July Q&A, 3 (finally)

As a supplement to the posting I did about royalties, Tess Gerritsen has a very helpful post about this subject in her blog for July 17th.

Q: riobonito wants to know (and others seem interested), What influences do you consider, when describing or hearing a ‘California accent’. I have my own thoughts, but since you mentioned it, in The Art of Detection, I’d like to hear your take on it.

A: Um, well. I had to look this up, to see what would have made me refer to a California accent, but I think it’s merely that, from the point of view of the speaker, who is an Indian who’s lived in CA: There’s what he hears here, and there’s what he occasionally hears from the South or from New York. To anyone but a speech expert, a Californian accent would be indistinguishable from the rest of the American West, but we’re not talking science here, we’re talking perception.

Q: WDI inquires, My question is, how do you, as an author, find your way to descriptions of activities (like woodworking, or painting, or martial arts) that you may not normally engage in yourself (and please forgive me if, in fact, you do engage in all of these!)? I just re-read BEEK, for example, and was dazzled anew at the descriptions of Holmes’ and Russell’s chess matches. Now, I don’t play chess at all, yet you managed to describe their games in such a way that I was completely sucked in to the energy of the play and could understand on a pretty good gut level the metaphors you were drawing between the games, the relationship between Holmes and Russell and the strategies they would use to confront their enemy upon their return to England.

So . . . is there a particular technique you use, or is it just writerly magic?

A: I often shudder to think what experts make of my excursions into specialized activities. I do try not to base events on things I know nothing about without doing a little research, but (writerly magic here) I have found that capturing the expert’s attitude about his or her profession/craft/hobby is more important than presenting all those technical details that prove you really know what you’re talking about. Clearly, one has to know a certain amount about the technical details, but in general, I tend to skip over most of those fine points unless they’re important to the plot or the character. As Elmore Leonard famously said, you leave out the stuff readers skip over—and for every reader who wishes I’d put in more details about theology in A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN, there are two who wish I’d put in less. About the balance you’re aiming for, actually.

Q: Just wondering… is the name “Mary Russell” an homage to Dorothy L Sayers? Based on the character from “The Nine Tailors”?

A: Not unless it was a contribution from my subconscious mind. I’d forgotten entirely about the character until I re-read NINE TAILORS a few years later.

Thanks for your patience with this blog, although I fear the posts will occasionally suffer lapses–my husband has been unwell, and it’s incredible how one person’s illness can eat up every moment of time for everyone in the vicinity. As for the rewrite of TOUCHSTONE, well…..

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  1. Anonymous on July 18, 2006 at 5:45 pm

    Sorry to hear of sickness in your family. Just went thru it, wish you the best.

  2. riobonito on July 18, 2006 at 6:25 pm

    Thanks Laurie, for answering my query on ‘California Accents’. My family came to California during the depression. So I am a first generation Californian. Dad from the South, and Mother from the upper Midwest. It’s only been the last few years, that I realized how much my speech and cuisine has been influenced by the South. I guess with that statement, you can see who ‘ruled’ in my family. My great grandmother and all her sisters were named after Southern States, she had the sweet name of Alabama, dare I say, I feel sorry for Aunt Missouri, Louisiana and oh my, poor Aunt Arkansas!
    I digress, I would wager that allot of the Valley areas in California have more of a Southern influence. Just my thoughts. Thanks again.

  3. riobonito on July 18, 2006 at 6:32 pm

    I just finished reading your blog, to the ‘end’ this time, yes redundant, I send my best to you with your husband’s illness. I know many can relate. So lapses are understandable. Take care Laurie, God Bless.

  4. WDI on July 18, 2006 at 7:13 pm

    Thank you, Laurie, for answering my question. That you would take time out for stuff like this when your husband is ill is more than generous of you, so please accept the thanks on two levels: on one for providing such an interesting answer to the question, and on another for taking the time to do so. Oh — and a third thanks, for finding such a nice balance between capturing the “feeling” of activities and providing too much detail. It’s one of the features I most admire about your writing and enjoy about your books.

    (Yes, I’m one of those who cringe when folks who clearly don’t know much about a subject provide just enough detail to destroy my willing suspension of disbelief!)

  5. Anonymous on July 18, 2006 at 10:09 pm

    Laurie, my thoughts and prayers are with you during your husband’s illness.

  6. Anonymous on July 18, 2006 at 10:31 pm

    Had wondered a little about the family uproar a few posts back, hoping it was readily resolved. All good wishes to you and the family — Meredith T.

  7. L. Crampton, LAc on July 18, 2006 at 11:21 pm

    Blessings to your husband and to you in tending him; may he recover rapidly and fully!

  8. Vicki Larson on July 19, 2006 at 2:04 pm


  9. 2maple on July 19, 2006 at 6:03 pm

    I hope all returns to normal for your husband, you and your household in the near future.

    By the way …did you know that you (and all other blogs at blogspot.com among others) are now banned in India? Check here http://www.boingboing.net/2006/07/17/report_indian_gov_bl.html

  10. Daisy on July 19, 2006 at 6:35 pm


    I thought that your reference a few posts ago sounded not-so-good, and am sorry to hear he’s still not well. I’d like to add my hopes for a speedy recovery. We’ll be thinking good thoughts for you and yours.


  11. Anonymous on July 21, 2006 at 8:34 am

    I am sorry that this comment does not have anything to do with your blog entry, but I did not know of any other means of communication (annoying and ignorant, I know)! I am part of both the RUSS-L and HOUNDS-L mailing lists and have been looking over some past Hounds entries to find that there is some evidence that Holmes may have been Jewish! I, personally, believe that Holmes is not connected with religion. I would like to know, however, if you have heard anything about it and what you think about it since Russell is Jewish. Just thought it might arouse your interest… 🙂


  12. Anonymous on July 21, 2006 at 8:36 am

    Ha… I put my name in a comment that was supposed to be anonymous…


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