Why I Chose the Mystery Genre to Write My First Novel by Juliana Aragón Fatula

Dear Reader,

This summer I’m taking a break from my gardening and spending time with a friend in her home and working on my manuscript. She asked me to keep her company while she recovers from surgery. I asked her if I could work on my novel. She said, yes. And here I am, writing to my heart’s content. 

We met the summer of my last year in college. We were roommates on our literary tour of England with the English Department of Colorado State University-Pueblo. We were senior citizens among a group of ten twenty-somethings students. The two of us hit it off immediately and have been best friends ever since. That was fourteen years ago. She loves to read mysteries. I love to read mysteries. It was a match made in heaven. Her library is extensive. Dr. Judy Noel has allowed me to use her home as my writing space many times and I appreciate the quiet and reprieve from my home and family to just write, and write, and write. 

After my second book of poetry was published, I decided that I’d like to try writing in my favorite genre, mystery.  I had studied different genres in college: Ethnic Lit, Chicana Lit, Shakespeare, the classics, fiction, non-fiction, playwriting, and poetry. My advisor felt my strength in writing was in poetry. I minored in Creative Writing Poetry and after graduating published two books and a chapbook of poetry. This made me very happy and led me to pursue writing workshops and I met and networked with great poets. But deep in my soul, I wanted more. I wanted to write a mystery. A mystery that only I could write.  A story about two Chicana Private Investigators from Denver, Colorado who are chingonas. Badasses. 

I realized right away that I didn’t have the skills necessary to write a great mystery and I refused to write a mediocre novel, so I set out to read every book on writing, I could get my hands on to learn how to write in this genre. My mentor at the Stiletto Gang, Linda Rodriguez, helped me to have the confidence to write for this blog. She had faith in me and I leaped at the opportunity to network with other mystery writers. It has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in the last ten years. I’ve met writers online that have encouraged me every day and every way to pursue my dream of being a published mystery writer. I’ve learned so much from these women at the Stiletto Gang and want to thank them for the feedback and advice they have given me. Thank you Stiletto Gang for the excellent opportunities you have given me over the years. 

At first, I was fearful that I wouldn’t have anything worth blogging about to the readers, but eventually, I fell into my rhythm of writing to my readers and attracted new fans. Today, I prepare to write my June 2021 post and wanted to tell you a little more about me and why I love the mystery genre. 

I love trying to solve the case. I read the book and search for clues. I pay attention to what people say and do which leads me to suspect they have something up their sleeve. The characters sometimes throw you off course and mislead you, so you can’t assume to know what the end will reveal. If you fall for a red herring, you just might go in the wrong direction to solve the case and a good writer will have several to throw the reader off. 

I’m learning all about how to keep the reader turning pages with a suspenseful story that doesn’t reveal too much, too soon. My sense of humor shows up in my writing and lightens the story from being too dark and dramatic. In real life, people behave differently in stressful cases like investigating homicides, so my Detectives laugh at the absurdity of how corpses end up floating, burning, hacked to pieces, or blown to smithereens. This may offend the serious reader, but I’m not writing a serious mystery. My story is full of mayhem and laughter and includes romance and suspense, murder, and unique characters full of flaws and chaos in their lives. 

The story for the Colorado Sisters began forming in my head years ago on a trip to a writing workshop in Utah. It was delicious. It’s morphed since then into a different story but the main characters remain true to themselves and I’ve adjusted some of the secondary characters to be more interesting. 

It seems like I’ve been writing this story for years and I fretted about how long it was taking me. Then one day I realized, I have been living a full-time life in addition to being a writer. I have a family that needs me and my son needed me especially when he came home after being in prison for seven years. I adapted and set aside my writing to help him adjust. I also became involved in genealogy research of my ancestors after having my DNA tested and discovered my roots go back to years of being marginalized for being indigenous to this country. This research led to more research and I learned so much about my people’s history. I found it addictive and I kept researching and reading and learning. 

During the last few years, I have also studied and learned how to grow Cannabis for medicinal purposes and that led me to study herbal remedies to medicine. I began making salve and baking edibles. I studied plants that grow indigenous to my area and began making shampoo and conditioners for my hair that has begun to grey and thin. I am now becoming a curendera, a woman with the ability to heal with plants. This turned into a belief in the ancient ways. Cleansing with sage and sweetgrass and using essential oils to scent the air in my home. I learned how to use lavender I grow in my garden into oil for many purposes. 

One day I realized that although I hadn’t finished my novel, I had reworked it and made it better than it had been in the first draft. I read it to myself and thought, that’s not bad for a rooky. But still, I wanted to be great, not good for my first novel. And that takes dedication and work. 

I also help other writers with reading their work and writing reviews of their books. I teach writing workshops to Bridging Borders, a team leadership program for young women, and mentor them.  This has been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life. A chance to give back to my community and learn from these young women about being a positive role model. I have also taken time to volunteer to judge several writing competitions and enjoyed reading other writers’ work and learning from them how to be a better writer. 

I don’t have grandchildren, but my husband and I are pet parents and we treat our puppies and kittens like family and spoil them rotten. They have given me love unconditional and they are my therapy animals. I can’t imagine a world without them and they keep me sane. My life is full and never boring, never. Nunca. Instead, it is filled with family, friends, pets, a network of supportive writers, and a busy life of learning and becoming a better human being. My parents would be so proud of the woman I’ve become. The friends I keep company with are some of the best people in the world and keep me on my toes to keep up with them and their accomplishments. 

When I was a student, I surrounded myself with the smartest people in the class and if they made good grades, I made sure that I studied until I made good grades, tambien. And I did. I have surrounded myself with wonderful social activists, professors, teachers, actors, directors, writers, performance artists, journalists, leaders in the community, and mentors with positive ideas who are creative and make me strive for success. 

My past was shady and I was on the verge of ending up dead or in prison, but somehow I survived to graduate from college and find satisfying work as a teacher and begin a writing career. I’m happy when I’m writing but I also find great joy in performing on stage and I have continued to perform readings every chance I’m given. Sometimes it’s a small crowd in a bookstore, other times in larger venues it’s an audience of hundreds, but regardless, I’m elated to walk on stage and share my stories and the feedback, laughter, tears, applause rewards me for all of my efforts to entertain. 

My life continues to be full and challenging as I wither away into my golden years, but while I still have the ability to write, read, perform, teach, and mentor I will remain happy to be alive and appreciative of all of the blessings in life I’ve been given. 

I’ll end with this thought. Although my life has been filled with trauma and unhappiness, the past made me into the person I am now and I wouldn’t change a thing because I love the woman that writes poetry and mysteries and performs stories about my ancestors. I’m proud of my accomplishments in being the first and only one of ten siblings to graduate from college and I know that that I’ve made a difference in some of my students’ and friends’ lives and that has made all of the heartache, trials, and tribulations worthwhile. I refuse to be silenced. I remain the Crazy Chicana in Catholic City. 

5 replies
  1. Saralyn
    Saralyn says:

    Thanks for sharing so much of your fulfilling and joyous life! Wishing you the best, and may all your writing dreams come true.

  2. Gay Yellen
    Gay Yellen says:

    Being able to find joy, even when life deals us blows, is the key to resilience. May you continue in health and happiness.

  3. Debra H. Goldstein
    Debra H. Goldstein says:

    Wonderful blog post… and I bet if you check with each member of the Stiletto Gang, you will find our first mysteries (or books) when coupled with life, took years to truly write. I know mine went in and out of the drawer and a few computers for at least 10 years before I had time to take a deep breath, and like you are doing now, sit down and write.

    I also want to compliment you on your blogs. I read each one… and have ended up buying 12 Tiny Things and other books you have recommended. Your honesty in the blogs brings you fans and supporters.

  4. Aimee Carr
    Aimee Carr says:

    I can't wait to read the final draft of 'Colorado Sisters'. You are golden and my favorite Corn Mother. (Queen!) Your immense influence ripples through those you generously give your time and attention. I'm so fortunate to call you Sis.


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