My first novel, Wounded Bride, was published two years ago today!
A shudder ripples through me. It’s strange to be talking to the fictional detective that I’ve created.
“Hi, um, it’s Hyacinth Grey.”
There’s a pause.
Is she going to hang up on me or will she meet me for an interview?
“You’re Hyacinth Grey?”
“Yes. Would . . . could we meet for an interview? I understand if you’re busy, so it could be tomorrow morning, um, if you’re not at church.”
“You know perfectly well I don’t go to church.”
“Er, oh, right. Um, so can we meet?”
“Sure. What time?”
“Um, how about eight?”
“Okay. There’s a restaurant called Mom and Dad’s by the station. Do you know it?”
“Great. See you tomorrow.”
Before I can reply, she’s gone.
The house smells wonderful. Michael’s warming up the lasagna I made the other day. I walk into the kitchen.
Michael hears my footsteps and says, “How’s bloganuary going? What’s the prompt for tomorrow? I hope I can join in.”
I haven’t thought about Michael coming to the interview, but why not?
“You sound nervous. Is the prompt about something really weird?”
“No. I’m being asked to interview a fictional character. I just called Mateo.”
“One of your detectives?”
“Yeah. We’re having breakfast tomorrow at eight. You’re welcome to come.”
“Are you sure you don’t mind me there?”
“I’m positive. I’m jittery, but that lasagna smells great. Let’s eat!”
I guide Michael to a table for four, and we sit down.
“I like this place,” I say. “It looks modern and is clean, and I’ve heard the food’s fabulous.”
“What have you heard is the best?”
Before I can answer, the door opens, and Mateo steps in. She’s wearing jeans, a cream-colored shirt, and has her hair in a ponytial. She looks right at me, glances at Michael, and then back at me. Her gaze is piercing, and my heart flutters.
Was this a good idea?
She walks briskly over to our table.
“Hyacinth,” she says.
I find that I’m tongue-tied, but Michael isn’t.
“Hi, I’m Michael, Hyacinth’s husband. Just so you know, I’m blind.”
“I had no idea you were married,” she says, continuing to stare at me as if she’s trying to decide whether to sit down or kill me.
“Would you prefer if I wasn’t here?” Michael asks, and I feel bad for not having mentioned him to Mateo and avoiding this awkward meeting.
“No. It’s nice to meet you.” She sits down across from him. “Let’s order some food. Would you like me to read you the menu?”
“Thanks,” he says. “I’m going to ask if they have a braille menu.”
At that moment, a server comes to our table.
“Good morning,” she says. “I heard you ask for a braille menu. I’ll get it and be right back.”
“Thank you,” he says.
“Are you two going to church after?” Mateo asks.
“Yeah,” Michael says. “How’d you know?”
“Probably because we’re waring our Sunday best,” I say.
“Right,” Mateo says. “Here comes that braille menu.”
Mateo and Michael ask for coffee, and I order Earl Grey.
While we’re waiting for our stuff, I start the interview.
“Detective, how long have you been working for the Chicago Police Department?”
“But I don’t,” Michael says.
“What? Haven’t you read Wounded Bride?”
“No. I don’t read that kind of book. And I guess the reason you don’t know about me is that I asked not to be mentioned in the acknowledgements of any of Hyacinth’s thrillers. I’m just part of ‘family.’”
“Why don’t you want your name in her thrillers?” Mateo says.
“There’s lots of blood and guns and stuff, right?”
“Yes,” Mateo says. “Hyacinth writes about the most gruesome stuff she can come up with. I should know. I have to see it and describe it in graphic detail.”
She speaks in a dry, matter-of-fact voice that makes me want to laugh, but I manage to keep a straight face.
“That’s why I don’t want to be mentioned,” he says. “I don’t like violence, especially guns. Not even in fiction. So, how long have you been a detective?”
“I started at the beginning of the book. It’s about my first days on the job. At the end, well, let’s just say that I’m still on the job.”
“That’s good,” Michael says. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” she says. “That’s what intrviews are for.”
“Okay. Um, your name, Mateo, I thought Mateo was a guy’s name. You sound female to me.”
“It’s my last name,” she says. “Cops often like to be addressed by their surnames. I’m glad I sound female. I was assigned male at birth, but I became a woman. I put a lot of work into it, including getting my voice right to match my gender.”
“Wow,” Michael says. “I’m really sorry I didn’t read the book. Is it awkward for you when people ask dumb questions?”
“No,” she says. “I’ve spent years dealing with it. Besides, if you don’t like descriptions of violence, there’s no point in you reading the book. It would make you unhappy, and I think Hyacinth needs your love to keep writing. Am I right?”
“You are,” I say. “I told Michael I don’t mind if he doesn’t want to read some of my work. Testimony of Outlaws won’t have any violence in it.”
“Testimony of Outlaws? It sounds plenty violent. Is it a western or something?”
“No, it’s a haiku poetry book with a couple of stories about Christmas. The title is a line from one of the poems. There’s only a hint of violence in the whole book.”
“A hint of violence?” she asks.
“well, I got inspired to write a poem after reading about an armada.”
The server brings our drinks.
“Sorry it’s taking so long,” she says.
“That’s okay,” I say, pouring tea into a cup.
Michael and Mateo doctor their coffee.
When the server’s out of earshot, Michael says, “So, you solve murders, right?”
“Yes. Detective Moore and I are partners.”
“You’re married to a detective?”
“No no, I mean police partners.”
“Oh, good. I was worried there for a second. I mean, wouldn’t you want a break from blood and gore after work?”
“Well, see, the way Hyacinth writes, you don’t read all the paperwork involved. Sure, she does mention it a little bit, but if she did it justice, almost the whole book would be taken up with reams of paper and only a little hint of blood.” She laughs. “Can somebody say ‘Just a hint of violence.’ somewhere in one of my books? I just love that phrase.”
“I’ll consider it,” I say.
“Thanks. And to answer your question, yes, I do like to unwind after work and not think about cases all night, but that’s not always possible. If you walk a crime scene, you want to arrest the murderer, so you can’t always turn off your work brain, even if you really, really want to.”
“Do a lot of people get murdered?”
“Not lots, at least not in Wounded Bride,” Mateo says. “I’m pretty sure a lot more people get killed in Hero Worship, her next book about Moore and me.”
“Is Moore male or female?”
“He’s a cis man. His first name’s Milton.”
The server brings our food, and Michael tucks into a plate of eggs, I grab a slice of toast and slather it with butter, and Mateo starts eating sausages.
A few minutes later, with our plates much emptier and our stomachs a lot fuller, Mateo says, “do you have more questions, or is it almost time for you to go a sing God’s praise?”
“You say that lightly, even sarcastically. Do you not consider God worthy of praise?”
“No. I don’t believe in God anymore.”
“That’s really sad,” Michael says. “Why did you stop believing?”
“I’m how Hyacinth created me,” she says. “Remember, I’m a character.” She smiles. “I don’t mind. When you first called me, I was scared, but I kind of like you, Mrs. Hint of Violence.”
After I assure Michael that I still devoutly believe in God but not all my characters are the same as me, I say, “Today, January 23, 2022, is exaclty two years since Wounded Bride first appeared in the FriesenPress Online Store. Yesterday, I was sitting at my desk hoping the bloganuary prompt would make it easy for me to mention Wounded Bride. Imagine my glee when I opened the e-mail asking me to interview a fictional character. They handed me an opportunity on a silver platter with whipped cream and a cherry on top! I was afraid I’d have to just put some kind of ‘By the way, it’s been two years since Wounded Bride was published, and here’s a link to purchase it.’ kind of message at the bottom of my post.”
“Who’s ‘they?’” Mateo asks.
“WordPress.com,” I say.
“I think it’s time for a song,” Michael says.
“A song?” Mateo says.
“Yeah. Hyacinth was so happy with WordPress for the writing prompt, she made up a song while she was in the shower.” He grins. “Let’s sing it!”
“Three, two, one,” I say.
To the tune of Frre Jacques, Michael and I sing:
I love WordPress,
I love WordPress,
Great for making websites,
Great for making websites,
Blog blog blog,
Blog blog blog.
“That’s cool,” Mateo says.
“Do you have any more questions?” I asked Michael.
“You’ve answered them all,” he says. “Thanks for coming. Now I’m ever more sure that I don’t want to read the book. I hope people who like thrillers will buy it. Hyacinth lowered the price because I kept telling her it was too expensive. With the pand—“
“Wounded Bride is the kind of book people read once, so it’s not nice to charge a bundle for it. The eBook is $1.99 USD, the Hardcover is $21.99 USD, and the Paperback is $13.99 USD. If you’re paying in another currency, it’ll be converted, and those rates can change.”
“I agree,” Mateo says. “I read romances, and after I know who falls in love with whom and how, I don’t read the same book again, so I like inexpensive ones. It was nice talking to you two. Maybe we can do this again after Hero Worship.”
Her phone rings. She takes it out and answers.
I watch her face as she listens. She frowns.
“Yes,” she says, and ends the call.
“Is everything okay?” Michael says.
“No,” Mateo says. “Somebody was murdered this morning, and I need to go.”
She puts some money on the table, grabs her stuff, and leaves the restaurant.
“Let’s go to church,” I say.
Michael says, “Yeah, okay. Why did you stop me? Was I saying something I shouldn’t say on your website?”
“No. I interrupted you because you started to tell her about the pandemic, and that hasn’t happened yet. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to write about it, but I didn’t want her to know. She needs to be as surprised and frightened by it as everybody else is.”