Friday, June 11, 2010


If you have been following my blogs or my books for any length of time, you know a lot about me, whether you set out to do so or not. You know, for example, that reality and I are barely on speaking terms, which I think is one of the reasons I so love writing. Sitting at the computer, watching as words flow from my fingertips across the white expanse of the monitor with almost no conscious effort on my part allows me, quite literally, to remove myself from the reality of the world around me. I go from a place over which I have absolutely no control to one where I do/say/accept/reject/create/destroy whatever I please.

I'm also fascinated, as you may have noticed, by how the mind--specifically my own--works the way it does. And chaotic as it often is, I've come to accept and, when it is not driving me to distraction with frustration, even delight in it.

For the past couple of years, I've been alternating books between the Dick Hardesty mystery series and the Elliott Smith paranormal mystery series. On Thursday, I finished my 18th book--Caesar's Fall, the latest in the Elliott Smith series, and, after going over it for errors, inconsistencies, flow, etc, got it off to the publisher yesterday. And, like my frequently-used analogy of moving from book to book the same way Tarzan moves through the trees, grabbing the next vine just before releasing the previous, I suddenly realized there was no "next vine," and I did not have a clue as to what the next Dick Hardesty book would be about.

This morning I got up and was going through my normal morning routine of V8 juice/coffee/chocolate-covered-donut/Today Show when, like Venus arising from the sea, I instantly had both the title (The Peripheral Son) and the foundations of the plot. I began writing immediately.

I consider myself a story teller, and the reader a friend to whom I'm telling it. I want very much for everyone to like what I write--it's admittedly an ego thing--but today in the course of an hour I received emails from two loyal readers which underscored clearly a problem facing every writer to whom the reader's reaction is important. Both notes addressed the same book, The Secret Keeper. The first reader pointed out how much she enjoyed the Dick Hardesty series (music to my ears), but how she really wished there had been more focus on the interpersonal relationships and less on the mystery. The second note could have been written on the back of the first one's mirror; he felt that The Secret Keeper spends far too much time on relationships and too little spent on solving the mystery.

The first reader commented on how much she likes Dick and Jonathan's relationship; the second was wondering when Dick was going to stop letting Jonathan put all the work of looking after Joshua on him. So which reader do I try to make happy in The Peripheral Son?

The fact is that I really do strive for a balance in each book, but suggested to each of these two people who were kind enough to give me their thoughts that it might help if they viewed the Dick Hardesty series as I do: not only as individual books which can stand by themselves, but as, in effect, chapters in a continuing book of the development of the characters through the circumstances they encounter in each book. Some books are more heavily plot-focused, some are more character/relationship focused. In the end, I hope it all balances out and that neither of these two good people is disappointed.

As with every book I've written, I am, as I stand on the threshold of Page 1, looking into a thick mist through which I can discern only vague shapes and forms, and while I do not know, as I start The Peripheral Son, exactly what is going to happen in it...or even, at this point, who the killer is going to prove to be...I know that I'm going to love finding out.

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Knitrageous said...

I can say, as I write on my blog, I write to make myself happy. Of course I'd love people to read it and comment but if nobody does, I know it made me happy to write and post it.

Writing books would be hard, in my mind, especially trying to please the public. Still, though, for the writing process to be satisfying, write to make yourself happy. Just my unimportant opinion!

Dorien/Roger said...

I agree with you totally on everything you said, Jamye, with one very notable exception: whenever I see anyone saying something like "Just my unimportant opinion" my toes curl!

I've gotten countless notes from readers which include the phrase "I'm only a reader, but..." Good Lord, where would writers be without readers?

So please, Jamye, remember that no opinion is "unimporant." And thanks for commenting!