Q&A de Noviembre

Thanks for playing, more questions later in the week…

Q: I have read all of your books multiple times but especially the Russell/Holmes series. When will the next in that series (please let there be more on the way!) be written/published?

A: The next Russell will be written next year, published (God willing) in 2008. This is assuming I finish the rewrite of TOUCHSTONE in the next few weeks, and assuming Bantam has a slot for the book in the fall of 2007. Two big IFs.

Q: I’ve actually been giving the following issue a lot of thought the past few days–and I hope the question is appropriate for your blog. I’ve recently read your short story, “Paleta Man”, in Irreconcilable Differences. Firstly, I loved the story. Secondly, I can (unfortunately) identify. And I have to admit to a certain sense of satisfaction with the story’s ending. (I will refrain from clarifying for those who have not yet read the story.) Here is my question: what is your view regarding the idea/act of vigilante justice (which lawyers sometimes refer to as “extra-judicial self-help”)?

A: Ah, there’s the difference between fiction and real life, isn’t it? In fiction, you can kill off (as Sue Grafton is famously credited with) an abrasive ex-husband, or your mother-in-law, or that guy who cut you off on the freeway. In real life, not only is there a mess to deal with, and that little business of getting caught, but the reality is, for most of us, “I’m going to murder him” is rhetorical excess. And thank goodness it is, or we’d all be lying in a morgue.

I was on a panel at Bouchercon in September on this topic, namely, Who would you wipe out if you knew you could get away with it? You can probably find the tapes of it on the BoucherCon site, if you’re interested, but the best answer was given by John Connelly, who had just finished pronouncing a heartfelt death sentence on cell phone users when a cheery tune began to play from the front row….

Q: From Yola: Maybe you’ve addressed this somewhere earlier in your blog, but when you write, how do you focus your ideas? Do you have a general plot and characters in mind and then fill in here and there until you come up with a shaded and alive story with real people? And what do you do with other ideas that drift in and out of your head that may not be related to what you’re currently working on?

A: Every book is an exploration. There was a saying popular in my hippie youth, from Kurt Vonnagut, “Unusual travel invitations are dancing lessons from God.” And as with dancing lessons, even if you’re the male, generally you’re not actually taking the lead.

I start off with a general idea of what kind of book I’m doing, as the dancer starts off knowing whether she’ll be doing the waltz or the samba, and let it go. The focus for me is the central plot and characters, since my first draft is the outline process too, and it’s usually later that I work in subplots and red herrings—not always, but in general.

Sometimes I’ll come up with an idea that feels like great fun, but when I begin to fiddle with it, I realize that it’s wrong for this book, and reluctantly set it aside. I have a file for every work in progress called Cuts, which are all those great passages that as I’m going along I suspect are going to be dead ends or distractions. I always think I’ll go back and find them too valuable to leave out, but when I look at them again, I find I was right to chop them.

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