Saturday, May 14, 2011

Collective Inspiration

Carolyn Hart was through town last week, along with Earlene Fowler. Carolyn is one of my favorite people, and the three of us had a great time together with our friend Judy Starbuck. We spent a lot of time bonding over food and talking about writing and the writing life (and catching up on all the delicious gossip, too, but I won't go into that.) I had seen Earlene speak before, but this was the first time I'd ever met her as a friend, and I must say, in addition to being an amazing writer, Earlene is a lot of fun. I took this picture at Carolyn and Earlene's Poisoned Pen gig. That's Barbara Peters on the left, Carolyn, and Earlene. I took a bunch more but only this one came out. I'm not that good a photographer.

It's always a boost to be around other writers. This is such a solitary life that sometimes you wonder if you're not just a voice crying in the wilderness. I've just started a new book, and it's hard. In fact, I ought to say that I've just re-started a new book, because I actually began this manuscript last fall, then became distracted by life issues and put it away until recently. It's a mystery to me how a book ever gets written, to tell the truth. I've written books in the midst of crises that went on for months, but then found myself paralyzed when nothing in particular was going on.

I'm always interested in other writers' processes, because frankly don’t know how I do it. I’m not very disciplined. I suppose I’m more of a spasmodic writer. It takes a great act of will for me to get started, but once I’m on a roll, I've been known to really knock it out. I’ve had five mysteries published, now, and every one came about in its unique way. It took me three years of languid writing to finish The Old Buzzard Had It Coming. Hornswoggled was finished in about six months. The Drop Edge of Yonder and The Sky Took Him were written in the most disciplined fashion and took eight months to a year apiece. Crying Blood grew like Topsy, in fits and starts over a two year period, and yet turned out well almost on its own.

Writing a book is sort of like having a baby, I suppose. I’m so happy to have it in my hands when it’s done that I tend to forget how painful it was to write. The first draft is always difficult for me. It’s hard to figure out how to dole out the clues in a way that makes sense, plays fair with the reader, and yet doesn’t reveal too much. Even more difficult than that is figuring out how Alafair is going to figure it out. She has to come up with the answer in a logical and believable way. Sometimes I just want to make her psychic and have done with it! Considering the current trends in popular literature, that might not be a bad idea.

Toward the end of Carolyn's visit, she and Judy and I knocked out an idea for a new series for me. Anyone who has written several books in one series knows that a fresh new idea can even invigorate your older series. Carolyn, who has written many stand-alones and dozens of entries in three different series over forty years, is in the process of starting yet another series herself, so she knows whereof she speaks! The book I'm working on now is another Alafair, but I find myself thinking about this new idea as I write.

I frankly don't know how I'll do it. But then I never know if I can pull it off and somehow it gets done in the end.

1 comment:

Irene Bennett Brown said...

A new series, besides another Alafair? Omigosh, I can hardly wait!