Tuesday, May 24, 2005

How I Got Here, Part 58

I got one lousy page written yesterday. I don’t mean the page was lousy. The page count was, however. Had all this other stuff to do regarding marketing. Which I was supposed to do over the weekend, but my printer broke, and I had to get a new one, and I decided to go wireless, which was about the dumbest decision I’ve ever made, and it took 4 hours of my time to work on setting it up, which didn’t work at all, then 3 more hours of a wonderful computer savvy neighbor who had to do manual stuff that you wouldn't believe.

Yes, that was a long sentence. But the rhythm matches the way I felt trying to get that stupid thing working.

So today—one page. AND—On the acknowledgments page I entered the names of those BGs who gave me character ideas. I got everyone’s last name, so we’re good to go.

We left off our NES yesterday with my editor reading the prologue to Dead of Night, and me awaiting her pronouncement. What I didn’t tell y’all yesterday is that after I’d dashed off that prologue, I sent it to my mom and one of my sisters. With just a simple, “Hey, wanna read the opening to my next book?” type of e-mail. Well. Did I get back letters. Both of ’em thought it was awful. Way over the top. Too much darkness, and no way did they want to read that kind of book. My mom (whom I love dearly, and who no doubt is reading this post) wrote a long letter that basically asked—what did I give birth to, and aren’t you getting rather warped?

I learned something from those letters. I think it was a God thing that I sent them—supposedly on my own whim. I learned that the opening to this book was dark enough that I needed to warn my readers. Later when I wrote the back cover copy, I would use it to begin to prepare readers for that opening. And in my author’s note at the beginning of the book, I did a little more preparation. Plus, whenever I talked about Dead of Night as it was about to release, I warned readers again. I think by the time people read the prologue now, they’ve been prepared enough that it’s no big thing. They’re probably wondering what all the fuss was about. That’s fine and dandy by me. Far better reaction than to have someone read the first two pages and put the book down, vowing never to read anything written by me again. Or anything published by Zondervan, for that matter. Or—how about any book ever published in the CBA market?

I’m telling ya, you just never know how a reader’s gonna react.

Guess how my sister and mom reacted when they read the book. (Yes, they read the whole thing.) They liked it. They really, really liked it. Although both of 'em admittedly had to gear themselves up to read it. Guess they'd been adequately prepared.

Anyway, I am surely pushing ahead of my tale. We need to backtrack to that moment while I awaited my fate as I watched my editor read the prologue . . .

Her jaw tightened.


She got to the end. Pulled up her shoulders and let out a hiss.

“Oh, man,” I thought, “I am dead now.”

She cleared her throat. “Oookay. Well.” She focused on her plate. “I think you should write the story the way you need to write it. And when it’s all done, if it’s too much, we’ll pull you back then.”

Now ain’t that the smartest editor you ever did see? She didn’t want to stifle my creativity.

Then I thought, “Yeah, yeah. She’ll just be sharpening her red pen for 10 weeks.”

Ten weeks. Remember, that’s all the time I had to write the book.

It was an intense time. That story is intense anyway, and to burrow that deeply into it--yow. I’d go every night to our hot tub and try to soak the tension away. As for my brain—forget it. When your brain’s that overworked, it ain’t draining off stuff easily. It talked to me day and night.

I have to admit something to you dear BGs. The killer’s POV chapters were the funnest and easiest to write. (Oh, man. Hope my mom isn’t reading today.) The thing is, the killer is just so crazy. I could let loose and rant. And there was this certain rhythm to the words. I just fell into the beat. People have asked me after reading Dead of Night, "Wasn’t it hard to write that POV? You had to dwell in that awful mind." No, I didn’t really need to dwell there. The rants came quite easily, compared with the rest of the book.

Not sure what this says about me. Well, maybe I am sure, but I’m in total denial.

Hey, I can be crazy. I’m paid to be crazy. I’m a novelist.

I finished the book—and died for about a week.

Then--Ooh, yay! Next I'd get to change course—write the first book in my women’s fiction series! That’s what we’d planned—that the last book in Hidden Faces and the first book in Dearing Family would overlap. I was ready for a change of pace. I’d killed off quite a few people in the last three books. Let’s see, altogether in those three stories, I think the number stood at . . . 15.

Okay, Mom, I am warped.

So—Dearing Family, here we come! A series with lots of humor as well as pathos. A wacky, unpredictable family. It was gonna be a welcome change. Yowsa, yowsa! Ain't nothin' stoppin' this now!

And then came the annual CBA convention—and a meeting there with my editor and Zondervan’s marketing director . . .

Read Part 59


C.J. Darlington said...

It's interesting that you found it easiest to write the killer's POV. I understand that. I often find it easier to write in the POV of someone who is FAR from me in their life. It's hardest to write someone who is close to where I am. There's a distance there in the character who is totally unlike you. You're not afraid to guess things too.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if your frantic writing pace added to the frantic feel of DON?

I'm drawn to depth. In the most evil of actions I can feel compassion for the haunted, desperate soul, dead without Christ, clutching at anything to make it feel alive.

I read DON, followed by Dekker's Obsessed and am in the middle of Monster. Scary and suspensful, yes, but also hopeful and poignant. These struggles scream out the value of life, the reality of emptiness and evil and death and the contrast of hope and goodness and peace.

D. Gudger said...

EOE left me breathless! Now I can't wait to get my hands on DON. Having finished MONSTER this morning, I agree wholeheartedly with Kelly K - the value of life screams from the pages.
We live in such dark times and as Christians we shouldn't bury our heads under rocks. Darkness & depravity are real, but so is the redeeming hope of Christ which comes shining through even stronger in the juxtaposition of dark & light.
Gotta make a stop by the bookstore before my flight today :)