We’re so pleased to welcome author Mark McNease to The Novel Approach today to chat about a subject near and dear to his heart, as well as to introduce us to his latest novel, Last Room at the Cliff’s Edge: A Detective Linda Mystery.
It’s a privilege to guest post here at The Novel Approach and have the opportunity to speak to something I’ve been passionate about for many years: the reality, acceptance, inevitability and beauty of aging. My writing career started over 30 years ago doing book reviews and short stories for a gay newspaper in Los Angeles. I asked the editor one day why there was never an image of anyone over the age of 25 on the cover. It was a rhetorical question: gay throwaways had to have hot young men on the cover to move copies outside bars, bathhouses and restaurants that catered to an LGBT crowd. But the sentiment remained with me, even as the decades passed and I became one of those people our culture likes to nudge to the side: the older, the aging, and the old. We don’t like to look at old people. They remind us where we’re headed with a little luck, and many of us do our best not to become them, in word, action or image.
Five and a half years ago I launched a website, lgbtSr.org, to engage LGBT people over 50 and our many friends and allies. I didn’t want another service oriented website telling people where they can find the nearest queer friendly 55-plus community. There are plenty of sites dedicated to providing services, and they do it well: SAGE, LGBT Elder Initiative, even AARP has an LGBT page. I wanted instead to create an online space where we could see our lives as going concerns: authors, artists, columnists, news reporters, gay, queer, old, older. Today you can find iconic author Lee Lynch’s monthly Amazon Trail column at the site. There are regular columns from trans activist Stephanie Mott, ‘Gayging Advocate’ Rod Hensel, book reviews, financial advice, podcasts, the Savvy Senior, and lots of interviews, many with authors.
Around the same time I launched the website I started the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, a gay mystery series featuring an older couple. I wanted to write and read a mystery centered on characters my age, whose lives reflected my own experiences as a 58-year-old man (as of this writing). In Murder at Pride Lodge, Kyle and his partner Danny head to Pride Lodge, an LGBT resort in the Poconos modeled after the real Rainbow Mountain. In the first book they meet Detective Linda Sikorsky from the New Hope, PA, Police Force. I’d decided when I wrote it that if it did well there would be a second, and if not, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Kyle and the gang. There are currently five Kyle Callahan Mysteries. And now … Detective Linda gets her own series. Since that first book, she has come completely out as a lesbian, retired from the police force (she’s 46), met and married Kirsten McClellan, and moved into a small house in the woods strikingly similar to the house my husband and I own in Kingwood Township, NJ, where we’ll be moving in a few months.
In Last Room at the Cliff’s Edge: A Detective Linda Mystery, Linda and Kirsten head to Maine for a long weekend of “rest, relaxation and rewrites” as Kirsten attempts to finish writing her first mystery, featuring a character based loosely on her wife. Linda humors her, not so thrilled at being used as a character model. A storm forces the women to spend the night at the Cliff’s Edge Motel, “where checking in is easy, but checking out is hell.” Linda hears ominous noises in the night, and soon the women are pursuing justice for the murder of a young reporter, if they survive the killers waiting in the shadows.
I’ve always been a fan of series and have read a few in which the characters have aged twenty years with me. I like the occasional fan email telling me how much an older reader enjoyed seeing themselves in a book, and hoping there will be another one. So far, I’ve kept that promise to tell them another story. One day my characters will go with me to some assisted living facility, where we’ll proudly act our ages, unashamed, unapologetic, and highly visible.
About Last Room at the Cliff’s Edge
Retired homicide detective Linda Sikorsky and her wife Kirsten McClellan head to Maine for a long weekend of rest, relaxation and rewrites as Kirsten finishes drafting her first novel. Bad weather alters their plans, forcing them to stop for the night at the Cliff’s Edge, a motel known for secrecy and indiscretion. Something murderous goes bump in the night, sending the women on a search for justice when a young reporter’s body is found dumped and violated on a back road. A road Linda must now go down, no matter where it takes her, or what it reveals.
“Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that “easy reading is damn hard writing.” McNease writes in this ostensibly effortless way, employing all the elements of a true story teller: intrigue, tension, memorable characters and perfect pacing. I also admire the ease with which he captures a woman’s point of view. Linda is heroic and flawed and utterly believable.” ~ Jean Ryan, author of Survival Skills
About the Author
Mark McNease is the Editor of lgbtSr, a website “where age is embraced and life is celebrated.” He’s the author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, co-editor and publisher of the anthology Outer Voices Inner Lives (Lambda Literary Award finalist), and the co-creator of the Emmy and Telly winning children’s program Into the Outdoors.