Guest Chick: Rachel Howzell Hall

The Chicks are thrilled to welcome acclaimed author Rachel Howzell Hall to her first guest post. Rachel is the author of the bestselling Lou Norton series, as well as several highly-lauded stand-alone crime novels. Her post, like her gripping mysteries, is passionate and eloquent.

And Now She's Gone Final Cover

Mystery and crime writers thrive off of fear and the state of uncertainty. Many of us create so that we can better navigate the world, better understand why people do the things they do—for good and bad—and what they’ll to do next. For us, telling stories makes life more bearable. The more stories we tell, and the more stories we hear, we can deal with our wounds better, maybe even come to live with them, gain the skills to dress them properly. Make even wreathe them with marigolds and fragrant lavender. Stories calm the fear and ease the flailing.

That’s why you’d think by now that stories written by people of color in crime would receive the notice and wide readership that white writers do. We know fear. We know flailing. You’d think by now that publishers, journalists and the media-at-large would throw marketing budgets and provide outlets for writers of color. We’re interesting. We’ve faced awful people with blatant hate or who are the termites-eating-away-at-an-old-house kind of evil. Believe me: we have stories to tell. You’d think by now that there would be no erasure of black women who write crime writers, or Latina women who write crime, since women are, too many times, on the receiving end of crime. You’d think the powers-that-be and the influencers and the tastemakers would say, ‘Hey, how about you? What do you think of the state of crime and mystery writing? What stories are we missing? What story are you telling?’

But even today, crime-writing is still Their World. Women of color crime-writers are an afterthought, flair on a collar. Right now, black women especially, have been the loudest in demanding more for everyone—equal time, equal pay, equal space, fair representation. We are mentoring, we are sharing our wounds, we are straight-up fiery flair with an arsenic chaser if you diminish us. The women in our books are more than fretting mothers, and stiff-spined, Bible-thumping Big Mommas, and long-suffering wives. Our women clap back and slap hard if you dare bring that shit into our house. Our stories pop. Our stories matter.

Since we’re now going on six months of living with a pandemic, you’d think by now that readers would rush to read about other people’s lives, lives that don’t resemble their own. Especially since they’ve been stuck with their own for half a year. You’d think by now that our stories are no longer seen as ‘soft’ since many of these stories center around women and home/family life. C’mon: some real shit goes down in those family homes. Which is why so many of us are f**ked up in the head.

You’d think by now, that I’d stop caring and just write.

But squinty-eyed rumination is what I—what writers—do. I will never stop needing to understand, and my figuring it all out may take writing more books and watching more episodes of Forensic Files. It will take more living and celebrating and being disappointed. You’d think by the end of this, after hashing it all out, I’d have an answer for you, especially for young writers. But how can I since I don’t have an answer for me? No—I’ll just have to write another story, one that will make things clearer… and I will have an easier time writing that book and penning an essay about that book…

Maybe.

Readers, do you have favorite writers of color? Share them with us! If you’re interested in discovering more terrific mystery authors of color, visit this website, crimewritersofcolor.com.

And Now She's Gone Final CoverRachel Howzell Hall Pic 2020

SYNOPSIS: Isabel Lincoln is gone. But is she missing? It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.

BIO: Rachel Howzell Hall, author of the bestseller and Anthony Award-, Lefty Award- and ITW-award nominated They All Fall Down (Forge), writes the acclaimed Lou Norton series, including Land of ShadowsSkies of AshTrail of Echoes, and City of Saviors. She is also the co-author of The Good Sister with James Patterson, which was included in the New York Times bestseller The Family Lawyer. She is currently on the board of directors for the Southern California chapter of Mystery Writers of America and is a Pitch Wars mentor for 2020. She lives in Los Angeles.  Her next novel And Now She’s Gone will be published in September 2020. You can find her at www.rachelhowzell.com and on Twitter @RachelHowzell.

36 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Rachel Howzell Hall

  1. Great post! Can’t wait to read Rachel’s latest!

    Not crime writers (more horror and literary), but I just finished two short story collections I would highly recommend. Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires and Revenge by Yoko Ogawa. SO SO good.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Love this post, Rachel! I am currently reading Tokyo Firewall by Elizabeth Wilkerson, and A Good Family by A.H. Kim was a recent read that I really enjoyed. I have several more CWOC books lined up in the queue (Olivia Matthews, S.G. Wong) that I’m hoping to get to sometime this year. And of course I need to add your latest to the list. If only I could read faster!

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I adore Paula L. Woods and am sorry that she stopped writing. Hopefully she’s just on a break. Walter Mosely is another favorite, and my book group is discussing Barbara Neely’s Blanche on the Lam next month.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I do, too – her Charlotte Justice series helped to inspire my Lou Norton series. Walter’s always a treat, and Barbara was such a wonderful soul.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Rachel. A few authors of color who are my personal faves include Octavia Butler in the sci-fi world, Alexia Gordon and Kellye Garrett for their cozy mysteries, Alex Segura for his P.I. series, and Gabino Iglesias for his horror. The world is better with diverse books!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Yeah, you’d think indeed…. So thank you for this eloquent post. And thanks to all the folks involved in Writers of Color, as well.

    We are so happy that you stopped by the Chick today, Rachel. And congrats on the new book!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Powerful post, Rachel — thanks so much for visiting with the Chicks today! Excited for the upcoming release of And Now She’s Gone! On the cozy side, I enjoy V.M. Burns and Alexia Gordon. Anything by Kellye Garrett is on my must-read list! Have we bragged lately that Kellye was a founding member of the Chicks?!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Rachel, I’m so thrilled you visited us. I hope it’s the first of many posts. I love anything by my pal Kellye Garrett, of course. I’m excited to read Olivia Mathews’ new book. Alexia Gordon is another favorite. And I’m in awe of how Valerie Burns writes not one but TWO mysteries in her Mystery Bookshop series. And anything by you, of course. I’m on hold at the library for AND NOW SHE’S GONE. I like to do library reads because a) $$$, and b) the more we want a book, the more of them they have to buy!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for inviting me to join you, Ellen! I had a great time writing this post and meeting new people! What a great list of books – you’ve always been a wonderful ally. xox

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  8. There is no doubt that women are writing the best crime fiction; and I would argue we are in a period where the best of the best is coming from women of color. But for whatever reason, some of the reading public can’t get behind either group. I don’t understand and and fear I never will.

    The fact that Attica Locke just hit the NYT list for the first time this week is shameful. Her books have long been some of the best writing out there – in any genre. Alyssa Cole’s crime debut also hit the bestsellers list. I’ve not been shy about saying that Rachel’s new book is my favorite novel of the year. As long as these things keep happening, I will consider them small victories on a war-length journey. We *must* do better to see the world from the eyes of others, otherwise we are doomed.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. You are wonderful – I know I say that all the time to you, but I truly mean it. I, too, was shocked to hear Attica just hitting the list! But we all will keep on keeping on – there are too many stories left to tell before we quit. And with your help, more people will pick up our novels!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Welcome, Rachel! So thrilled and honored to have you here.

    What a powerful, moving post. So many wonderful CWOC. Some of my favorites are Kellye Garrett, Alexia Gordon, and Valerie Burns.

    I can’t wait to read AND NOW SHE’S GONE!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Thanks, Rachel, for telling it like it is. A raw and compelling post. Congrats on your latest! I heard an excerpt of And Now She’s Gone–it’s amazing!

    Also, thanks for the shout-out to CWoC. Love that community!

    On the cozy front, I’m excited to see new and upcoming diverse reads from fellow Berkley authors, Abby Collette/Vandiver and Mia P. Manansala.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jennifer! Last time I saw you, life was about to change. Thanks so much for sharing your list – we’re growing and that can only be a good thing!

      Like

  11. I have many of the authors mentioned on my “Love them!” and my “Can’t wait to read their new one” lists, but some I haven’t read yet, so YAY!

    Thanks for visiting us here at Chicks, Rachel, especially with such a thought-provoking post. (Oh, and if you were wondering, you’re on both of my lists!)

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Hi Rachel, and thank you so much for visiting Chicks today–wonderful post. Cannot wait for your new book!

    Everyone that’s already been mentioned = ❤️. Will list some faves that I teach too: Amy Tan, Zitkála-Šá, Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Audre Lorde.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, the classics! I want to read Beloved for a third time — I haven’t read it since becoming a mother. I know it will resonate with me differently now. Thanks for your support!

      Like

  13. Rachel, we’re so honored that you’re here on Chicks today—and I am thrilled to “meet” you! What a stunningly beautiful and thought-provoking post. Skies of Ash is on my nightstand—Lou is definitely a kick-butt woman we need right now. Looking forward to Gray as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Lisa. Oh, Lou! I miss that lady — Gray is wonderful. I thought of her as Lou’s younger, less experienced but just as snarky and complex cousins.

      Like

  14. Off the top of my head (so unfortunately I’ll miss a lot of authors): Alice Wong, Haben Girma, Cate Holahan, Jennifer Hillier, Vivien Chien, VM Burns, Alexia Gordon, Alex Segura, Gabino Iglesias, Elizabeth Wilkerson, Walter Mosley, Jennifer Chow, Esme Addison, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Sabaa Tahir, Priscilla Oliveras, Sherry Thomas, John Vercher, Michelle Campbell, Suzanne Park. Some TBR: Abi Dare, Vanessa Riley, Rin Chupeco, Sonali Dev.

    Like

  15. Just added you to my list, thank you for post. Now is the time to speak out. A favorite author of mine is Michael Nava. His latest, Carved in Bone, is a searing, powerful story set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

    Like

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