Meet Binnie Fisher—author, editor, and publisher
by Rich Arenschieldt • Photo by Yvonne Feece
Author and lifelong Texas resident Binnie Fisher draws on her 30-year career of crime reporting to bring readers She Saw His Face, a mystery peppered with Lone Star language and imbued with a West Coast sensibility. Set in Seattle, this book chronicles the efforts of the fictional investigative reporter Dallas Knight as she seeks to unravel a seemingly ordinary plot: the identity of a psychopathic killer. However, Fisher gives Knight some uncanny (and, at times, unwelcome) abilities to solve the puzzle, accompanied by a rainbow-colored cast.
Fisher’s Texas roots permeate her book. Born in Brownwood, Texas, near Abilene, she is simultaneously straightforward and gracious—a combination that endears her to many. “I always wanted to be a writer,” she says. “I began composing stories in the fifth grade. At school I used to get in trouble constantly—I was supposed to be practicing my math, but I’d always be creating little novellas instead. Even in childhood, I was certain that someday I would eventually write a book.”
The Author’s Journalism Career
Fisher’s career began in 1971 after she graduated from West Texas State University with a degree in journalism. “My first newspaper job was at the Fort Worth Press, where soon after starting I was assigned to be the police reporter” (a career path also followed by Dallas Knight in the book). “I was actually hired while my editor was on vacation. She returned to find herself in
charge of a very inexperienced reporter. You can imagine how she must have felt about me. The woman Dallas Knight works for is modeled on the Press’s City Editor, Mary Crutcher—my first editor.” After Fisher completed a few stories, Crutcher eventually warmed to her and assigned her to the “Cop Shop” beat, covering local police.
The Press folded in 1975 and the city’s rival paper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, called Fisher and asked her to cover their crime desk. Before accepting the job, Fisher called her mentor for advice, and Crutcher said, “The war’s over, our paper lost—take the job.” Fisher did, and ended up gaining valuable insight into the complexities of crime and law enforcement.
While at the Telegram, Fisher was asked to cover the Travel Desk for a fellow writer who was recuperating from surgery. Fisher, a small-town Texas gal, instantly had the world at her typewriter, and began making note of distant locales for future literary characters to inhabit.
“The paper asked me to go to Japan with several other American journalists—an opportunity I leapt at,” Fisher says. “While I was on the trip, the tour guide from the Japan National Tourist Office confided in me that she was resigning.” Abruptly shifting careers, Fisher applied for and got the job. “I escorted numerous groups to Japan to promote tourism and Japanese culture.”
In the late 1990s Fisher lived in Dallas, freelancing for the Christian Science Monitor and other publications, before relocating to Seattle. “I moved to the West Coast and did some different things, including selling cars at a Toyota dealership—a profession that enables you to meet lots of unique people.”
Eventually Fisher returned to Texas, finally settling south of Houston with her partner, Faye. Regarding relationships, Fisher has an interesting methodology to determine suitability in a potential partner. “I usually found people interesting [initially] based on two criteria: their knowledge of chanteuse Edith Piaf, and their admiration for actress Catherine Deneuve. Whenever I was introduced to someone, I tended to weave these icons into the conversation. When I first met Faye, she said, ‘Oh, I have a couple of Piaf’s recordings and I love Deneuve’s work.’ Hearing this, I knew we could move things along.
“Faye is very business-minded, so living with me is probably a bit of a challenge. But she has always encouraged my career, and she makes excellent suggestions on what I’m writing.” The pair celebrate their 24th anniversary on October 22—Catherine Deneuve’s birthday.
Gay readers may recognize Fisher’s name. While in Houston she became editor of the Houston Voice, the city’s now-defunct weekly LGBT media outlet. Some of Fisher’s more colorful characters are patterned after individuals she encountered during her tenure there. “I met people from every corner of the LGBT community while at the Voice. Two or three provided names and ideas for some of my book’s main characters.”
Developing Dallas Knight
When writing a book, the standard adage is to “write what you know.” Fisher possesses a smorgasbord of knowledge and incorporates her life experience into She Saw His Face. “It has certain elements that are autobiographical,” Fisher says. “But protagonist Dallas Knight is not me. Dallas is actually better than I am—she so wants to take the correct path in life and work. In a perfect world, she’s who I would have been.”
Fisher has had plenty of time to flesh out her characters. “They have been evolving forever. Dallas actually underwent a transformation in my mind. When I first created her, she was a bit angry,” Fisher says. “She suffered from what I describe as being the ‘child not cherished.’ This is evidenced by some revelatory dialogue between Dallas and her mother—a personality type I am very familiar with.” Fisher is quick to add, “There were absolutely no uncherished children in my own family. However, in a future book, Dallas and her mother will have to reckon with maternal deficits and Dallas’s sexual orientation.”
This juicy tidbit isn’t revealed until the last part of the book, and even then it’s only briefly noted. “That’s what I wanted to do,” Fisher says. “I didn’t want this to be the main focus of the book, but rather an everyday normal part of the character’s life. While Dallas doesn’t enter into a relationship in this book, there will be future opportunities.”
Though the cat is out of the bag, readers shouldn’t expect much steamy sex in future stories. “I would rather leave that to the imagination of the reader, based on how the characters develop in relationship to each other,” Fisher says. “Sex is much better imagined than articulated. Also, Dallas, as a fiercely driven independent woman, probably isn’t the easiest person to have a relationship with—at this stage it’s difficult for her to have anything resembling a normal life.”
Additionally, Dallas possesses a special intuitiveness that develops throughout the novel—a trait that Fisher observed in those she knew. “My mother was incredibly perceptive. I remember when JFK was planning to come to Texas, my mother told us that something terrible would ? happen to him. I wanted to develop this aspect in my main character, especially since, as a journalist, Dallas should be guided solely by factual evidence. This internal conflict creates a great deal
“Much of this book is about society permitting individuals to be who they were born to be,” Fisher says. With Seattle as the book’s backdrop, an ambiance of equality and tolerance prevails. “There are broad ‘statements’ concerning acceptance and inclusivity that I wanted to make throughout the book—something that authors always do,” Fisher says. “It’s what gives their characters humanity and believability, and is an important distinction in She Saw His Face.”
Fisher’s troupe spans the sexual continuum, encompassing everything from horn-dog heterosexuals to colorful transvestites. While a few characters are easily identifiable as people from Fisher’s professional life, most are composite representations of individuals she has known and worked with. “People in the newspaper business will definitely recognize some of my characters right away.” Though they span the entire Kinsey Scale, none are awkward or superfluous. They appear and reappear as needed, but only when the plot requires their presence. “Even though some of my characters are marginalized, even within the gay community itself, I wanted them to be sympathetic and to be good, genuine people—which they are.”
Years of police reporting have given Fisher some sensational literary fertilizer. “There are a few slightly grisly scenes in the novel,” Fisher says, “but they are necessary. When you do police work, to some degree you become desensitized. One of the great things about writing fiction is that you can control how your characters cope with difficult events—something impossible in real life.”
With regard to actions the characters take throughout the book, Fisher offers an interesting observation. “Much of the drama in the book results from situations that the characters guided me through. I had always heard authors say that their characters led them to events and destinations. This happened to me—Dallas ‘took’ me places and put me in scenes that ended up in the story. Over a period of time, these characters helped to reveal the book to me. Sometimes I would decide who would do what, but instead the action often flowed to its own conclusion.”
After mentally cohabitating with her main character for so many years, Fisher came to know Dallas Knight intimately. “She evolved and matured in my mind.” Fisher admits that her characters occasionally interfere with reality. “Sometimes these people are actually communing with me. I’m sure this drives Faye, my real-life partner, crazy—I wouldn’t be surprised if she feels like she’s in a relationship with them as well.”
Fisher is nearing completion of her next thriller. “Set in Japan, this story has Dallas Knight again investigating a series of crimes, one of which is the ritualized murder of an elderly man who owns an import/export company.”
Dallas Knight and her creator have planned a variety of future exploits involving glamorous Japanese actresses, famous opera singers escaping from bank vaults, and cold cases involving dead “Mata Hari” types from decades past. Stay tuned for all manner of womanly mystery.
She Saw His Face is currently available from amazon.com as a Kindle e-book for $5.99—delivered wirelessly to your Kindle or numerous other applications.
Rich Arenschieldt is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.