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 itâ€™s merely that, from the point of view of the speaker, who is an Indian whoâ€™s lived in CA: Thereâ€™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 weâ€™re not talking science here, weâ€™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 expertâ€™s attitude about his or her profession/craft/hobby is more important than presenting all those technical details that prove you really know what youâ€™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 theyâ€™re important to the plot or the character. As Elmore Leonard famously said, you leave out the stuff readers skip overâ€”and for every reader who wishes Iâ€™d put in more details about theology in A MONSTROUS REGIMENT OF WOMEN, there are two who wish Iâ€™d put in less. About the balance youâ€™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. Iâ€™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…..