Tuesday, June 9, 2009
A hobby by any other name
Our guest today is JULIET BLACKWELL, aka HAILEY LIND, author of the art lovers mysteries. Juliet is now the author of Secondhand Spirits, due in July, and the first in the new Witchcraft Mystery Series, featuring Lily Ivory, a witch who opens a vintage clothing store in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.
For many years now, I’ve been turning my “hobbies” into poorly paid professions. For more than a decade, I’ve run my own painting and design studio where I faux-finish walls, paint portraits, and generally having a blast. Lately I sit around the house most of the day spinning tales of mayhem and murder. Even before that, I was an anthropologist, which is almost like a hobby…Clearly I’m not cut out for a regular day job.
So when I set out to guest on this wonderful Killer Hobbies blog, it brought up a question: What are my hobbies? Do I have any --Killer or otherwise-- or do I pretty much turn any attempted hobby into a paying (which is not to say lucrative) gig?
Since I rarely have an original thought – especially on command --I asked my friend Anna whether I have a hobby. She informed me that I was the only person she knew that could bring up, in casual conversation over a nice bottle of wine, the fact that a mummified body was found in a beautiful Mediterranean-style home in nearby Piedmont, a posh section of Oakland less than two miles from my house.
“Most people don’t talk about mummies,” she pointed out. “And they especially don’t go on the internet and search ‘mummified corpse in empty house’,” which is precisely what I did after reading the Piedmont story. (In case you were wondering, there are any number of incidents in which a corpse, mummified not by design but through environmental factors --dry heat is especially helpful-- has been found in a home. Often those houses are empty and the departed apparently died from natural causes and went undiscovered for months or years. On several memorable occasions, however, adult children had been living with the corpse, often cashing Social Security checks and bringing to mind Norman Bates…Mother?Mother!)
Of course, amongst mystery writers this sort of morbid curiosity is a common hobby. Bring up the topic of serial killers at a Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime meeting and you’re in for hours of lively conversation, complete with plenty of true-life, macabre tales.
So this is my Killer Hobby: research. I love it. I adore it. I have to make myself stop doing it in order to actually write books. When I was writing my Art Lover’s Mystery series as Hailey Lind, I got to delve into all sorts of nefarious dealings related to art and art forgery; now writing as Juliet Blackwell, I spend a lot of time reading about spellcasting, vintage clothing, and the history of witchcraft for my new series about a witch with a vintage clothing store in the Haight. (Interested in the macabre? Thumb through the Malleus Maleficarum, or what is affectionately known as the “witch hunters’ bible” for a taste of what the witch hunts must have been like in Europe.)
On the other hand…even research like this can get one thinking about crafts…and I don’t mean witchcraft. While looking for images of talismans, I came across little mini- or pocket-shrines made out of old Altoid tins. Now doesn’t that sound like fun? I wonder if there’s any money in it….
Afterword by Camille/Margaret Grace
Check out this painting by Julie/Hailey/Juliet. I should be so good at a "hobby!"
Painting by Julie/Hailey/Juliet