At Crime Reads, this: VET’S WIFE, VET’S LIFE
While dating, I learned quickly that if we could finish our meal at a restaurant before being called out to an emergency, it was a bonus. I remember one date when we had to request our meals to go even prior to our plates being served. A dog had attacked a pony, and Charlie needed to respond immediately. The pony sustained numerous bite and slash wounds that were bleeding severely when we arrived. It took hours to clean and suture each wound, but Charlie worked patiently to piece the torn flesh back together. That pony lived, a reward in itself. …
That’s about what you expected, yes? All Creatures Great and Small, but from the wife’s perspective, more or less. This is certainly how the first part of this post reads. Then it goes off in a different direction:
In time, I sold my clinic and retired from speech therapy practice. Charlie and I had decided that I would take a year off and focus on writing. During our winter vacation, I wrote the first chapter of that nonfiction book titled Intuitive Communication, but then…I opened up a new document and wrote the first chapter of a paranormal suspense novel called Beyond the Abyss. Guess which one was more fun and even exhilarating. You guessed it. Once I tasted fiction writing, there was no going back. …
I decided to write a mystery, and again, my life as a veterinarian’s wife influenced my process. Since most people seemed to enjoy watching Charlie care for animals, I hoped that readers would like to observe a vet at work, too. Cole Walker, DVM came to me fully formed and ready to go to work on the page. I easily imagined a workaholic veterinarian whose neglected wife had left him and their daughters to fend for themselves. But even though vets might solve medical mysteries, they’re not often called on to solve murder mysteries. Soon Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo showed up on the page to help out. …
And here I am pausing to consider this backstory. Because, while I’m always happy to try a novel with a veterinarian protagonist or important secondary character, I am extremely tired of The Workaholic Protagonist Whose Wife Left Him. This is not just an unpleasant backstory, it’s also desperately cliched in murder mysteries and thrillers. There are, of course, worse variations on this theme, such as The Bitter Divorced Protagonist Who Fell Off a Cliff When His Wife Left Him and is Now a Recovering Alcoholic. Come to think of it, worse still: The Workaholic Protagonist Whose Neglected Wife Is Leaving Him Now And We Get to Watch the End of Their Marriage.
Honest to God, how about something unusual? How about, for example, the dedicated protagonist whose wife is supportive? How about THAT protagonist? He can be a detective or a veterinarian or whatever you want, but how about a supportive family and a wife who thinks his job is important and his dedication is awesome? You know what, maybe his wife has a career of her own to which SHE is dedicated and they BOTH support each other in their careers?
Wow, heads would explode all over the field of crime fiction. No no no, we have to have the dedicated male lead, the whiny wife who can’t bear that he doesn’t put her above the dying horse or kidnapped child or whatever, the acrimony, the bitterness, the divorce, and if all that’s in the backstory, then the alcoholism.
Then I go read something by Ilona Andrews because her families aren’t so unrelentingly toxic.
HOWEVER, that isn’t to say that I won’t take a look at a mystery series where the protagonist is a K9 handler and a veterinarian is an important secondary character. Here’s the debut of this mystery series, if you too find this potentially interesting.
Good reviews, many comments about the excellence of the dog character, I’m trying a sample on that basis.
But, I’m telling you, if I ever write a detective novel or a mystery of any kind, you now know what is NOT going to be in the backstory.