Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Mysterious Case of the Novelist Askew

(Cross-posted from Sean's blog.)

How exactly does a writer of spec.fic get the idea to write a murder mystery? Novel?

I. Don't. Know.

But, there I was, three weeks ago, reading to leave for my vacation in Kauai, when the idea blorped up into my head (blorp being the technical term, as in the release of an gas pocket from a thick substance, i.e., oatmeal boiling). I wanted to write a sort of chick-lit murder mystery novel set in Kauai, primarily on the North Shore, where my wife's family vacations.


I mean, I've been jonesing to get back to a novel length--it is more my natural length, and I've been prepping for one for a few months now. But I have no idea how to write a murder mystery, or chick-lit, having never written either and having read no more than a half-dozen of each--if that. Yet here was this idea, vigorously presenting itself, getting up in my face and trying to press a bar napkin with its phone number into my hand.

Talk about an alien encounter.

I put the thought aside. I had plenty to do--wrapping up at work, packing for Hawai'i, regular apppointment and life, cleaning house, making sure the neighbors had a key and there was plenty of food and litter for the cats, etc. I didn't think about it again.

Until I had an eight-and-a-half hour flight to Honolulu. This is too much time to sit still, for me, though I did tremendously well, only getting up once, as I had the new Guy Gavriel Kay novel Ysabel to read--which was great. But there's no way it's taking me eight-and-a-half hours to read a 432 page novel, so when I got done, writing brain is all primed up and readt to go, and starts looking around for a chew toy.

And Little Miss Tree Murder starts waving seductively over there. Apparently, she didn't go away, and even managed to tuck away in my luggage to go on vacation.

So I think, Hey, I'll look around in Kauai and see what interests me, see if there's anything that I could use for a project like that.

Yeah. That's a sure sign that I'm going to work on a project, if I ever met one. Because freakin' everything in Kauai seemed to slip into place as I spent the week there. The setting is perfect--which I must have known, at some level, because it really jelled with the sense of the novel that I had in my head.

And then, two weeks ago today, as I'm sitting on the couch in the evening with my wife and my father-in-law, after a day out and about on the North Shore, my head exploded. I had that initial moment of plot development energy, where the yeast colony of ideas suddenly runs into a pocket of 110 degree (F) water and a bunch of sugar, and suddenly starts ballooon out of control. I'm sitting there shouting out things like "Ooo, I could kill her while she's snorkeling!" or "What kind of safe do they have at the hotel?", and I'm pretty sure my father-in-law started edging away from me--I wasn't paying a lot of attention at that moment, but, hell, I would have been edging away from me.

So it looks like I'm writing a murder mystery novel set in Kauai. The energy is still right--I started doing a regular old novel plot outline yesterday, and got all excited and had to tell my wife all about it at breakfast. God bless her. I overwhelm her with details every time I start in on a story idea, because these are all deatils that matter to me, and I'm excited about them. At least half or two-thirds of them, she would never see as a reader, but for some reason, I just vomit all ideas about everything when I'm talking out loud.

So I guess I need to write it.


Erik Buchanan said...

The saying is "a writer writes," it says nothing about having to write one thing.

If you've got a good idea in mind, go for it!

Anonymous said...

That's pretty much what I figure, Erik. My family is laughing, saying "What if this is the firs tthing he gets published? Wouldn't that be a hoot? The SF author who gets known first as a murder mystery writer!"

Kelly McCullough said...

What Erik said.

My idea file's got two mysteries, a romance, a thriller screenplay, and a horror novel or two in it all in various degrees of completion.

Write in mulitple genres if you can is one of the strongest and best pieces of advice I've gotten. It's something both Dean Smith and Kris Rusch were very emphatic about a couple of years back when I was asking them for career advice.

Anonymous said...

I'm more than happy to comply with their advice, since apparently that's what my sub-brain was cooking up.