Wednesday, July 20, 2016

New Horizons

Next January my sixth Samuel Craddock book comes out, a prequel called An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock. I love Samuel and the citizens of Jarrett Creek, and I hope to continue to write about them for years. When the first one came out three years ago, it was a dream come true. The first book got a lot of attention and was nominated for some awards. The books continue to be popular, get terrific reviews and attract happy readers. I’m pleased with my publisher and with the whole experience I’ve had.

That said, I want to expand my horizons. I am working on a thriller, and it is finally beginning to look like a viable book. Writing it has been a steep learning curve. Even though both small-town chief of police novels and thrillers come under a general heading of “crime fiction,” they are very different types of books. The thriller demands more action and a wider venue. I’ve had to learn a lot about another country, about the subject of the book and about a different set of protagonists. Who knows whether it will have the same success as my series, but I’m moving forward.

But there’s more. I am intrigued by the psychological thrillers I’ve read and would like to try my hand at one. I have an idea for another thriller. And I would even think of starting another series.

                          At Thrillerfest with award-winning thriller writer Taylor Stevens.

I look at Catriona MacPherson, who writes her delightful Dandy Gilver historical series, but has put written amazing psychological book after another. Or Rhys Bowen, who has two strong historical series going with completely different protagonists. John Sanford. Steve Hamilton. Tim Hallinan! What they all have done is branch out at some point to new territory.

The problem I have is not where can I get ideas, but which one to tackle first. I still have two half-finished books that were started around the time the first Craddock book came out. I still like the idea of both of them. The fact is that it takes time not just to write a book, but to promote it. I am lucky to write fast and to be able to write full-time, but the idea of writing two or even three books a year, plus articles and short stories, is daunting.

I would love to know how other writers decide which project to tackle first. Does the publisher demand it? Their agent? Do they follow their own instincts and write what excites them? If I did that, I’d be writing three books at the same time. They say that Isaac Asimov wrote four books at a time. He had four desks, each facing a different direction. He would work at one desk for a while, then move on to the next desk and a different novel. Apparently he could keep them all straight.

I think I could keep them straight—different voices, different plots, different intentions—but would I have time for a real life? Stay tuned.

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