Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Do We Do It?

Carolyn Hart will be in town tomorrow, along with her fellow Berkeley Press authors Earlene Fowler, Avery Aames, and Margaret Coel. Carolyn is one of my favorite people, and every time she comes to the Phoenix area, we have 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.) Whenever Earlene has been here at the same time, she has occasionally joined us for lunch. In addition to being an amazing writer, Earlene is a lot of fun.

On top of getting to hang out with Carolyn (and maybe the others)tomorrow, I participated in the Tucson Festival of Books a couple of weeks ago and was able to have some quality chat time with Rhys Bowen, Deborah Crombie, and Tim Hallinan, among others. I didn't make Left Coast Crime in Monterey California this year, but I hear it was the best ever.

Anne Canadeo, me, Jenn McKinlay at TFoB, looking cheery

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. It's a mystery to me how a book ever gets written, to tell the truth. I've written books in the midst of personal crises that went on for months, but then found myself paralyzed when nothing in particular was going on with the rest of my life.

After a panel, with Susan Shea (yellow top) & Tim Hallinan (partially obscured), looking harried

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 six mysteries published and a seventh on the way, now, and every one came about in its own unique fashion. 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. The Wrong Hill to Die On came about in a workmanlike manner over a year. The new book, Hell With the Lid Blown Off, actually started life as something else altogether nearly four years ago. A couple of books intervened, and when I went back to finish the Something Else Altogether book, I split the original idea down the middle and made two novels out of it.

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.

I frankly don't know how any of us do it. But then some magic occurs and somehow the books get done in spite of us.


Eileen Goudge said...

Writing is indeed a solitary profession. I wrote and published 15 novels before social media changed my life. At first I resisted, then I found it brought a whole community of other writers into my cloistered world. I love blogs such as yours. Thank you for sharing. Only by interacting do we flourish

Donis Casey said...

Well said, Eileen.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Donis, books are so unpredictable. I used to be much more methodical.