Answers to life’s questions (3)

This makes the third and last installment of the January Ask LRK session. If yours didn’e2’80’99t appear here, it’e2’80’99s either because it was a personal question, which I’e2’80’99m not going to answer, or because it came in after my arbitrary cutoff day and will have to be repeated next month.

And by the way, please note: I said the MARTINELLI books contain homages to DLS, not the Russells.

Q: BOB and others want to know, Why did you choose to write “Califia’s Daughter” under a pseudonym? And SHEA asks, When is the sequel to Califia’s Daughters coming out?

A: It’e2’80’99s always a problem, when a writer wants to do something very different in an industry geared to sameness. There were a number of reasons why I agreed to write CALIFIA’e2’80’99S DAUGHTER as ‘e2’80’9cLeigh Richards’e2’80’9d, but the practical one was that the way books are sold to the big chains is based almost entirely on how many books they sold the time before. A Laurie King sci-fi novel probably wouldn’e2’80’99t sell as well as a LRK crime novel, which would mean that the next time a crime novel came along, the big boys would look at their records and see that the last Laurie King novel hadn’e2’80’99t done all that well, and order fewer than they would have otherwise.

The politics of bookselling.

So how did CALIFIA’e2’80’99S DAUGHTER do? Well, this 2004 publication just made the Seattle Mystery Bookstore’e2’80’99s bestseller list for 2005. And THAT is what enthusiastic hand-selling can do for a book. Thanks, Seattle!

As for a sequel, I always envisioned CALIFIA’e2’80’99S DAUGHTER as the middle volume in a trilogy. I have notes for the first, vague thoughts for the third, but nothing in contract and not a strong enough urge to thrust it down my publisher’e2’80’99s throat, or to write it on spec for another paperback original. Only so many hours in the week, I fear. But some day, some day’e2’80’a6.

Q: And BREE checks in with an actual writing topic: I have a question about the POV in both the Russell series and the Marintelli series. Russel is limited first person POV, while from what I’ve read of the Martinelli books, it switches back and forth between different characters in third person POV.Did you make a decision to write the books like that, to focus on different aspects of the characters and stories? Or was it a happy accident that worked over time?

A: Points of view are interesting to me, particularly as it’e2’80’99s one of those writing techniques that I, as an untrained writer, have to discover as I go along.

First person (‘e2’80’9cI’e2’80’9d) would seem to give the writer scope for a high degree of intimacy, speaking as she does from within the character’e2’80’99s skin, but in fact, it is paradoxically limiting. The writer is confined to one set of eyes and ears, one point of view both literally and figuratively. The only means of introducing the viewpoints of others are either clumsy’e2’80’94a long stretch of dialogue or another character’e2’80’99s written document’e2’80’94or tricky and subtle, whereby one has another character say or do something that the narrator interprets one way but which the reader sees through, to grasp the writer’e2’80’99s true intent.

Third person limited (that is, with one central character on stage in most every scene) allows the writer to look through one set of eyes the whole time, while at the same time being able to reflect on that character’e2’80’99s inner life.

And third person omniscient, the god-like ability to see through all eyes equally, allows a complexity of storytelling that may be essential for certain types of novel, but at the same time carries the danger of reducing all characters to the same level of immediacy and importance.

When I was writing FOLLY, I got perhaps fifty pages into it before I decided that the third-person POV was inadequate. Because we were dealing with a woman whose mental stability was dubious, I felt the need to let Rae speak for herself, so we could see what the world looked like with her own peculiar set of blinkers on. I didn’e2’80’99t want to tell the entire story hedged about by those blinkers, so I alternated chapters, one with the story line itself, punctuated by Rae’e2’80’99s letters, journals, and the like.

For similar reasons, as I felt my way into LOCKED ROOMS it became clear that it wasn’e2’80’99t going to work as an entirely Russell voice, since (as with Rae Newborn) an essential part of the story involves the increasing unreliability of Russell as narrator. She takes on such an emotional load that it starts to effect how she is seeing the world and the case, and going forward with that, hearing only Russell’e2’80’99s side of things, would have become unbearably confusing for the reader.

So I let Holmes speak, for the first time (unless you count a letter he writes Russell in one of the earlier books.) He carries not quite half the story, in third person rather than first, enabling me to turn and look closely at Russell for the first time.

It was an exercise I enjoyed a lot, and found that for this book, it worked very well.

And without giving any spoilers, I can only recommend that you read THE ART OF DETECTION in May to see the logical conclusion of the exercise.

Q: And finally, from KAREN: Do you have any thoughts on the future of the characters from A Darker Place?

A: I don’e2’80’99t know that we really need to know more about Anne Waverley’e2’80’99s story, but those two kids she befriends, yes. Jason and Dulcie are incomplete, their back stories vague, their futures more so, and we need a greater sense of completion there. Of course, since their lives seem to be tied to Anne’e2’80’99s, she will enter into any further book on the two kids, but not as the central character.

In fact, I’e2’80’99m playing with the idea of using Jason and Dulcie’e2’80’99s continuing story to hook together DARKER PLACE with FOLLY and KEEPING WATCH, and making those four books into a San Juans cycle, not a series so much as a group of related stories, with further novels following the characters of FOLLY. The one I’e2’80’99m really looking forward to writing is the story of Ed, the tattooed philosopher/boatman/smuggler. I’e2’80’99d very much enjoy living with Ed for the year of writing his book.

Thanks for your questions, you’e2’80’99ll have another opportunity to Ask LRK next month.

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  1. Christy on January 6, 2006 at 2:42 pm

    Oh, I loved Ed from Folly! It would be great to know his story. You just keep on writing & we’ll keep on reading 🙂

  2. Anonymous on January 6, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    Lois McMaster Bujold has been doing alternating first-person viewpoints since “Mirror Dance” – so much so that her standard cover is the two viewpoint characters in profile, looking at each other. It works very, very well.

    Pat Mathews

  3. KB on January 6, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for the perspective on POV, Laurie. It’s something I’m really struggling with as I write now.

    Also, regarding your comment to Dave on the previous post, hallelujah! (“Granted, some gay writers have graphic sex scenes that may make you uncomfortable, but can’e2’80’99t the same be said about heterosexual sex scenes?”) Besides, if he actually took the time to read Kate’s stories, he’d find no “lesbian sex” to cringe over.

    Lastly, I hope it’s okay to make a suggestion to other newbies {like me} who struggle/d over the “how do you make yourself sit down and write?” question. I found making the commitment to the National Novel Writing Month contest a great help. Once I realized I could write 50,000 words in a month, I felt “freed” to do it. Doesn’t make much sense, I know, but it worked for me, maybe it will for others. I tend to agree with you, too, that if you love it, you’ll do it. Pretty much applies to anything in this life.

    Thanks, again, for the Q&A.


  4. Anonymous on January 6, 2006 at 7:35 pm

    Thank you, Kim, for your supportive suggestion about the National Novel Writing Month contest. I don’t know anything about that, but I appreciate your desire to offer help instead of a putdown. I’m not really a “newbie”. I have a degree in English, and lots of other writing credentials. I write regular bi-yearly articles in an iris journal called Tall Talk (journal of the Tall Bearded Iris Society), under the heading “From the Gardens at Laughingstock”. One of my articles has just been reprinted in the British Iris Society Yearbook. Writing a 3-6 page article is a lot different from focusing long enough to write a novel … and settling to a regular routine is a big problem for me. Thanks for your kindness. Unsettled iris personage.

  5. Arch on January 7, 2006 at 4:37 am

    Well I am a “Newbie” to Blogs and Mutterings and a reader of print and recorded books. I have greatly enjoyed Russell series and one KM and the San Juan stories. Rae Newborn was the character that some how hit home to me. We go through life with plans and hopes and suddenly something happens and the frames shift and everything has changed. Life will not go back to what it is “supposed to be” and now what. Some of the same aspect in Locked Rooms. I am glad you have a blog. This is a little like an accidental meeting and a spontaneous cup off coffee to chat over. Thanks

  6. Trix on January 8, 2006 at 2:45 am

    A San Juans cycle! All I can say is *drool*.

    That would be fantastic.

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