(graphic provided by author)
By Rachel Howzell Hall
I write stories. Mysteries. Crime. My heroine: LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton.
Creating her, creating my stories--LAND OF SHADOWS, SKIES OF ASH, TRAIL OF ECHOES and CITY OF SAVIORS—didn’t come easy. It was only after living for more than forty years on this Big Blue Marble that I had the skill, the nerve, and the patience to try it.
Lou is a black female homicide detective – that, right there, makes her odd. She graduated from law school but couldn’t pass the bar. Goes to Krav Maga and is smarter and tougher than most of the men around her. But her marriage… sucks because her husband’s a slut, and her friends don’t understand the reasons she stays. She’s lost a lot in life – a father, a husband – but she keeps at it. Lou, like all women, has a lot going on.
How did I create her? Where did I start? Here’s how Lou came to be, one decade at a time. You may try this at home. You may try with your child. Whatever you try, know that your mileage may vary.
Age 1-10: Paid attention to everything. Read a lot. Listened. Danced. Wrote bad rhymes in colorful notebooks. Wrote down commercials between ‘What’s Happening’ and ‘Dance Fever.’ Read Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Age 11-20: Made friends with different people. Understood that it was normal to be pissed off at Mom, Dad, The Man because yes, they WERE hypocrites. Kept a diary. Took advantage of someone else paying for my education. Learned how to protest. Enjoyed eating Doritos, Taco Bell, wine coolers and Jungle Punch. Loved freely. Listened to hip-hop, Duran Duran, Michael Jackson and Prince. Wrote bad rhymes about who I loved, who I hated, why the world sucked. Was optimistic: if only [fill in the blank]. Read Sidney Sheldon, Jackie Collins, Stephen King and the Bible.
Age 21-30: So effin’ fly and free. Dated bad boys and good boys. Wrote in my journal. Danced all night. Spent every paycheck on shoes. Wanted to be everything. Read sometimes. Happy hours. More happy hours. Finding true love. Bridesmaid dresses. Bridal dresses. Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Elle subscriptions. Read The Joy of Sex and Kama Sutra. Took too many quizzes. Ignored anything serious. Got married. Traveled to other countries.
Age 31 – 40: Life was so hard now. People were dying. Parts of me stopped working. Cells that were supposed to die… didn’t. Friends experiencing marriage, miscarriages, babies, houses, reality. Cried. Cursed the skies. But kept going. Read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Parent, life insurance policies and Diaper Genie instructions, Tamoxifen side-effects and short-term disability papers. Read Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, John Krakauer and the Bible. Understand the word SURVIVOR.
Age 40 – today: Writing gets good now. I’ve experienced so much. I’ve hurt so much. I’ve loved hard. For some friends, that love is over. Writing now is like gumbo. Writing now is like two-day old spaghetti and meatballs. Writing now is like homemade sangria. Use my words. Use my hurt. Wonder. Write. Learn. Write. Listen. Read… EVERYTHING.
It took my lifetime, as you can see, to create this tall, brave black female detective. She’s perfectly imperfect. A control freak. A romantic. A cynic. I love sending her out on quests. She’s my avenger. And doggoneit, I want her to find happiness and maybe even pass the Bar. There’s no one like her in mysteries right now – I know because I’ve checked.
If you haven’t met Lou yet, I hope you pick up a book (or three) and hang out with her a bit. She’ll surprise you.
Rachel Howzell Hall is the author of the forthcoming Trail of Echoes (May 31, 2016), the third novel in the Detective Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton novels. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.
Visit www.rachelhowzell.com for upcoming tour dates.
Follow her @RachelHowzell
Pre-order TRAIL OF ECHOES at http://www.amazon.com/Trail-Echoes-Detective-Elouise-Norton/dp/0765381176/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8.