would tell elaborate stories about the figures we diligently filled in. I don’t think the stories ever had much to do with the illustrations -- which was good preparation for future cover art. All through school my teachers told me I would be a writer, and that sounded like a plausible plan to me. When I was sixteen I began mailing off my first manuscripts to publishers.

I had no doubt about what a “writer” was, but my ideas of authorship were more vague. In fact, I think they were largely shaped by Mary Stewart. By her work, by the way my mother responded to her work, and by that same photo that showed up on all my mother’s editions of her work.

Oddly enough I was studying that photo the other day, smiling faintly at how very calm and poised -- even wise -- Mary Stewart looks in her modest dress and pearls. Not really like any author I know, let alone me.

Mary Stewart passed away on the 9th of this month. I feel like I’ve lost a friend. In fact, she was such a major influence, I don’t think I can whip up a tribute essay on the spot. Her work was smart and stylish and eminently sane. It influenced my own work in incalculable ways, and it always served as the gold standard of romantic-suspense.

There were two very nice obituaries from The Telegraph and The Guardian.   

Tonight I’ll be honoring Mary Stewart the best way I know. By reading and appreciating her all over again.


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