Well, the answer finally hit me on the drive to work this morning. I think I know which novel will be my next, following the completion of And/News.
In June of 1992 I took a job at a Place Which Must Not Be Named. It meant a 45-minute commute one way, and I thought that I could get a microcassette recorder and try dictating a novel on the long drive. Hey, Erle Stanley Gardner dictated his Perry Mason novels, right?
So I gave it a try and immediately hit a snag. Once I had the material dictated, it took me just as long to transcribe it as it would have taken for me to just sit down and write it. I solved that problem when a family acquaintance who loved my books revealed she did secretarial work from her home. So I hired her to transcribe for me.
I got halfway through the novel this way and then quit working on it. Why? Another problem, this one major.
I hated what I saw on the pages.
For some reason, the writing seemed to take it self much too seriously. I had tried to put some of my typical humor into the book, but it didn’t fly. The atmosphere of the whole thing seemed wrong, wrong, wrong. It struck me as grim and dour, even though my wife and the transcriptionist loved it, as did a radiologist friend who sent me some material on MRI procedure for one of the chapters. My agent loved the concept of the book, but I never gave him anything more than a single page precis of what it was all about because I hated the writing so much.
I theorized that what the book needed was for me to be more intimate with it. To work it out at the keyboard instead of via a microcassette recorder.
You guessed it. I’m going to put that theory to the test.
But I don’t plan to rewrite what’s already there and then move on. And I don’t plan to finish the book and then go back and fix the first half later. I think what is needed is for me to approach the book with new eyes and simply start writing from the first word of chapter one, using the same characters, plotline and setting but none of the existing words.
I think the timing is right for this. I had described the project to friends as a psychological thriller. Now I have a new term for it; relationship thriller. That’s a term I came up with to describe And/News; there’s the Macguffin of a thriller that serves to create or change a relationship between two people. In And/News, Richard and K are thrown together when her live-in boyfriend is murdered and the killer comes after her – and Richard, who was simply her ride home.
In this new project, the Macguffin pits a husband against his wife in a psychological battle of wits over what is reality and what is not. And yes, there is a love triangle, but this one has a different spin on it.
I’m going to call this project Jamais Vu. It’s a term that means the opposite of deja vu – it’s when a familiar experience has the appearance of being something brand new, seen for the first time (the phrase is French for “never seen”). Appropriate, considering the way I plan to write it.
This decision also fits in with my master plan to become a Bestselling Author: I wanted to write three thrillers to develop an audience and then branch out by adding some new elements into the mix. I think it might also add a certain cachet when my agent goes to sell And/News: “This is great, but what is the author working on now?” “Another book that is conceptually similar. He calls them ‘relationship thrillers.'” “Hmmm, interesting.”
By the way, I have no idea what the third novel in this thematic “trilogy” will be. That’s something to work out on another commute.
NP – iTSP (Pink Floyd, “Money”)