Tuesday, November 24, 2020

What Then?

Mending your ways – If you had to stop your life of crime (writing) what other types of books would you like to write? If I had the imagination, I would love to have been a science fiction writer. In fact, the first book I ever wrote was a science fiction book. I still like it! It was called The UFO Conspiracy, and it explained where UFOs came from. Alas, by the time I finished writing it, I was onto something else, and never tried to have it published. And I realized that no matter how much science fiction I read—and I read a lot—my mind just doesn’t work that way. I remember reading Patrick Lee’s The Breach and I kept thinking, “How did he think of that? What part of his brain came up with that amazing idea?” I read Justin’s Cronin’s The Passage—same thing. Hugh Lowey’s Wool--same thing. Ursula LeGuin’s books—same. These writers are able to make a leap of imagination that simply eludes me.
I first thought that one day I would write a mainstream novel that would take the world by storm. But once I got hooked on writing crime fiction, I never looked back. In fact, I wonder what I thought I would write about? Mary Karr wrote my biography in The Liar’s Club, so that was out. (My sister actually called me and said, “Did we know her?”) But I do have a couple of books on the back burner that would be different from what I write now. Both historical novels, one set in France and Louisiana in the early 18th Century, the other in Mexico City in the early 20th Century. I’ve done a lot of research on the first one, and even have several chapters written. But the second one would require an enormous amount of research. It actually would be a thriller, so not so different from the big umbrella of “mystery.” It may forever remain a pipe dream, though. Meanwhile, I read almost everything. I pick up books from science to science fiction; from historical westerns to contemporary westerns; from mainstream to literary; from humor to disaster stories. I love to hear about my writing friends’ projects, and I often wonder what set them on the road to the particular piece of fiction (or non-fiction) they ended up with. With some, it’s easy. I understand where Catriona McPherson gets her Dandy Gilver stories and her Scotch And… books. I understand why Michael Connelly sets his stories squarely in Los Angeles. But what intrigued John Billheimer enough to write a book entitled Hitchcock and the Censors? Whatever it was, it compelled him to write an Edgar award-winning book. What tweaked James Ziskin’s imagination so thoroughly that he wrote an entire series from the viewpoint of a young girl in the 1960’s? An Edgar-nominated series. A deeper question for me would be, what if I didn’t write at all? What would I do? I took up painting for a while and enjoyed it.
I wouldn’t mind throwing myself into that again. I promised myself I would make a quilt. Maybe I would actually do it. But I would never be able to enjoy a life that didn’t involve creativity. Creation. Creating something out of nothing except my idea of “what might be.”

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Terry, I have long said that if I tire of mystery writing, I'll go right back into oil painting without a moment's hesitation. I've painted in oil since high school and I find it meditative. I should also make a quilt.