Okay, thatâ€™s enough questions for March. Save any others for next month.
Q: Roxanne wanted to know: how serious were/are you about the autorickshaw trip in India?
A: Oh, honey, Iâ€™m working insane numbers of hours, with my foot nailed to the floor because of family responsibilities, with one book overdue, a short story past deadline, at a time I should be starting the next book.
You think going to India and racing autorickshaws might be a fantasy?
Q: Wendy says, It was wonderful meeting you when you came to Madison last fall! I adore the Kate Martinelli and Mary Russell books, but I am also enamored with Anne Waverly– do you think you’ll ever write another book with her as the character? thanks!!
A: Iâ€™d like to, if for no other reason than finding out what happens to those two kids. Maybe, letâ€™s see here, 2010?
Q: Aaron Paul Lazar asks, Please clarify for the newbie: may we ask writing/agent/publishing/craft questions here, or are these intended to pertain only to the wonderful books you’ve written? Thanks in advance for your response. ;o)
A: Ask what you like, so long as your question is well-mannered. I can always just not answer.
Q: How do you pick the places for your books? In The Moor it’s Dartmoor, in The Game it’s India, etc. I love the settings and how Russell usually has to learn a new language.
A: Poor Russell, sheâ€™s always cold, often hungry, and invariably confused. She must have a lot of headaches from straining to figure things out in a foreign tongue, although she doesnâ€™t talk about that.
I write about places Iâ€™ve either been to and which seem interesting places to set a story, or would like to go to and which seem etc. The place determines the character of the storyâ€”India (The Game) sweeping, grand, colorful, crowded, and scary; Dartmoor (The Moor) bleak, lonely, wet, mysterious, quirky; Palestine (O Jerusalem) old, complex, uncontrollable, compelling.
Incidentally, you can see a few photos of the settings by clicking on the individual book pages, beginning on the web siteâ€™s books and reviews page.
Q: Gail asks, One of the best parts of the Russell books is how you keep to Russell’s perspective while still telling us things about Russell and Holmes that either she isn’t consciously aware of, isn’t admitting to herself, or isn’t interested in sharing. Do you think about what each are thinking or feeling or how she looks and then figure out how to express that through Russell’s pen or do you just write from Russell’s view and then make sure the whole thing hangs together?
A: First person narrative is tricky. Thereâ€™s only so much add-a-letter-from-Holmes you can do to bring in different perspectives, which means, as Gail says, I need occasionally to show Russell seeing and hearing things one way, while the reader perceives that same thing from a slightly different angle.
Clearly, the between-the-lines viewpoint doesnâ€™t work if you write down to the reader, overexplaining and beating any dead horses you come across. Most readers are perceptive enough to catch subtle jokes, and if they donâ€™t, well, whatâ€™s the harm of enriching a second read?
NOTE: SPOILER ALERT FOR CALIFIAâ€™S DAUGHTERS
Q:WDI asks, Given that we may have to wait quite a while for the other parts of the “Califia” trilogy, could you bend far enough to just let me know — does Dian reunite with her dog?
A: I should think so, wouldnâ€™t you? Why else show him limping on, if he gets eaten around the next bend?
Q: Gin wants to know, Although an avid Russell fan, I wonder how much obligation you feel towards your readers to produce another in the Russell series. How do you balance telling your story vs satisfying the demands of your readers (ie: Holmes and Russell’s personal relationship)
Do you get pressure from your publishers to keep a series going?
A: Iâ€™ve tended to alternate the Russells with either Martinellis or standalone novels, which helps to keep my writing fresh. Iâ€™m always grateful when readers are willing to give my non-Russells (or non-Martinellis, depending) a chance, because the thought of being chained to the oar of a galley producing endless Russell tales makes the heart quail.
NOTE: SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT FOR O JERUSALEM:
Q: Carlina formerly Maria asks, Karim Bey…that man…yes..I am curious is there any relationship between him and the Kerim Bey in the Bond flick From Russia with Love (perhaps an inspiration)? On that note, will we ever know exactly how deeply Holmes’s experience with Bey scarred or affected him? Will you ever explore that aspect of Holmes’s psyche (which is no doubt complex and possibly messy as it is)?
A: I donâ€™t know that I ever saw the film, although Iâ€™m sure to have read the book many and many a year ago.
Itâ€™s always frustrating, isnâ€™t it, when a writer (or series of writers, for a television series) overlooks some major event in the life of the characters, which really ought to be mentioned again. On the other hand, the writer needs to make each book complete unto itself, without endless bits dragging in from previous adventures.
So the answer is, maybe. I might mention the experience, if it feeds into a later book.
But exploring Holmesâ€™ psyche? God, I doubt even Russell herself would have the courage for that.