This week's question: "What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?"
And answers for each!
Literary: From a craft standpoint, my biggest challenge was trying to stay true to Louise's voice. I've said before that I'm not quite sure where she came from and that I sometimes felt like I was following her myself through the stories—but "channeling" that voice was easier sometimes than others. I often felt like I was analyzing my own writing to see where the narration might step out of character.
Psychological: I'd sometimes wondered if I'd ever be able to write a novel at all. Several attempts had ended up under the bed (or tucked away into some lonely batch of files on my computer), and the prospect of maintaining a book-length narrative always seemed elusive. In my case, my confidence about the short story—in many ways, my chosen form—helped me to begin building toward the larger narrative: a novel in stories, as the book's subtitle explains. While that was useful from a psychological perspective—not psyching myself out—it ended up becoming a second literary challenge: How do I make sure that the individual stories maintain narrative integrity as stories while also keeping the novel's arc strong and propulsive?
Logistical: My publisher Henery Press was very supportive throughout (a) the process of my finishing the book and (b) the editorial process—shepherding this odd and crazy thing out into the wider, wilder world. I tend to write very slow, so having a deadline for the entire project set me writing at a different pace than usual, so that was a challenge. But the process did force me to write that full novel rather than just write toward it—a finished product rather than just another planned one.
And how did it all turn out? I've been very fortunate with the feedback I've received from readers and professional reviewers and more recently with the book being named a finalist for this year's Agatha Award for Best First Novel. But only one way to find our for yourself: Check out the book here—and then let me know!
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In other news, I had a great time last weekend at the Virginia Festival of the Book, and it was so great to see my fellow Criminal Mind Meredith Cole in person for a change rather than just at the other end of our week's blogging! Meredith facilitated a panel on humor with Donna Andrews, Jack Bunker, and me, and I facilitated a panel on thrillers with Matt Iden, Jamie Mason, Chris Pavone, and Eric Rickstade. Much fun all around!
Since my last post here, I've also gotten my panel assignments for Malice Domestic, and I'm very much looking forward to it—only a little over a month away! Here's my full schedule there—and looking forward to seeing many friends along the way!
- Panel (as moderator): “Make It Snappy: Our Agatha Best Short Story Nominees,” with Barb Goffman, Edith Maxwell, Terrie Farley Moran, Harriette Sackler, and B.K. Stevens • Friday, April 29, 1 p.m.
- Opening Ceremonies • Friday, April 29, 5 p.m.
- Panel (as panelist): “New Kids On the Block: Our Agatha Best First Novel Nominees,” with Margaret Maron (moderator), Tessa Arlen, Cindy Brown, Ellen Byron, and Julianne Holmes • Saturday, April 30, 10 a.m.
- Agatha Awards Banquet • Saturday, April 30, 7 p.m.
- New Author Breakfast • Sunday, May 1, 7 a.m.