When Peppermint Barked, my 6th Spice Shop mystery, came out a few weeks ago, the owner of the local kitchen shop asked me to come by, chat with customers, and sign books. She’s sold a lot of my books – in a town without a bookstore, authors have to look for other partners and outlets – and I was delighted to hang out in the shop for an hour or so on a summer Saturday
The shop sells a line of infused olive oils and vinegars, and when I wasn’t chatting with potential readers, I listened in as two of the saleswomen gave samples and talked up the flavors, how the products could be used, what combos went well with each other and with what dishes. I’m a foodie, so I ate it up. But what I really loved was the language – and that’s why I want to share this moment with you. The terminology or lingo our characters use, the passion they speak with, even the sounds of their voices as they slip into something they know well and love – that’s another tool for bringing them alive on the page.
Think about that the next time you’re out and about. Eavesdrop, make notes, listen to what people say and how they talk about what interests them, whether its plants or tools or pets, or oil and vinegar.
In my view, as a writer, lawyer, and former bookseller, there are no bad books*. Every book serves a purpose and should spark a conversation. The American Library Association has designated September 18-24, 2022 as National Banned Books Week. Learn more about challenges to books and advocacy from the ALA.
“Schools provide safe spaces to talk about controversial issues, and literature presents characters portraying human experience in all its richness and contradictoriness. Reading is a way to take in the difficult situations and understand them.”
— novelist Julia Alvarez
* There are some badly written books, of course, but that’s a different thing altogether!
“….I think the imagination is the single most useful tool humankind possesses. It beats the opposable thumb. I can imagine living without my thumbs, but not without my imagination… All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don’t, our lives get made up for us by other people…
“The minds of animals are a great, sacred, present mystery. I do think animals have languages, but they are entirely truthful languages. It seems that we are the only animals who can lie. We can think and say what is not so and never was so, or what has never been, yet might be. We can invent; we can suppose, we can imagine… “
~ Ursula. K. Le Guin (1929-2018) on imagination, from The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination