Sometimes, I get stuck on a jag. By that, I mean I get REALLY into something, and just want more and more of it. A few years ago, it was Nancy Drew.
Nancy was one of my favorite childhood companions. My favorite books to read were about kids who had lots of friends and the autonomy to move around their worlds (don’t judge. I grew up in the middle of nowhere with no neighbors and no sidewalks. Walking to a friend’s house or the movie theater was totally unheard of anywhere but fiction).
Today’s literary critics would call her a “Mary Sue,” a character who is too perfect to be believable. She’s a smart girl who can drive, has money, and friends. She knows languages, is familiar with the law, and every time a problem comes up, she has the answer, whether it’s picking locks, solving puzzles, or knowing obscure facts from history.
But for me, that was part of the appeal. Nancy could do anything. Adding in the television shows and the modern novels (not just the original series from the 1930s), she got into crazy car chases, hacked computer systems, and had adventures I couldn’t even dream up in my isolated home.
When I wanted more books like those, however, I couldn’t find them. I couldn’t find them as a kid, and I couldn’t find them as an adult. There are other girl detective novels, but none of them had quite the same feel.
So what’s a writer to do but create her own?
Dru Faust draws on those early Nancy Drew books, with a few modern twists. Dru comes from a liberal, educated family; her father is a doctor and her mother one of the only policewomen in the city in 1922. With Prohibition in full swing, the two of them are on the front lines, and that is partially how Dru is drawn into an investigation of a bootlegging ring. She’s creative and brave like her mother, but learned chemistry at her father’s knee and knows how to run many of the tests the police use in tracking illegal liquor.
Careful readers will notice a few callbacks to the inspiration material hidden in the story, but I hope I’ve added enough depth to the world and characters that Dru stand on her own, without the label of Mary Sue around her neck.