“On the short side.” I’ve heard that description more than once. At five-foot-three-and-a-half (do not forget that half inch!), I’ve always wished I were taller. In fiction writing, though, short is cool. Really cool. I’ve tried writing short stories, which is why I hold those who do it in high regard.
“Surely, moving to Columbus is all Gerald and Annette Reed need to start a new life and escape their demons…”
Mercedes King is the author of “An Agreeable Wife For A Suitable Husband,” one of the stories in the newly published Columbus Noir anthology by Akashic Books. Columbus Noir was the 101st installment in the series—and the first for Ohio.
I met fellow crime writer Mercedes King (aka Kandy Williams) years ago at my very first meeting of Buckeye Crime Writers, our local chapter of Sisters In Crime. Since then, we have both joined the BCW board. Mercedes is a prolific writer, producing works across many genres, including historical, crime fiction, contemporary mystery, and literary fiction. All this while home-schooling her five children from K through 12. Twice she’s been a finalist for the Claymore Award. Now she’s contributed a fabulous story for the newly published Columbus Noir anthology. I recently chatted with her about the Noir series and her story.
How did you get involved in the Columbus Noir project?
The anthology was the brain child of Andrew Welsh-Huggins, an AP reporter by day and author of the Andy Hayes mystery series by night (seriously, he pours into his fiction before clocking in with the AP at 6am). An active member of the Columbus writing community, Andrew invited local writers to contribute to Columbus Noir and let each of us set our story in an area or neighborhood that had meaning to us. Andrew proved to be quite the captain! Not only did he compile an incredible group of talented authors, he made sure each story shone with its own individual flare. I’m sure all my fellow contributors are proud of the voices reflected within the pages of Columbus Noir.
What is “NOIR” and why does it appeal to you?
That’s a question we’ve encountered a lot during promotion. ‘Noir,’ for many of us, represents stories featuring doomed characters, gritty settings, and raw, abrasive tales. The noir genre can be graphic in nature and detail and doesn’t necessarily deliver a Happily-Ever-After for the characters. I was drawn to the challenge of writing a story that lived and breathed on the dark side of human nature. With noir, the writer gets to blur the line between good guys and bad guys, and deliver a sucker-punch twist that readers don’t see coming. This is one area of fiction where you don’t have to apologize for unredeemed characters.
Tell us a little about your story.
“An Agreeable Wife for a Suitable Husband” takes readers back to the Southside of Columbus in 1977. Back then, that area was built on the smoke and sweat of manufacturing. It was also a time when those companies and jobs were starting to fold, and lay-offs were the norm. Columbus was at an interesting cross-roads then. Manufacturing had attracted a lot of people from Kentucky and West Virginia seeking a better life, so when companies started boarding up, those workers were in a bind. I thought this provided an interesting, tense backdrop for my story, which focuses on a couple who’ve left their hard-scrabble way of life behind for the hope of something better….but they’ve brought their demons with them.
Where did the idea for the story come from?
“An Agreeable Wife for a Suitable Husband” is largely inspired by my parents. They both grew up on tobacco farms in Kentucky, but neither had a desire to stay there. Moving to Columbus put distance between them and their families, as their relationships were tangled and contentious. They worked hard at everything they did, but ultimately, their marriage didn’t survive. My dad brought too many weaknesses to the table. My short story in Columbus Noir is a fabricated version of their break-up. In real life, heartbreak abounded, but no felonies were committed.
What else do you write?
I’m a lover of the nostalgic, so I enjoy crafting stories set in different decades—creating my own genre, in fact, called Modern Historicals, where stories are set in the 1990s and earlier. I also wrote a true historical years agp about a young southern girl who disguises herself as a man and volunteers for the Union army ( Plantation Nation). I also love mixing fact and fiction, dipping into the private lives of famous icons, such as Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy. I wrote a novella, A Dream Called Marilyn, which explores her suspicious death. Right now I’m re-vamping a novel I wrote about Jackie, turning it into a four-book series. Crime fiction is another favorite of mine, where I take a real-life case and pour it into a story format. Keeping close to the details of the case is always important, along with helping readers discover what it might be like for people who’ve experienced such tragedies. Mysteries and crime are my true loves, but I don’t mind an occasional detour into historical fiction.
I know you’re always busy! What’s next?
I released Every Little Secret in January. You could say it’s an alternate story/ending for the two characters from my Columbus Noir story. The novel takes you on an in-depth journey into their ‘real’ story. I’m planning to release two more books (Historical / Literary fiction) by the end of the year. I’ve submitted another book to publishers. That one is contemporary mystery/crime fiction—a blend of two real cases, one from Ohio, one from Kentucky. And I have a Prohibition-era novel waiting for me to edit. We’ll see how these ‘best laid plans’ go, but few things compare to the life of an author. Good times!
A founding member of Buckeye Crime Writers, Mercedes King is a Columbus, Ohio, native. With a degree in Criminology from Capital University, she has a passion for crafting true crime into fiction and exploring the depths of deviant behavior. Since her stories often mix fact with fiction and are shaped by not-so-distant decades, she refers to many of her works as Modern Historicals. Every Little Secret, Columbus Noir, and A Dream Called Marilyn are among her growing body of titles. In 2017 and 2017, Mercedes was a finalist for the Claymore Award. When she isn’t elbow-deep in research, reading, or enjoying the local bike path, you might find Mercedes King at Wrigley Field or sinking her toes in the sand somewhere along Florida’s coastline.
What was the best part about growing up in ”Noir” Columbus?
For me, our community was one of the best parts about growing up. We knew our neighbors and ran loose as kids, knowing full well that someone always had an eye on us. Big Foot and quicksand were also a big deal in our imaginations. Downtown wasn’t a place you ventured to at night, but Parsons Avenue was considered worse. Good times.
Thanks for joining us today! And I agree with Connie, I have such respect for those who write short stories. Growing up in Kentucky and living there for many years afterward I always look forward to stories that engage that part of the country. I’ll look forward to your next one!
I spent many summers with my Mamaw in Falmouth, KY, so my Bluegrass roots are very special to me. Also had family in Dry Ridge and Salyersville (but when referring to ‘home’ my Mom and her family would usually say Magoffin County. Pretty sure that’s a Kentucky-thing.) I have a novel coming out, Grave Secrets, set in Venice, KY, which is fictional but draws on my childhood memories. Thanks so much for sharing!