"Is there a novel you're afraid to write? That you're waiting to write when you're older/the rellies are dead/your skill matches your ambition?"
I think every family has at least one story that would make the basis of a compelling . . . well, psychological suspense novel anyway. Some poor souls live in families with thrillers going on. And not everyone waits until the stars of the show are dead. Not by any means. I once went to a book launch for a novel about family dysfunction - child sex abuse, serious neglect, foster "care" - where all the main players were still alive (some in jail, one in the audience). It made for an interesting Q&A.
I couldn't do that. I think my chip of ice is defective - not quite melted but rounded at the edges and useless for skewering with. So, yes there are stories I've heard that I can't write. Am I living on wheatgrass and Pilates so I can write them when everyone's dead? Nah. There are lots of other stories and bacon matters too.
As for waiting until I'm older, I think stories come when they come and inevitably the stories that come to me when I'm seventy-five (get up, turn round three times, spit, sit down again) will be different from the stories bubbling up now. My first three stand-alone novels - As She Left It, The Day She Died and Come To Harm have come from tiny incidents (a bargain bed in an antique shop), fleeting glimpses of others' lives (a young man counting change in a supermarket), filtered through my own past and set in places redolent of something that half intrigues and half repels (see below).
God knows where Dandy Gilver comes from. It feels like playing to conjure that world - pure chortling joy - and I'm only glad I'm still getting away with it.
But what about the book I'm afraid to write? Honestly, I think I've just written it. The Child Garden (w/t) has a central character who I loved and believed in, but whom I fully expected no one else to warm to. I aired some of my worries at Sister in Crime, Desert Sleuths recently - but no one had read it so no one could either agree with them or reassure me.
I breathed a sigh of relief that changed the weather patterns all across the continental US when my agent said she adores Gloria and started asking if it could be a series. And Midnight Ink gave me a thumbs up too. Phee-ew. Gloria Harkness, in a book that might be called The Child Garden, will be joining us in September 2015.
And my brand-new advice to anyone would therefore be . . . write the book that you're scared to write. It might turn out okay.