By E. A. Aymar
Weekends in Baltimore
The first time I went to Baltimore was on a date, so that’s probably why my view of the city is tinged with romance…even though that date ended with a handshake. But, as a hopeful writer in my twenties, Baltimore was an endless book of stories, and I kept going back. And I did my homework. I read histories, guidebooks, walking tours; for a few years, I spent every weekend in the city, walking around neighborhoods with a pen and a notebook, learning about locations that my characters would later visit. I remembered Flannery O’Connor’s dictum, that the best American fiction is regional, and it seemed like this region had been given to me.
I wanted to see the city without influence, so I avoided Baltimore-based thriller writers. But then I read Laura Lippman, and realized that her reporter-turned-detective Tess Monaghan had already walked these streets. And, dammit, Lippman wasn’t the only one. Terrific writers like Sujata Massey and Tim Cockey, not to mention Edgar Allan Poe and a host of others, had all set stories in the city or region. And then David Simon introduced THE WIRE and not only sketched the city, he etched it in stone. For a time, I worried whether another viewpoint would ever be accepted.
But a city isn’t a stone or a ruin; it changes. It grows. And any city that can house all those voices, as well as the eccentric films of John Waters, Anne Tyler’s quietly powerful work, and the short stories and essays of Rafael Alvarez, and many, many others, will always have room for more. A city, like a story, belongs to both no one and everyone.
So I kept going back, trying to find my way through the city’s streets. Eventually the final word of a first novel was typed and I did love that book, but the publishing world didn’t. Still, there were stories to be told, and of course I kept writing. New characters formed, and I walked through the neighborhoods where they met, loved, lied, killed. When I’LL SLEEP WHEN YOU’RE DEAD was completed, excitement drummed through me. I didn’t feel like I had finished a long march; I felt like I turned a corner and discovered another city.
I’m a month from publication as I write this and, like any writer, I dread finding a mistake in my book: a spelling error that my exceptional editors and I somehow missed, a loud cliché, a shrilly false note. Mistakes happen. But there’s one thing that I hope comes across in my debut thriller, in the emotions and actions and plotlines and portrayal of the region,and it’s even more important than accuracy. I hope readers find my writing honest. The best fiction is.
To learn more about E. A. Aymar please visit his website.