The Chicks are thrilled to have fab author Marla Bradeen with us today. She talks about the importance of representation in mysteries, beyond the usual suspects, and shares some exciting information about new a grant opportunity through Sisters in Crime for LGBTQIA+ mystery authors! And be sure to check out her wonderful Cozy Cat Caper mystery series (written as Paige Sleuth). Take it away, Marla!
What was the last book you read featuring an able-bodied, white, straight, cisgender protagonist? What about the last book you read with a cat—sassy or otherwise—who plays a prominent role? I’m guessing you don’t need to think back too far to answer the first question. And if your library is anything like mine, you won’t have any trouble answering the second either.
Now tell me about the last book you read starring a heroine with a disability, or a Latino hero, or a character who is transgender. How long did it take you to name a title that fits into one of those categories, if you could even come up with one?
There’s nothing wrong with books centered around able-bodied, white, straight, cisgender characters, of course. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with cats taking over those fictional pages (at least I hope not, since the foundation of my own author career is my Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series written as Paige Sleuth). But if your world is anything like mine it is filled with more than bossy four-legged creatures and people who check all of the above boxes. I don’t think any bookworm is surprised by the studies that show reading increases our emotional intelligence and ability to empathize with others. When you are offered a peek into another person’s worldview, it becomes much easier to understand reactions and perspectives that don’t necessarily match your own.
Reading may allow us to immerse ourselves in a variety of experiences, but someone has to write those stories. And who better to take on the task than someone living it in real life? Unfortunately, in traditional publishing there still seems to be a stigma that stories starring anyone other than able-bodied, white, straight, cisgender characters will have a harder time finding a mainstream audience. Worse yet, the industry often seems to doubt that anyone other than able-bodied, white, straight, cisgender authors can even pen a decent story.
Thankfully, Sisters in Crime disagrees. Sisters in Crime are advocates not only for women crime writers but for all crime writers who have been historically underrepresented or undervalued in the industry. And while I’d like to think women crime writers today face far fewer barriers than they did 35 years ago when the organization was founded, there is still a lot of work to be done to equal the playing field for writers of color and those in the LGBTQIA+ community. To help with that, Sisters in Crime has two $2,000 annual grants available to emerging writers in both of these areas. If you qualify, both Anna Belle the cat and I hope you will apply. The world needs your stories.
Readers, if you’d like to discover more LGBTQIA+ mystery authors and those of color, I hope you’ll check out Sisters in Crime’s Frankie’s List, Crime Writers of Color, and Queer Crime Writers. Then share your own diverse book recommendations in the comments. Anna Belle says there’s no such thing as a too-big TBR pile!
Writers, learn more about the Sisters in Crime Pride Award for emerging LGBTQIA+ crime writers here (applications accepted through March 15): https://www.sistersincrime.org/page/Pride
Interested in Sisters in Crime’s Eleanor Taylor Bland Award for emerging crime writers of color? The application period opens later this month: https://www.sistersincrime.org/page/EleanorTaylorBland
Marla Bradeen writes mysteries both as herself and as Paige Sleuth. A former software consultant and analyst, she gave up her day job in 2012 and now enjoys killing off imaginary people with lives more interesting than hers. When she’s not plotting murder, she spends her time catering to the demands of her two rescue cats. You can download her first Cozy Cat Caper Mystery book, Murder in Cherry Hills, for free, or learn more about her and her books on her website. You can also connect with Marla on Twitter and Facebook.
Would you like to see more diverse voices, protagonists, and characters in mysteries, especially cozies? Is there an author or series you already enjoy that features more diverse characters?