Saturday, February 26, 2011

Why I colored outside the lines

In a week or so I'll start to say more about the new Irene Kelly book, Disturbance, so I don't want those of you who've been waiting and waiting for this next entry in the series to fear that you'll have to wait until June to hear anything about it. But since the new edition of The Messenger is out now, I'm going to talk about it first.

Besides, last year Real Life intervened and I did a lot less blogging than I wanted to do, so this allows me to do a bit of catching up.

Why, some of you wonder, did I step outside of writing crime fiction to write a supernatural thriller? Was I trying to jump on the vampire bandwagon? Did I have a sudden urge to "go woo-woo"? Was I sick of writing about Irene? Ending the series?

The Messenger is not my first foray into writing about the supernatural. My short stories "Ghost of a Chance" and "The Abbey Ghosts" have supernatural elements in them. The Messenger was, however, my first attempt to write a novel in that genre.

As for the popularity of vampire novels, that had no influence at all. Some writers are happy doing a lot of market research and deciding what they'll write based on that. I'm not one of them. I've never taken that approach to choosing what I'll write.

I should mention that there are no vampires in The Messenger. I'm not knocking them — I have favorite books among the vampire fiction — especially Anne Rice's powerful Interview With The Vampire, one of those rare books from which I can recall image after image, phrase after phrase, more than ten years after last reading it. And Charlaine Harris's incredibly fresh take on the world of vampires added to my respect for her writing.

I am admittedly not very "woo-woo." I tend to be skeptical and think the vast majority (if not all) of the so-called "reality" shows on television about "paranormal investigators" are ridiculous. At the same time, I have beliefs that I haven't arrived at through rigorous use of the scientific method. I just prefer to keep most of that to myself, so that we all get along a little better.

I have a belief about writing: if I've done it well, you should be able to engage your imagination with what's on the page without having to know a thing about me. Odd thing for a blogger to say, I know, but there you have it.

I'm hoping that the fact that there will be a new Irene Kelly book out in June will put to rest all the anxieties readers seem to have about my being sick of writing about her or ending the series. This is my third time through this — heard the same kind of thing when I wrote Flight and when I wrote Nine. It's okay. I'm fond of Irene, too. Sometimes, the best thing I can to for the next Irene Kelly novel is to stretch in another direction before coming back to the series.

The reasons I wanted to write The Messenger are many, but most of them have to do with observations, questions, and Tyler Hawthorne.

My ideas for books, when not ordered from the Secret Warehouse of Fabulous Ideas for Novels That Only Published Novelists Know About, And How Unfair Is That.com, often evolve out of observations that spark questions. I saw friends freaking out about aging, and mentioning things along the line of, no matter who that old lady was in the mirror, inside, they were still twenty-four. And I heard, especially through my work with the Crime Lab Project, people who wished they had been able to have one last conversation with someone they loved, now deceased. Or had a loved one fall into a coma before dying, and longed to hear that loved one speak, and wondered if the loved one could hear and understand what was being said to him. And taking this from another perspective — as one person said to me, "If any of us were told we only had five minutes to live and could make one last phone call, very few of us would dial the office."

So what if you appeared to be twenty-four forever? Not because you had a wormy portrait in the attic, but as a result of some other supernatural agency.

And what if you had a gift that allowed you, if you took the hand of someone who was dying, to hear that person's thoughts, allowing them say (through you) what they longed to tell their loved ones?

These are not questions that would fit well into an Irene Kelly novel. Nothing in the Irene books up to now have suggested that she inhabits a world in which such things could happen.

These questions led to other questions, and I longed to explore them. So I decided to color outside the lines, and that was how I met Tyler, whom I'll talk about next time.

2 comments:

cynders said...

I've read all your Irene kelly books - can't wait for the next one - I'm wondering will it be available in epub format for those of us that have gone electronic?

Jan Burke said...

Sorry to take so long to reply, Cynders! Yes, it will be available as an e-book.