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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Write what you like to read

“Sometimes the characters develop almost without your knowing it. You find them doing things you hadn't planned on, and then I have to go back to page 42 and fix things. I'm not recommending it as a way to write. It's very sloppy, but it works for me.” – Barbara Mertz

An American author who wrote under her own name as well as under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Peters and Barbara Michaels, Mertz was a noted academic as well as a leading writer.  Born on this day in 1927, she earned multiple degrees in ancient history and Egyptology, including a Ph.D. in the latter field.

One of her remarkable 19-book series  (written as Peters) focused on a professor who held a degree in Egyptology.  I say remarkable because all told she wrote 71 books, including many series built around mystery and suspense.  And while she was best known for those, two of her nonfiction books on ancient Egypt also have stood the test of time.  Those, her first works in the mid-60s, are still in print. 

More than a dozen of her books were nominated for or won best novel or best mystery awards, led by Trojan Gold; Naked Once More; The Last Camel Died at Noon; The Snake, the Crocodile, and the Dog; and Night Train to Memphis.

The recipient of a number of grandmaster                                     
 and lifetime achievement awards, including being named Grandmaster at the Anthony Awards (for mystery writing) in 1986 and Grandmaster by the Mystery Writers of America in 1998.   She wrote bestsellers right up until her death in 2013.

When asked why she liked writing mysteries, suspense and thrillers instead of more of her "scholarly" works, she replied that it was what she most enjoyed.  “There are lots of things to write about, but I think it would be difficult to write books I don't like to read.”

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