Bill Loehfelm's latest The Devil She Knows is the first of a series and he's the guest contributor at Hardboiled Wonderland today.
The hero of my new novel, THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS, is Maureen Coughlin, a twenty-nine year old New York cocktail waitress who gets herself on the wrong side of some bad people. Though my first two novels each featured strong female characters, this is my first novel with a female lead. I get asked a lot about that choice, to write from a female POV. Were the reasons commercial? Artistic? (The latter) Was I nervous? (No) Did I have a female consultant to proof it for me? (Not specifically, though Maureen did pass muster with my wife and my editor) What yoga exercises did I do to get in touch with my feminine side? (OK, I made that last one up)
The decision was simple, and boring. It was time to write about Maureen; it was her time for a book.
Maureen began life in a flash fiction piece I did more than ten years ago. She lived for years without a name. She has endured and evolved over the years, resurfacing in various guises (not unlike a director’s favorite character actor), in short stories and as a supporting character in the (forever) unpublished novel I used as my graduate school thesis. When I sat down to write my third book, I pulled up Maureen (then the lead in a short story called “Waitress”) and decided to see if she had a book in her – simply because she had lasted so long. There had to be something she wanted to do or say, and I had to see if I had figured out how to lead her through it. Now, as it turns out, she may have more than one book in her. She’s become a character that I can’t put down. Maureen got the lead in THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS because she’s a rich character who wouldn’t go away, not for any other reason.
The fact that she’s female is incidental. I didn’t choose her because she’s female anymore than I chose Junior Sanders from my first book (FRESH KILLS), or Danny and Kevin Curran from my second (BLOODROOT) because they’re male. Curiously, people rarely ask how I wrote about Nat Waters, the book’s washed up 60-year-old NYPD detective, though my life is much closer to Maureen’s than his. Could that because we’re both male, I wonder? Well, regardless of how it all plays into post-modern lit theory and gender studies, I choose Maureen for this book because every story starts, for me, with character. And she’s the best I’ve ever had.