A few shallow thoughts about the way I write.
May 20, 2014
THE NOTED AUTHOR, J. E. Fishman, has asked me to join him in a blog tour that asks writers to answer four questions about themselves and their work. It is usually not the kind of blog I write, but you don’t turn down an author of J. E. Fishman’s caliber unless you have a really good reason. I looked for one and couldn’t find it, so here goes.
Q. What am I working on?
A: I have, within the past couple of weeks, finished book three in the Ambrose Lincoln thriller trilogy, Night Side of Dark. The novel is presently in the revising, re-writing, and editing stage. I expect it to be released early this summer. It generally takes me a couple of weeks of mental rehab to rid my mind and my system of one story, and then I am eager to sit down and write another. I find that I work better if I don’t write the same kind of book back-to-back. Night Side is a historical thriller, set during the final months of World War II. It’s dark, far darker than anything I have written thus far. I didn’t intend for the story to be so dark, but it kept wandering down alleys I hadn’t intended to go, refused to change direction, and I had no choice but to follow along. I have a story in my mind about illegal college football recruiting that I plan to write next. The title is Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever. We’ll see what happens when I put those first words on a page. It may not go anywhere. Then again, maybe it will.
Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
A. That’s a question a lot of writers are struggling with these days. Novels are seldom limited to a single genre anymore. Maybe they never were. Genres were simply created to help publishers and booksellers sell books by providing readers a quick and easy way to recognize their favorite kinds of novels. The lines between genres, I’m afraid, have blurred greatly. Take Night Side of Dark, for example. It has all of the elements of a noir thriller, but does that really tell the tale? It took place in 1945. Does that make it historical fiction? Probably. It has a love story. Does that make it a romance? Maybe. It reads more like science fiction, but does that make it a SciFi historical, romantic thriller, heavy on suspense with a touch of paranormal thrown in? Novels aren’t categorized that way, but the description aptly sums up Night Side. When I write a novel, I don’t worry about genre. I simply try to tell the story I want to tell as well as I can tell it. I worry about trying to pigeonhole the book into a specific genre later.
Q. Why do I write what I write?
A: I write for one simple reason. I love to tell a story. I carry a notepad and pen with me at all times, and I’m always writing down fascinating little facts I run across in my travels and bits and pieces of conversations I overhear. Sooner or later, most of them make their way into a book. I’m the kind of person who will stop strangers on a street corner and try to tell them a story. Stories are life. Life is fiction. And stories are what keep mankind connected. For the most part, I write thrillers or mysteries because that’s what I have always loved to read. Growing up, I hung with out the Hardy boys and clung to every word that Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Alistair Maclean put on paper. It is only natural that I try to follow along in their footprints. In addition, I am a long-time lover of history, particularly the little known events and incidents that escape most textbooks but are there to be dug out of the archives like little nuggets of treasure. So it’s only natural that my thrillers are set in past times. To me, they are much more fascinating than the present. One day, the present will be interesting to me, too, but only when it’s past. I once read a quote that said: If you really want to read a book and it doesn’t exist, then you must write it. So I’m afraid I write the books I want to read.
Q: How does my writing process work?
A: I write every day without fail, and that includes Saturdays and Sundays and holidays. I may write early in the morning or late at night, but I write. It is my goal to write 1,000 to 1,500 words on a novel each day. I sit down at my machine and re-write the pages I created the day before. That gives me momentum going into the new pages I write. I’m back on the set with my characters, the story is flowing through my mind once again, and I can move ahead without ever having to stare at a blank page and wonder where I go from here. Before starting a novel, I flesh out my primary characters and write a one-sentence log line that spells out the theme of the story. The characters may change and the direction of the story my change, and most often they do. But the log line is chiseled in stone. Basically, my writing process is no different from most authors I’ve met. I create my little world – be it plain and simple or grandiose – place my characters on paper, then follow them for the next 300 or so pages. My greatest enjoyment is writing myself into a corner, then watching my characters figure out how to escape it. Somehow, they always do.
Thanks, J. E. This one’s for you.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Caleb Pirtle III and his books.