Friday, October 2, 2015

Midnight at the Internet Cafe

What is the research tool you turn to most often? How important is visiting the site of your story to your research?

by Paul D. Marks

These days my go-to research tool is the internet, what else? It’s close at hand. It’s easy. It has “everything” on it. And it’s right all the time. Well, most of the time. I mean much of the time. Yeah.

In the olden days, BI—Before Internet—one had to go to the library or the bookstore. But if you’re a night owl like me you’d be hard pressed to find a library or bookstore open at 3am, my prime time. Not impossible, but also maybe not close by. And much as I love browsing both of those places, I’d rather do it in the middle of the night, but I guess they want to sleep and I curse them for it.

Hollywood Sign Collage D1aThen, of course, there’s first hand research, going to the location/s in your story or to primary source people. For example, if you’re writing about the Hollywood Sign in Los Angeles and you live in Los Angeles you can drive up there, annoy the people who live in the neighborhood, duck potshots from them, get close to the sign and, after running the gauntlet of angry residents, find out it’s fenced off so you can’t get there anyway, at least not right there. But you used to be able to go there. I hiked up there with a friend one time when we were doing research on a screenplay. It was fun and exciting and before the neighbors were perpetually upset—and before it was fenced off. But today it’s hard to get to, at least to get right up close to it, because it is fenced off. So what do you do? You turn to the internet or books. Or people who’ve been there or you watch through binocs or you beg everyone you know to find someone who knows someone who can get you inside the fence. And when that fails you hit the books again or the internet.

Kiss Me Deadly Angels Flight w caption d1I recently sold a story to Ellery Queen that takes place on and around Bunker Hill, no not that Bunker Hill in Massachusetts. The one in downtown L.A. L.A.’s Bunker Hill of today and the Bunker Hill of 30-40 years ago are two vastly different places. When it began in the late 1800s, Bunker Hill was a neighborhood of fancy Victorian homes for the wealthy near downtown. Over time the swells moved west and Bunker Hill became run down and the elaborate houses were turned into rooming houses. In the late 60s, redevelopment began. The people were kicked out. Some of the houses were torn down and others were packed up and moved to other locations. So, though my story takes place today it deals with elements of the long-lost and lamented Bunker Hill of yesterday. How did I research that? Well, the usual, the internet, books, etc. Watching old movies shot there—many film noirs were shot on and around Bunker Hill. But I had also spent time there as a young man, exploring the houses, getting into some, riding the original Angels Flight funicular railway. Going through the Grand Central Market that John Fante talks about in Ask the Dust, before it was remodeled. And I still have the top of a newell stairway post I liberated from one of those old Victorian houses—a memento both to L.A.’s and my own past. I’m also old enough to remember L.A. as Raymond Chandler describes it and before it started to change and “grow up”. And I remember it pretty well—first-hand research you might say.

My novel White Heat takes place mostly in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots of 1992. I lived through that and used both personal experience and recollections of others, both civilians and cops that I know who were there to add flavor to the story. But parts of the story also take place in Calexico, California and Sparks and Reno, Nevada. I have recollections of both places, but it’s been a long time since I was there, so again I turned to the internet to be my researcher’s best friend.

But what if you’re writing something that’s set where you’ve never been. I’ve never been to the Amazon, though it’s one of my dreams. Pre-internet, I was working on a screenplay set there, so I researched it in books, etc. But I also drew on personal experiences of being in other riverine environs, transposing some of those experiences and adventures to the Amazon.

Gas_Station_1942 d1What if it’s a time you’ve never lived in or experienced firsthand? I have a character named Bobby Saxon who’s been in three published stories. I wrote a novel with Bobby that should be done soon. Those stories all take place during World War II on the L.A. homefront. Well, that’s before my time. But I know L.A. pretty well and I know a lot of its history. So I had a good foundation to start with. But I also turned to primary resources: my mom and her friends. My family goes back here a long way and my mom was an L.A. native, so she and her friends could tell me first-hand things about L.A. during the war. I supplemented that with—what else? —the internet and books. But also with maps. I wanted to know how people got from point A to point B in a time before freeways. So I bought several period street maps on eBay, as well as looking things up on the net. And, aside from the good research the maps gave me for the story, I just love looking at them and seeing how things change over time. I also got some of the flavor of the era from old movies and music of the time, both of which I love.

When I was working on a script set in New Orleans...I had to go research it in person. Had to. Wouldn’t you? I wanted it to be real and how could I make it real without actually tasting the food at Commander’s Palace? Winking smile

But what about writing about professions or places that I have no first-hand contact with, well, it’s research and again you go to primary sources when you can. Example: I’m not a doctor so I ask doctors how certain symptoms might be treated, what meds would be used, etc. As for places I haven’t been, well, sometimes I try to go, but if I can’t it’s back to the internet drawing board.

So if I had to pick one winner, it would be the internet. The world is at your fingertips.

***       ***       ***

Bouchercon2015_logoLargewAnthony -- Smaller-Sharpened JPGIt’s still not too late to read all the 2015 Anthony Award nominated short stories:

The five Anthony nominees in the Short Story category are Craig Faustus Buck, Barb Goffman, John Shepphird, our own Art Taylor...and me, Paul D. Marks. I’m honored to be among these people and their terrific stories.

I want to thank everyone who voted for us in the first round. And if you’re eligible to vote, people attending Bouchercon can vote at the convention until 1pm Saturday.

I hope you’ll take the time to read all five of the stories and vote. All are available free here – just click the link and scroll down to the short story links:

But even if you’re not eligible to vote, I hope you’ll take the time to read the stories. I think you’ll enjoy them and maybe get turned onto some new writers.

***       ***       ***

And now for the usual shameless BSP:

Coast to Coastx_1500 (1)NEW from Down & Out Books – Coast to Coast: Murder from Sea to Shining Sea – an anthology of short mystery stories, chocked full of major award-winning authors, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks (Me!)

Released on 10/1 (that’s yesterday for those without a calendar, so hot off the presses)

“Envelope-pushers! A truly WOW collection by the best mystery writers out there – full of surprises only they can pull off.”
—Thomas B. Sawyer, Bestselling author of Cross Purposes, Head-Writer of Murder, She Wrote

With a Killer Cast Including:

4 Time Edgar Winner William Link • Grand Master Bill Pronzini • Scribner Crime Novel Winner William G. Tapply • Shamus Winner Paul D. Marks • EQMM Readers Award Winner Robert S. Levinson • Al Blanchard Award Winner James T. Shannon • Derringer Award Winner Stephen D. Rogers • Sherlock Holmes Bowl Winner Andrew McAleer and other poisoned-pen professionals like Judy Copek • Sheila Lowe • G. B. Pool • Thomas Donahue

Available in paperback and Kindle e-book on Amazon.  Click here to go to Amazon.

***       ***       ***

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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mooching about and gawping

I get quite intimidated when people start talking about research. A writing friend said only last week that he doesn't read as much fiction as he'd like to because he always reading books for research. I nodded and smiled and changed the subject.

The last time I read a reference book for research was three of my own books back. I read No Mean City, the classic expos-ay (can't find the e-acute symbol) of (some say hatchet job on) 1930s Glasgow, for Dandy Gilver and The Unpleasantness in The Ballroom.

Since then I've written Quiet Neighbors (May 2016), Dandy Gilver and Some Nuns (working title) and am halfway through The New Book (barely working title) without cracking a single volume.

What I have done - and this answers the other half of the question - is trumph about and stare at stuff, sniffing the air and listening to the birdsong. Quiet Neighbors is set in Wigtown - Scotland's book town - and I spent four days down there last summer, during the annual book festival. A casual observer might have thought I was stoned, or trying to remember if I'd turned the oven off, as I dawdled up and down the streets of the town, sat on benches, looked out from the harbourside and watched the clouds roll by.

Wigtown 2014
My research into the nuns was even more aimless. I set the fictional convent (and a nearby insane asylum) on the Lanark Moor. It doesn't even have streets or anywhere for a tractor to idle while the driver gets his morning paper. The sum total of my research for the nuns was me standing on the moor, with the wind blasting my cheeks, thinking of how to describe the sound of it in the dry grasses and what the shade of the hills could be called. (Jenny Milchman, incidentally, described it perfectly in As Night Falls. She was talking about the Adirondacks in winter, but it would do for Scotland in summer: "a landscape the colour of potato peelings".)

Douglas Water, Lanarkshire

Of course, the internet is great for swooping in and answering little questions, but you have to be careful. I researched traditional nun's clothing: guimpe, cap, wimple, robe, scapula . . . but I had a scene in the convent laundry and I wanted to know what they might wear underneath that could be being boiled in the copper. People: never put "nun's underwear" into Google. Trust me

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


by Clare O'Donohue

 Q: What is the research tool you turn to most often? How important is visiting the site of your story to your research?

Writers don't just write what we know, we write what we want to know. At least I do. Often I'll use the premise of my story as an excuse to learn about something that's always made me curious.

So in my Someday Quilts books my main character went to art school, because I've always loved drawing and painting. I took several art classes as research for the second book in the series. Those classes added a lot of detail my imagination alone wouldn't have been able to manage, and (bonus!) I fulfilled a desire to indulge a life-long hobby.

I did not paint this...

In an upcoming story I sent my characters to Ireland. So I went there first. I traveled to Ireland twice in the last year for research. (And family. And a little bit because the Guinness is better over there.) Even though I know the country well, being there while I was writing was essential to my telling the story authentically. I needed to walk the streets they would walk, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a place that I would later write about.

And, you know, I wanted to spend some time there, so - again - bonus!

...But I did drink this.

What I especially love is that "research" is the ultimate excuse to (forgive me Nike) Just Do It. Take the class, learn the skill, face the fear... You might make an idiot out of yourself but who cares? It's all fodder for some book. Because while research is looking up stuff on the internet, and talking to experts in a particular field - it's also living and learning, and then writing it down.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Google + Travel = Research

by Robin Spano

Question of the Week: What is the research tool you turn to most often? How important is visiting the site of your story to your research?

My favorite research tool is Google. This morning I was writing a scene inside the US Senate. I had a senator racing to make it into the chamber for a vote, but I wasn't sure how the Senate calls its members or when and if they lock the doors. I typed something into Google and followed my fingers to find a government page that explained in micro detail how the vote happens, as well as the potential variations of voting format, that helped me give the scene the credibility I was looking for.

But while I've visited enough political arenas to feel like I have a realistic feel for the energy inside the building, I haven't written any scenes outside in DC. The senator lives in Miami, visits Boston, Paris and London. All of these places have city scenes because I've been there. But since I've never visited DC, I stick to the inside of offices and buildings - and even that as little as possible.

I've used Google Earth street view to refresh my memory, or to browse an area to figure out where a sniper might hide. But Google Earth, or even excellent travel writing, won't give me the feel of a place, the taste in the air, the quirky ways of the people who live and work there.

Another awesome research tool is the yahoo group "crimescenewriter". Anyone can join, so if you're writing crime, I highly recommend it. I've asked questions about US law enforcement and received helpful answers from police officers, FBI agents and lawyers, some of whom are writers now and some who just follow the thread and help out. I also like to read their daily digest, because sometimes I'll learn something that can help me down the road.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Getting It Right

The research tool I turn to most often? How important is it to visit the sites I write about?

 - from Susan

“Research” is a word that covers a lot of territory for me. How do you spell “purview”? (That’s how.)  Am I sure Chicago isn’t the capital of Illinois? (It isn’t, Springfield is.) Is it true that Burgundy’s edible snails are better than anywhere else? (That one did require on site research and the answer is mais oui!)

Art magazines, the New York Times, museums (I write about a fundraiser at an art museum), and my personal experiences are the major sources I consult. But I will admit that I have fallen deeply into the Internet research trap, prone as it can be to error. I feel best if I get what I need from Wikipedia, but not everything can be found there, alas, with its reassuring footnotes. If my online information is a little soft, I’ll try to cross check a source with other Internet sites, but I know they tend to pick up and spread false information at the speed of light, so that’s really not protection against mistakes. Rarely now do I scout out physical maps, go to the library for resource materials, or write entreatingly to an academic for help. I admit I am lazy and want and expect instant, easy answers. Note that I’m not recommending this, only telling the truth about myself.

Where I draw the line – and who wouldn’t, given the chance – is setting. Santa Fe for the first Dani book? Well, of course I had to check out the town and its restaurants and Christmas farolitos (those candles or electric lights in brown paper bags). 

Manhattan for the second in the series? As a native of the city, I definitely needed to remind myself of the joys of the Upper East Side and the 24/7 noise levels. I already knew and loved those places, which is why I wanted to write love letters to them in my books. But it was important to figure out where crimes might have happened, right?

I didn’t go to a small college town outside Boston to research the third in the series, MIXED UP WITH MURDER, which comes out in February 2016. I knew so many of these towns, so many small colleges, so much of that part of New England from growing up years that I felt I could conjure my fictional town from affectionate memory. The hardest bit of research was finding a name for my made-up college. It was difficult to find one not already bestowed on a college or prep school, one that sounded like it could have been started in the nineteenth century by descendants of Mayflower passengers, or people who wished they were. That required days of trying out names and seeing if they popped up online. Lynthorpe College does not exist, at least not in the United States. Apparently, there’s an institution by that name in England, however.

 (Note: The real college pictured here is Curry College - nice photo!)

So, it’s a mixed bag. Basically, I look wherever I think I can find a reliable answer to my question. And, if it requires knowledge of the cuisine, I start packing.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Attics and Basements

By Art Taylor

I'll admit, straight from the start, that I have no idea how to answer this week's question: "After the excitement and controversy of Go Set A Watchman: what would be your dream rediscovered-lost-work? And your nightmare?"

It's been interesting to read the various approaches by my fellow panelists here at Criminal Minds—occasionally talking about their own early drafts or failed efforts potentially being made public someday, elsewhere surveying the trends (and travesties) of posthumous releases and/or works written by other authors building on legacies, and then Alan yesterday talking about a book that wasn't rediscovered after having been lost but just a failed book in a series (though he puts a clever spin on that: It couldn't have been the author himself who wrote it).

I've already admitted elsewhere my own interest in reading Go Set a Watchman for insight into the backstory of To Kill a Mockingbird (both the wider world of Scout's own story and some glimpses into the potential backstory of the editorial and publication process of Harper Lee's original book). Likewise, I've appreciated those times when author's original manuscripts have been published as a contrast to existing publications (Robert Penn Warren's "restored edition" of All The King's Men, say, or Raymond Carver's Beginners, which gave us early versions of several well-known stories), and I've appreciated too some of the trends of author's works emerging from archives and libraries for fresh audiences—as with recent publications of Dashiell Hammett's work. I've also talked elsewhere about my acceptance and frequently even admiration for the many series characters who've found fresh life in another author's hands—and in fact, I just picked up last weekend the latest James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, penned by Anthony Horowitz this time and with the tagline "With Original Material by Ian Fleming." (I'm intrigued to find out more about how that original material might be identified in the book—or not, of course.)

But none of that quite gets to the question here, as I see it: Is there an author—presumably dead or at least no longer writing—from whom I'd want more? an unknown manuscript discovered in some corner of a relative's attic or unearthed from a basement—jewels from junk?

Well, I've rummaged around the attic and the basement of my own imagination (and then the very real bookshelves surrounding me at work and at home), and no author has jumped to mind.

Maybe readers here will fault my own speculative abilities—some dearth of interest on my part, some lack of passion. I can't blame them, entirely, though I wouldn't necessarily agree. I would indeed be interested if, say, an unknown story by Edgar Allan Poe or Flannery O'Connor or Stanley Ellin were to suddenly surface—but at the same time, I'm more than content with reading and re-reading the existing work by these and many other authors. And let's face it, all of us already have more to read than we'll ever finish in a lifetime—I still haven't read all of Poe, so why would I need more?

Are there authors whose works I can honestly say I've fully, completely exhausted my time with and need more? That's what I'm struggling to think of—because even then, my instinct would be simply to reread, a process which has so many pleasures and, sadly, too few proponents sometimes.

And maybe it's that last point I want to leave folks with—questions stemming from that: Which authors can you just never get enough of? Which authors, which books, do you find yourself REreading time and again? And what is it that you get out of that kind of immersion and reimmersion?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

At Least 702 People Agree With Me

by Alan

After the excitement and controversy of Go Set A Watchman: what would be your dream rediscovered-lost-work? And your nightmare?

I’m a big fan of Robert B. Parker, so I guess I would love to see his Spenser series and his Jesse Stone series continue. If only someone would discover some of his lost work, then I <BREAKING NEWS>Two excellent crime writers, Ace Atkins and Reed Farrel Coleman, already are continuing those series <END BREAKING NEWS>

Um, never mind.

Let me regroup.

I would like to see the lost sequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS discovered in Thomas Harris’s basement. I loved that book (and RED DRAGON before it) and would eagerly devour another one featuring Clarice Starling facing off against Hannibal Lecter.

Of course, some of you may be familiar with a book called HANNIBAL that purports to be a sequel, but…lecter

I don’t think so.

There’s no way that Thomas Harris, a fine suspense writer, would COMPLETELY CHANGE the incontrovertible core beliefs of one of the main characters he created. No way.

How could he?

No, I think HANNIBAL must have been written by an imposter, one who had absolutely no knowledge about what made Clarice Starling tick, because the REAL Clarice Starling would never (Never in a million, trillion years! Never, never, never!) act like the Starling depicted in HANNIBAL. (It was the only book I’ve ever thrown against the wall in disgust, with the clear intention of causing it damage—the book, not the wall.)

And I’m not the only one who felt betrayed by that book—it garnered 702 one-star reviews on Amazon. (If you think my mini-rant is pointed, try reading some of those reviews!)*

I mean, turning Starling into a character who would act like she does in this book would be like turning Atticus Finch into a racist!**



*I don’t usually bad-mouth an author’s work, but in this case, I’m justified. I felt betrayed, I tell you, betrayed!

**I haven’t actually read GO SET A WATCHMAN

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

No way, José

By R.J. Harlick

After the excitement and controversy of Go Set A Watchman: what would be your dream rediscovered-lost-work? And your nightmare?

I’ve been wracking my brains to come up with an answer. I’ve been sifting through the hundreds of books, if not thousands I have read since I started reading, as if I could remember them all. Since I’m one of those readers who generally forgets the contents of a book the minute I close the cover, do you think I’d be able to remember any of the books. I tell you though, it sure helps the book budget. I can re-read old books and get as much enjoyment out of them second and third time around, because it’s like reading a new book.

But are there any authors, lamentably now dead, since most likely if they had a rediscovered-lost-work, it’s not them doing the rediscovering, authors whose long buried work I would want to read? Mind you, Harper Lee is still very much alive and I suppose most of us have manuscripts collecting dust on a shelf or occupying hard drive space and we’re still kicking. But let’s face it, there is a reason why these forgotten or lost manuscripts have never seen the light of day as a published book, they aren’t any good. Either they were rejected by publishers or the writer decided for themselves that the book wasn’t worthy. Often they are early works and the author’s writing style has matured significantly to the better. 

So my take is let’s leave them buried. Chances are the work wasn’t completely finished, so considerable editing is required often with little or no input from the author, especially if they’re dead. As a result the true voice of the author will be diluted, even lost. It’s unlikely this long forgotten work would live up to the quality that readers of the published books have come to expect and enjoy.

Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast comes to mind. It was published three years after his death, based on a diary he kept in Paris, forty years earlier.  Although he had begun to shape it into a book, it was his last wife who did the editing and forty years later his son in a new edition. Like Harper Lee’s long forgotten manuscript, A Moveable Feast was published to much controversy. But, hey, it sells books and that is what it’s all about. 

I mustn’t forget the number of books, often crime related, that have been written in the style of a dead author, using the characters of a best selling series. The most recent is The Girl in the Spider’s Web, which is being sold as a Stieg Larsen sequel, even though not a single word is his, not even the story line, just the characters. And since characters with all their quirks are brought to life by an author’s imagination, it’s difficult to believe that they would continue to be the same characters in a book by another author.

No doubt you’ve gathered by now that I have no interest in a rediscovered work for any of my favourite authors. Nor do I have any interest in forgotten works by other authors or the continuation of a favourite mystery series by another author. I worry that these books which are not wholly their own would cloud the good memories I have of their earlier books.

And now for some BSP. I’m into the countdown. Only six more weeks before A Cold White Fear is released. It’s now available for pre-order at your favourite online booksellers.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Warning: Rough draft. Do not publish!!!

by Meredith Cole

Like every reader, I always want more books by my favorite authors. I would love, of course, to hear that they had found more books by Dorothy Sayers and Jane Austen. But at the same time, the whole Go Set A Watchman controversy (plus Jane's juvenile works) makes me wonder about this impulse. I don't really want to read the work they never finished and never intended for outside eyes. I want to read more of their polished wonderful books. And if that isn't available, then so be it.

I have plenty of ridiculous unfinished writing projects that I've never thrown away. A gothic romance I started when I was twelve with a friend (believe me, you don't want to read it). Screenplays. The first 60 pages of novels that didn't have the legs to go any further. And my nightmare would be for someone to expose it to the light of day and publish it as my work. It's enough to make me go back and burn it all.

And yet... I like to save unfinished projects to read over, if only to see how far I've come. I've turned one screenplay (and may turn more) into novels. So I will just have to leave careful instructions to my family (and lots of threatening notes in the file folders) that they are not to do publish any of it. Oh--that and a link to this blog.

Friday, September 18, 2015

All Dogs (and Cats) Go To Heaven. Hope there’s room for me too…

Have you ever killed an animal in your stories? Would you?

by Paul D. Marks

Well, if you answer yes to the first question, the answer to the second is ipso facto yes too.
My answer is yes.

I understand what Susan said earlier in the week about the cardinal rule of not killing animals in crime fiction stories. And what RJ said in one of the comments, adding children to that. Also movieposterhow agents, fans and readers will come down on you for killing an animal. It’s one of those unwritten rules. SPOILER ALERT: But my novel White Heat (which has been out long enough that I’m okay with giving it away here) is a very tough noir-thriller and in the parameters of that genre I think it works. At least I think it worked in that story. Still, if I recall correctly, when I was writing White Heat I debated a long time as to whether or not to make that happen. But ultimately it’s what I thought the story called for, so it went in. That book has a bunch of controversial elements. And deals with a lot of sensitive issues, of which that is a small part.

I did hear from people about it. It upset them, but not in a way to make them not like the book or not want to read other things from me. It just upset them the way the death of any innocent would, but they still liked the book. Whether people I didn’t hear from had an issue with it, I can’t say, of course.

Marley & Me D1That said, it’s hard for me to read or think about killing an animal. We have a contingent of four animals at most times, two dogs and two cats. Though, unfortunately, they’re not always the same four. So we are definitely animal people. I’ve seen enough death in my life, both human and animal, that at this point when we’ve had to put animals to sleep I won’t be in the room. And when our vet wanted to put Curley, one of our cats, to sleep, I said no. And here, almost two years later, he’s still going strong, and will hopefully continue to do so.

I also love the movies Old Yeller, My Dog Skip and Marley & Me...but so far I can’t bring myself to watch them again, though I’m sure I will. I still can’t read The Art of Racing in the Rain.

But none of that stopped me from “killing” a dog in White Heat – because that’s what the plot required. Like Robin said it shouldn’t be gratuitous. And I do have limits. As I mentioned in a previous post, in the distant past I wouldn’t do things that I thought would give terrorists ideas. But they seem to have plenty of their own and I doubt anything I could come up with would be something they haven’t already thought of. I also wouldn’t want to be very specific about building a bomb or some such. Sure that info’s out there on the web, but I don’t want to be the one to tell someone how to do it.

Will I kill another animal in a story? If the plot calls for it, I guess I will. But I won’t enjoy doing it. And here’s to you, Baron – the real Baron, one of the greatest dogs that ever lived! See you, buddy—hopefully not too soon.

The Real Baron -- Paul D Marks


WhiteHeat_PaulDMarks-Amazon Author
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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Silence of the Lambs

by Tracy Kiely

Question of the week: "Have you ever killed an animal in your stories? Would you?"

Before I answer this week’s question, I thought I would first provide you with a little background about me:
* In 1976, I was deeply troubled by society’s persistent refusal to let a sweet bunny eat a bowl of his favorite cereal. To me the phrase, “Silly, Rabbit! Trix are for kids!” highlighted a serious disconnect in our society – one that held that rabbits were fine for entertainment purposes, but were not worthy to eat our sugary, over processed-cereal. I balked at such discrimination. I was eight, damnit, and I wasn’t going to let this injustice stand. A national debate ensued, and I gladly joined the fight. With a determination not to be seen again for many years, I dutifully saved my allowance and bought up as many boxes of the cereal as I could. I then proudly checked off the ‘Let The Rabbit Eat The Cereal’ voter’s box on the box top and mailed them to the corporate bigwigs at General Mills, who no doubt were overjoyed to see the nation's youth take an interest in civil rights.

No Cereal! No Justice!

* I have never seen the movie Bambi. Although My Cousin Vinny came out years after this decision, it still captures the governing sentiment behind it.

            * I have never, nor will I ever, see Old Yeller.  Yes, it's a classic. However:

* I have never seen the movie The Lion King. This was more due to the fact that I was newly married and was more likely to spend my money to see Reality Bites or Pulp Fiction.  That, and my husband refused to see a movie in which we were the only patrons whose shoulders were visible above the seat backs. But, it was also around this time that I noticed a disturbing pattern in Disney movies: the mother always seemed to die within seconds of the opening scene. Now, I know that most of Disney’s movies are based on Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy tales which in turn are based on Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Fairy Tales, which in turn were based on even darker versions of those classic tales. For instance, in the original Sleeping Beauty, the charming prince does more than lay a kiss on her. In fact, she has two children by him while still asleep. It is only when one of her children sucks the poisoned pricker from her finger that she awakens. 
Now, that kind of WTF moment makes The Hangover seem tame.
The mortality rate of women dying in childbirth was horrific in the 1700s, which is why there are so many references to cruel stepmothers in popular fiction. The Dad had to marry again to get someone to watch the kids, and when there’s barely enough food to go around, a mother is going to feed her kids first. So, that said, I do get where the trend came from – but come on! Do they all have to die? Nemo’s mother didn’t just die, she was ripped apart and eaten!
So, now that you know that about me, I don’t think you’ll have too much trouble guessing that no, I do not kill animals in my books. I wrote about a pissy cat once, but that’s about as far as I’m comfortable taking it. I don’t like reading about animals being hurt, tortured, or killed. It actually makes me queasy.
I read Red Dragon years ago when I was home from college on break. Not only did I not sleep at all that week, but I constantly had to put the book down and go hug my dog. (The killer in the book would first kill the family pet of his victims to prevent any interference.) 
It may sound odd or hypocritical coming from someone who writes about people getting killed, but I can’t stomach the idea of writing about an animal meeting the same fate.