Mystery novelist visits FMU

Alexis M. Johnson, Staff Writer

Megan Abbott, a novelist and scholar who specializes in a style of literature and film called noir, presented a chapter of her upcoming novel “The End of Everything” in a public reading on April 6 as part of the Hunter Fund Lecture Series.

At the reading, Abbott read a chapter of the novel, which is due out in July. It is a story about “a young girl who disappears, told from the point of view of her 13-year-old best friend.”

Unlike her other books, her latest novel, which draws on experiences from Abbott’s childhood in Detroit, is neo-contemporary, set in the 1980s. Abbott’s other books are set from the 1930s-1950s and have a noir theme.

According to American Movie Classics (AMC), “fear, mistrust, bleakness, loss of innocence, despair and paranoia are readily evident in noir.”

Abbott said that her love of the genre stems from her childhood.                             “When I was a kid, I loved true crime books,” Abbott said. “My big love was gangster movies.”

It was Abbott’s love of classic noir films and books, and her desire to immerse herself in the world of noir, that started her as a writer.

“Writing became my way of entering that world,” Abbott said.

After her reading, Abbott took questions from students and faculty.

Many students wanted to know about Abbott’s writing process, especially how she creates her characters.

“I’ll hear them in my head,” Abbott said. “Usually at a certain point, I’ve internalized the character.”

One student who attended the reading appreciated learning how a novelist creates characters.

“It lets me know that I’m not the only one who has characters in my head,” sophomore Heather Yancey, a pre-nursing major, said.

Abbott’s writing process is also unique because many of her novels are based on true crime stories.

“Almost all my books have been inspired by a true crime,” Abbott said.

One novel in particular, “Bury Me Deep,” is about a woman from the 1930s named “The Trunk Murderess.” Abbott, who specializes in noir from a feminine perspective, wanted to show a different angle of the murderess rather than paint her in a negative light.

“I wanted to give her a better story,” Abbott said.

One student said that she appreciated that Abbott writes about true crimes.

“It shows us reality outside of our own reality,” junior Ashley Hall, nursing major, said.

Abbott noted that her least favorite parts of the writing process are writing the conclusion of her novels, which she equates with trying to “exorcise” her characters out of her mind, and the editing process.

Abbott’s explanation of her writing process eased the minds of some students.

“It was really good to hear from a real author and see that she has the same problems that I have with writing books,” sophomore Shanae Giles, an English-professional writing major, said.

For budding writers or those who have a love of writing and literature, Abbott gave her opinion on what a writer is.

“Writers are all voyeurs peeping into worlds that do not belong to us,” Abbott said.

Following the presentation, Abbott held a book-signing.

The Hunter Chair in English Literature is named after a former mayor of Marion, Jones Thomas Hunter, and his wife Carolyn Stroman Hunter, who was a school teacher.

In memoriam to their parents, Dorothy Hunter Thames Ellis, Adelle Hunter West and Hattie Costa Hunter King created the chair in 1991.