Sunday, October 30, 2011

Never The Same Twice

John here. It is a pleasure to welcome Reed Farrel Coleman back to Type M. I met Reed many years ago at Bouchercon. In the years since, he has gone on to great successes as the bio below will indicate. Enjoy his musings, and check out his latest Moe Prager mystery Hurt Machine.

On the verge of the release of my thirteenth novel (Gun Church, and my fourteenth novel (Hurt Machine, Tyrus Books), it occurs to me that no matter how long my career, no matter how many novels, short stories, essays, and poems I have written, no two pieces are quite the same. What I mean to say that my routine may be the same and my process might be the same, but the actual writing experience is always a little bit different. I suppose that’s easily understood when I compare the two novels about to be released.

Gun Church, for instance, took me six years to write. Oddly enough, I didn’t have to struggle with the idea for the plot at all. It was one of those rare instances when the plot appeared fully formed in my head all at once. I can even remember the moment it happened. I was at a mystery writers convention, watching my friend give a weapons and self-defense lecture and demonstration. Someone in the audience asked a question about how rapidly pellets in a shotgun shell spread apart and bang! (no pun intended) I had my plot. Not only did I have the plot, but I even had my elevator pitch line—the line I might use to sell the movie rights to a Hollywood type. It’s Wonder Boys meets Fight Club with guns. Still, it took me six years to struggle through. That was due in part to the many moving parts in the book and my never having attempted such a big project before. I literally had to teach myself how to do what I needed. The novel features a book within a book, first and third person narrative, pages of Irish dialect, and so on.

Hurt Machine on the other hand took me five months to write. The odd thing is, I only had the shell of a plot when I began to write it. But series books – this is the 7th in my Moe Prager Mystery series after Innocent Monster — and series books are just easier to write. I know my protagonist and his supporting cast of characters. When you write a series, you only need to discover the antagonist and some new minor characters. You have no idea how much easier that makes things. I know the setting. I know the time period. I know the characters’ histories, faults, and foibles. I know the tone. All of these things have already been established. Plus, with a series, an author knows that a large percentage of his readers will also know many of these things. You can actually use a kind of shorthand for loyal series readers.

None of this is to say that I enjoyed writing one more than the other. Like I’ve stated, it’s not a matter of better. It’s a matter of different.


Plot summaries:

Gun Church: Kip Weiler is a former ’80s literary wunderkind who has fallen on hard times. Due to his foibles and insecurities and twenty years removed from his last novel, he’s teaching creative writing at a rural community college. One day Kip prevents his class from being slaughtered by a gun toting student. This gets Kip a second fifteen minutes of fame and, more importantly, relights his desire to write. Little does he realize the novel he’s working on may well be the blueprint of his own demise. He gets deeply involved with two of his students and a cult-like group who are obsessed with the intrinsic nature of handguns. Things really get funky when art begins to imitate art imitating life.

Hurt Machine: Two weeks away from his daughter’s wedding, Moe receives very grave news about his health. To make matters worse, Carmella Melendez, his former PI partner and ex-wife shows up after a nine year absence asking a desperate favor of Moe. It seems Carmella’s estranged sister has been killed outside a popular Brooklyn pizzeria, but no one, no even the NYPD, seems particularly interested in finding the murderer. Why? That’s the question, isn’t it?

Bio: Called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the noir poet laureate in the Huffington Post, Reed Farrel Coleman has published fourteen novels. He is the three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best Detective Novel of the Year and is a two-time Edgar Award nominee. He has also won the Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards. Reed is an adjunct professor of English at Hofstra University and lives with his family on Long Island.


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Thank you for making this site very interesting! Keep going! You're doing very well!

Susan Russo Anderson said...

Love your books and these covers, especially Hurt Machine. And, of course, thanks for the post. Interesting. I guess the experience of writing is like grief or snow flakes: no two are alike.