Pirates are “go”!
So, have you enjoyed our little break from All Things Laurie? Or did going cold turkey disturb your world too much?
I hadn’t actually intended quite such a long break without Muttering at you, but it took me nearly a month after getting home from Portugal/Morocco/France/England/book tour to get my life in some kind of order and the suitcases back in the closet.
And since then, I’ve been writing.
In two weeks the book has gone from the 70 pages of typescript that I did in Lisbon to a bit over 200 pages. I’m beginning the last third of the first draft, grabbing at all the threads and trying to braid them into a story that makes some kind of sense.
This is a Russell book, my third in a row. [Pause for cheers.] I don’t normally like to do the same characters two years in a row, far less three, but my publishers asked me if I’d mind, and although I did in a way, in another way I didn’t.
Because it would force me to do something different. [Pause for murmur of consternation.]
I’ve only repeated one year’s characters the following year a couple of times, and for one of those repeats (The Moor and O Jerusalem) the second one was already written, so it was just a rewrite. With the other pair, The Game and Locked Rooms, they were miles apart—in setting (ageless India versus Prohibition-era San Francisco), flavor (exotic romp v. dark and internal), voice (strictly first person for The Game, several chapters of alternate POVs with Locked Rooms) and, well, everything. That made writing two in a row less noticeable.
Than came The Language of Bees, and because I thought people would throw things at me if I made them wait two years for the continuation of the tale, I dove into The God of the Hive. Which would have been fine except my publisher really wanted another one, and I was faced with the problem of how to live with these characters for a third year without doing something really vicious to them. I mean, I haven’t reached the point yet of Conan Doyle, pushing his protagonist off the Reichenbach Falls, but I could begin to feel the urge stirring in the back of my mind.
So I threw my mind a bone and told it to go fetch.
That bone was the idea of comedy.
Now, I think of the Russell and Holmes stories as somewhat comic to begin with. The books delight in an undercurrent of silliness, while solemnly playing the Sherlockian game of treating it all as God’s Honest Truth. What Dorothy Sayers called a county cricket match at Lords, where outright burlesque can only spoil it.
Except that with the next book, I’m taking a step closer to outright burlesque. A rather large step.
It’s called Pirate King, and yes, it’s a reference to The Pirates of Penzance. Russell gets dragged into the world of Twenties film, with a company making a movie about a movie about the Gilbert & Sullivan comic opera. And although I don’t talk about what I’m doing with a book until I’ve finished the first draft, I will admit that the book has a talking parrot. And a number of unlikely people falling in love.
However, I’m determined to drive through the first draft before I leave for my British God of the Hive tour (watch for details here) in less than four weeks, which means spending my days at work. Normally with a first draft I set myself a goal of 1500 words in a day, trying for 2000 but not worrying too much if it’s only 1250. The past two weeks I’ve managed 2500 most days, and four or five days it’s been 3000. Which amounts to either five hours of feverish typing or seven hours or more labored word production.
So you will, perhaps, excuse me for being a little preoccupied. I do intend to return here more regularly very soon, starting a series of posts called “Writing Tools.”
Thanks for hanging in there, and if you’re curious about what’s going on day to day, I generally fling a quick post onto Facebook several times a week.
Happy summer reading!