I embarked on a PHD on Crime Fiction (and decided to blog my way throughout it)
Elena Avanzas Álvarez
Hi! My name is Elena and I love crime fiction. So much so, that upon graduating in English and American studies I realised that the only path that I wanted to follow implied getting a PhD in contemporary crime fiction. More specifically, I wanted to study American crime fiction written by women where forensics played a key role in the development of the investigation and the solving of the crime.
I must admit have always been a crime fiction fan. I asked my parents for an unabridged copy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was just 12 and they immediately obliged. This is what I like to call the point of no return in my reading life. From here, crime fiction written in English began to flood my shelves. It was actually thanks to my passion for the language in which these novels were originally written that I decided to pursue English studies rather than Business or Philosophy (talk about being ambivalent!). But finding time to do my own reading during my degree was hard and I must admit I was charmed by the likes of Shakespeare’s conspiracies and Jane Eyre’s character development. It was not until I met with the person who is now one of my PhD supervisors and we began talking that I considered crime fiction more than a hobby.
By the time I made the decision to embark on a crime fiction PhD, I had been blogging for 4 years at Bodies in the Library (formerly known as Books & Reviews). I started my blog in 2011 inspired by my friend Sadie-Jean, looking to connect with other people who read as voraciously – or even more! – than me. In the early years, I just wrote about what I was reading at the time, which very much consisted on compulsory readings for my degree. If you dig well, you will find a lot of Shakespeare, Dickens, Gaskell, the Brontës reviews on my site. But upon graduation and embarking on a Gender and Diversity M.A where I got to choose the focus of my research, I was free to read more freely.
I consider this my prodigal return to crime fiction both as a reader and as a blogger. I soon discovered there were more people whose blogs unapologetically focused only on crime fiction and the tone of my own blog started to change little by little and without me noticing. Thanks to Twitter I discovered a lot of contemporary authors and their series, for I am an advocate for supporting writers who are alive and who are trying to make a living of their writing. Following your passion is one of the bravest decisions you can make in life and these authors deserve all our support, even more so if they are women as we have been traditionally burdened by domestic tasks and what I like to call ‘family duties’. So, I began to blog regularly about these authors, their work and their books and I never looked back.
Like writing a book or a blog, pursuing a PhD in the Humanities is an act of love. The past 4 years have been extraordinaire, and I owe a great part of it to the blogging community in which I would like to include the fantastic work that publishers, publicists and even academics do. One of the things I discovered during this time in which my PhD occupied most of my time was that behind each blog there is usually a sympathetic person who is willing to talk books but life too. As you get to know these people – through comments, messages, emails or even texts – they become a part of your life, like any other “in-real´-life” friend. The people who have read my blog and whose blogs I read not only have recommended me books that I loved, but we have seen each other through love, loss, death, happiness, and many other life events that may be left unsaid. We have been there for each other because we are a community.
It is these unique voices that endlessly enrich the blogging community. The point of this article was for me to explain why blogging has been so important in the development of my thesis, which can be summed up in the diversity of voices that this community offers for free to the world. As an academic, I sometimes find it very easy to get lost in the workings of lecturing and researching even though books are the centre of it, but it has been through blogging that I have always been able to restore my love for and everything bookish and, more specifically, crime fiction. And eventually, this love has always allowed me to return to my career full of strength, remembering that I chose this path – books, reading, and writing – because it makes me happy.