A question writers are often asked is, “Where did that story / that character / that idea come from?”
Usually the answer boils down to something small, some tiny piece of grit that lodges in the mind and accumulates ideas, images, snippets of dialogue like a pearl in an oyster. (Though admittedly, some pearls end up more than a little odd…)
Monstrous Regiment of Women started with the John Knox title; Dreaming Spies began when I needed a Japan book that continued into the following year; The Moor began when I realized that Sabine Baring Gould was still alive into the twenties, down there in Baskerville territory.
So I thought some of you might like to know that the next Russell has just had its piece of grit planted in my brain.
For months, I’ve been planning to set the next Russell (# 15!) in and around the Tower of London, but the more I read, and the darker the world around me got, the less I could bear the idea of living with that place for the long months it would take to write the book. Somewhere around the sixth description of a prisoner drawn and quartered I thought, Maybe this isn’t the year for the Tower.
But if not that, what?
Something dark but humorous. Something political (because it’s become obvious that for the immediate present, life IS politics) but with no overt politics because, really, do I have to spend all day there? Something about women or minorities or the madness that has overtaken my home without being about women, minorities, or the judgment of sides.
An entertainment, absolutely—but a subversive one.
And as often happens, when I set my unconscious a problem and let it get on with things—I’ve spent the past two weeks heavily involved with the business of Mystery Writers of America, both NorCal and National—
—the machinery ground away, picking up ideas and discarding them, looking for some interesting empty space that was just the right shape to hold the kind of story I wanted to tell…
And then on Sunday I sat down at my laptop and wrote out a paragraph to send to my editor asking, You like?
Oh, yes. Oooh, yes indeedy she did.
It’s going to be dark and it’s going to be funny (I hope), and it’s going to be about women and politics and male oppression without being about any of those things.
And the writer’s mind cackles gleefully in the corner.