Feb’s answers (1)

Okay, that’s enough questions for this month. If you haven’t asked yours yet, could you save it for the first of March? Thanks.

Q. Mousie writes, I had thought of a question last week, but being incredibly forgetful, I forgot it. So the question I ask to substitute for my previous question is: Does Russell’s experience with a Sari reflect one which you experienced? (I personally find them easy to wear, though that may be because mine is cotton)

A. I was mostly in northern India, where the salwaar kameez is worn instead of the sari. So I never had to wrestle with one, other than experimental ventures. I am assured that once you get used to it, wearing it is natural, and certainly in the south where it is commonplace, women wear it to work the fields and chase their kids.
Although I will say, most women in saris develop a constant twitch to keep the loose end over their shoulder.

Q: Iris Lady asks, Laurie, I’m curious to know how distracting it is to you when you must travel/sign books/ give talks as part of publicizing your books. For me, it would be very distracting … especially if I had a book in progress. (I am not a seasoned traveler, and I believe you are.) Still, at the moment you are in the process of birthing a first draft … every bit as exhausting as childbirth. I’m wondering if PR interruptions are asked of you at this point, and if so, how they affect your concentration on the task at hand.

A: I have very few commitments the next three months, just a handful of local talks, which certainly makes things easier. I know there are writers who fire up their laptop in-fight and produce their day’e2’80’99s stint, but that’e2’80’99s something I can do only if the current section of book is crystal clear in my mind, and it’e2’80’99s just a matter of getting it down. I find that two weeks on the road is followed by two weeks of hopeless catch-up at home. Which is why I try to have first drafts finished before a tour.

Q: Which books have sold the best – Mary Russell’s or the gay Detective’s?

A: If you mean Kate Martinelli, the Russells have sold marginally better. I’e2’80’99m not sure what the situation would be if I had eight Martinellis out, as I do with the Russells.

Q: Elle wants to know, Laurie, I have a question concerning O Jerusalem. Much is made in the book about Russell’s new identity, Amir. All three of the men must learn to address her as Amir, and do so. However, you never mention whether Holmes also took on a new name. Throughout the book, he remains “Holmes” to the other three characters. I would have thought he needed an Arabic name as well. It’s been a while since I read the book, so I don’t remember whether Russell, Mahmoud, or Ali ever addressed Holmes by name with “outsiders” around, but it has always rather bothered me that Holmes doesn’t have an Arabic name to go with his Bedouin disguise. You always pay such close attention to the details of your stories, which is one of the reasons I love your books so much. Am I being too nit-picky?

A: Are you being too nitpicky? Yeah, probably, but isn’e2’80’99t that part of the game? I suppose I had to stress that Russell was not Miri, but that she had a boy’e2’80’99s name to underscore her boy’e2’80’99s identity. As for Holmes, surely ‘e2’80’99Olmez could be taken as Arabic.

Q: Melissa writes, I know your novels are character driven, but I’e2’80’99m wondering if you have any advice for setting description. Nothing I put on paper is close to what I see in my mind’e2’80’99s eye.

A: The frustration of trying to get words to evoke an experience, even a small and simple experience, is universal I am sure among writers’e2’80’94all but those convinced of their own Divinity. Even the best writers rage at the intractability of words, finite and limited, just as the best painters battle the limitations of paint and stone. How to come closer to what you have in mind? Pay attention to writers who ‘e2’80’9ccatch’e2’80’9d a landscape or piece of dialogue, and examine how they do it. Not pieces of prose that jump out at you, that’e2’80’99s not the same thing as writing well. Pieces of writing that leave you feeling that you were there, walking along with the characters. Often you’e2’80’99ll find that what is effective is what is left out’e2’80’94there actually aren’e2’80’99t long stretches of description, just small touches that make it real.

Q: From Ruth comes, I’m just curious as to whether we’ll ever see any of Kate’s family in any future Martinelli stories, as we’ve had brief mentions of them in the last four books. Seeing as Kate and Lee are parents in the Art Of Detection, that must qualify Kate’s mother as a grandmother?

A: Well, it happened with the Russell saga with LOCKED ROOMS, which was number eight. Who knows, it may come to pass with Kate as well?

More Q&A tomorrow.

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  1. Melissa on February 2, 2006 at 2:38 pm

    Makes sense. Thank you.

  2. Anonymous on February 15, 2006 at 9:42 pm

    Thank You for the Kate Martinelli “Art of Detection” coming out in May …Barbara

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