Monday, September 7, 2015

The Best of Shane: "I Write Naked. Doesn't Everybody?"

Shane Gericke, former Criminal Mind blogger, has a new book out as of September 4th: The Fury. "If a grief-blinded cop can't find the man who killed her husband, millions will die in a nerve-gas strike on America.”

Shane is also dealing with his own grief this week. He lost his beloved wife Jerrie to cancer on August 31st. You can read his moving tribute to her on his blog.

To help Shane launch his book during this difficult time, all this week we will be featuring "The Best of Shane" on 7 Criminal Minds. We've dug through the archives to find some of his best posts. Like this one.


I write naked.

Not literally. If I did, and you saw it, you'd run away screaming, like those crowds fleeing Godzilla as he chews through downtown Tokyo.

Rather, naked in that I use no outline when I write.

(Alright, alright, the naked stuff was a cheap ploy to get you to read my blog. My partners in crime already did such a great job dissecting outline vs. no outline vs. short outline vs. long outline, that if I didn't throw in some fakey nude stuff, none of you would have made it this far. But now you're here and not snoring, so we can go back to our tale.)

I hate to commit to anything when starting a new book. My characters reveal themselves through the act of writing, not through the act of outlining. I need the total freedom to let them take the fork in the road that leads through the briny swamp, if they so choose. I need to go commando. (All right, that's the last faux-nudie bit, I promise. Or, is it . . .)

So to unleash those creative forces, I picture exactly how my book will open, and how it will end, down to the smell of the air and sound of the sirens. All the rest I leave to whimsy, coffee and fingers. In MOVING TARGET, which launches next summer, for instance, I knew the story would start with death in a howling thunderstorm, would close with death in a howling thunderstorm, and the major players would be changed forever. The rest came as I wrote. div>

That's the ideal for me: writing without a map.

Problem is, it doesn't work for purposes of selling idea to your publisher. Editors understandably need to know what you're going to turn in, and with some detail; they have to sell your book to their bosses, their sales and promotion people, their designers and artists, their bookstore buyers, and the other parts of the vast team that actually gets your book into the public's hands.

In the argot, it's "commercial vs. creative." Well, my argot, anyway, mostly because I love the word "argot" and use it when I can.)

So, when I'm ready to go with a new book, I write a two-page story summary, telling my editor the beginning, end, major plot twists, and major characters. She accepts or rejects the idea based on that document (plus helpful author inputs like, Aw, pretty please, let me keep the bus full of decapitated corpses, pleeeeeeeeaseeeeeee . . . )

Once she accepts the outline, I start writing, and see what happens.

Fortunately for me, my editor is patient and kind and allows me the freedom to go off track--sometimes, um, considerably off track--as long as it's in the realm of what we agreed upon. If I promise a serial killer novel and deliver a traditional police procedural, I'll be pulling three to five in Rewrite Penitentiary. But if my outline promised that the serial killer would do X and wound up doing Y instead because Y is much more interesting, then we're good.

If I've done my job well, the commercial and the creative ends of the business dovetail neatly, and everyone is pleased.

If I don't, well, see morgue photo below . . .


John Dillinger lies extremely dead in the Cook County Morgue after cops ventilated him outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Back in the '30s, anyone who wanted to gawk at a gen-u-inely dead criminal-type could walk on in and do so. Also pictured are the Colt Army Special (with Timothy O'Neil, the cop who used it to plug Dillinger); the Remington double derringer; and a typical wanted poster of Dillinger from the era.

Talk about your double-barrel crime news: Two guns used by the infamous John Dillinger have been sold for nearly as much loot as he got by sticking up banks.

The Colt Army Special revolver that slew Dillinger outside a Chicago movie house ("slew" is almost as cool as "argot," don't you think?) sold for $36,400 in a Chicago auction, more than three times expected value. The second gun, a small Remington .41 double derringer that Dillinger carried, went for $95,600, or more than twice estimated value, in a Dallas auction.

Dillinger was carrying the Remington in one of his socks when he was arrested in Tucson, AZ, 75 years ago. (Socks were tougher back then, apparently. Our sissy socks of the modern era can't carry a piece of twine without sagging.) It was the beginning of his end--the notorious Roaring Twenties bank robber was killed six months later, on July 22, 1934, by federal agents and local policemen outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago, after being fingered by the infamous "Lady in Red." (Little remembered is that her dress was orange; it only looked red in the street lighting of the time. "Lady in Red" sounded more tabloidish to the newspaper writers of the time anyway, so that's what they went with.)

East Chicago, Ind., police Capt. Timothy A. O'Neil is credited with the kill. He and a partner had arranged for the Lady in Red (who undoubtedly was naked under the dress) to point out Dillinger as he and Miss Red left the theater after watching "Manhattan Melodrama." The cops and three FBI agents plugged Dillinger when he came out. O'Neil's descendants sold the famous Colt to a museum. An anonymous "member of a prominent Tucson family" sold the Remington to an anonymous L.A. collector.

All I can say is, the sellers should send big wet kisses to Johnny Depp, because his bravura turn as Dillinger in the new movie "Public Enemies" undoubtedly kicked up the bidding. Maybe Dillinger should have gone into show biz. He'd have made a lot more money.

And, sigh, yes, since you insist, I'll tell you . . .

He is nekked under the sheet.


For more of Shane's writing, check out THE FURY!


Robin Spano said...

I love it: "Whimsy, coffee and fingers." I write like that too.

Welcome to Criminal Minds and thanks for being our guest all week.

Meredith Cole said...

Welcome back to the blog, Shane! We're very glad to be celebrating the launch of your new book with you...

Catriona McPherson said...

"Pulling three to five in Rewrite Penitentiary" - perfect!

Shane Gericke said...

You guys are the best! I really appreciate this "best of," CM'ers.

Rebecca Cantrell said...

I've missed those Shane-O-Grams! Loved hearing the backstory on Dillinger and the truth about the Lady in Red revealed. Do you suppose that Chris deBurgh song would be Lady in Orange if the truth had been outed back then?

I just read that opening to THE FURY, the one you must have pictured in advance. It's carnage, I tell you, carnage! But good carnage. :)

Welcome back for the week, Shane!