Laurie sticks up her head

I’ve been quiet here on Mutterings for several months, I know.  I didn’t realize that I needed a sabbatical from posting until I took a break, and it went on.  And on.  After five years here, I was feeling that I’d said it all before.  A sensation that’s bad enough when it’s connected with a novel, but to have blogging as well was a little hard.  So I more or less stopped.

But I miss it.  So I’m going to start up again, with things other than just notices of events and such.  I promise.

Now, one of the projects I’m starting to work on is a book on writing, co-authored with Michelle Spring, an author and a person I adore.  So for the next few months, writing as a process is going to be on my mind more than usual–generally, writing is what I do, not what I think about. And my blog posts will probably reflect that preoccupation.

Which is where you come in.  A while back, I used to open Mutterings to questions, every month or so.  I’m doing the same now, only instead of working my way through your topics, I’m hoping you set me up with ideas that I can dedicate an entire post to.  And which will, perhaps, work their way into the book as well.  Hey, I’ll steal from anyone.

So, what sorts of things would you like to hear from Laurie King, both here and in an eventual book on crime writing?  It’s in your court now.

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  1. Teresa on December 3, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Within the past year I have suffered a devastating loss, that has made writing a thing I avoid. The same thing has happened to a novelist friend of mine as well, and he thinks it may be the end of his career as a writer. Do you have any thing to say about what to do when the words dry up in your throat?


  2. Allison on December 3, 2010 at 10:35 am

    As you are going to begin work on a book about the process of writing, I’d like to hear your advice for someone who does write, and now needs to know what to do to get published, or even read. Going to college for writing, in one form or another, teaches one the writing process, but it stops at the completion of the work. In hindsight, I realize that there should have been a class on what to do with our work when we were done with it.
    Do you have any advice for a novice in the publishing world?


  3. Nancy Crowson on December 3, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I would love you to talk about your research technique, specifically as it relates to obtaining help from librarians, some of whom you refer to in your books as being exceptionally helpful. I live in a small town with a smallish public library and a small college library. I am not affiliated with the college library, and would like to know how to get permission to use its resources (if possible) as well as how to go about asking a librarian for a significant amount of help.


  4. kait b. roe on December 4, 2010 at 4:47 am

    Laurie, I have tons of questions. However, the one that seems most important is this: How do you make yourself write? How do you justify pulling that time out of an already busy day? How do you prioritize it so it becomes the most important thing to do, instead of the last thing on the list? My road to hell is certainly paved with good intentions as my intention every day is to write 200+ words… but it is always the one thing that doesn’t get done.
    Any words to the perpetually damned?

  5. RussellHolmes on December 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I know many have puzzled about this but do you personally think Moriarty survived Reichenbach? (Not that anyone particularly wants him to.) Also, how long has been your longest case of (the infernal) writer’s block? My last case of such lasted a month! How do you deal with the block? Keep writing Laurie!!

  6. Larry Maddocks on December 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

    About 25 minutes ago, while my wife and daughter were attending her wedding shower, I finished reading my first Laurie King novel, Oh Jerusalem. I am an artist (oil), and your writing style speaks to my soul. Thank you for this book! I have been telling everyone how much I love this book.


    People are interested in Afghanistan. What is it about this little land-locked country that seems to effect (affect?) the rest of the world? When chivalry was started by the church in ancient Europe, it became popular to help the damsel in distress (actually anyone who was being wronged). It doesn’t seem like some of the Afghan men got the memo, and not even Mohammad and memorizing his Koran can change some of their minds. And so we are there to allow women back to work, back to school, back to bathing. Because if we don’t, if we allow the abuses to happen to one woman, then it is happening to all womanhood.

    I know, Afghanistan is not Jerusalem, but our soldiers are not dying in Jerusalem. Afghanistan has the caves, the opium trade, the ancient people from where? I have an old neighbor who wrote an unpublished book that showed they are part of the 10 lost tribes (hmmmm). I have a cross-eyed friend who comes from Afghan royalty who told me about the treasury of the country, which included a lot of old records containing their genealogy. There is Alexander the Great in Afghanistan, the British in Afghanistan.

    Another idea is to somehow insert an Afghan into a region that may be more interesting, as I did when I brought a two year old wounded Afghan girl, with her father, to my town. I also brought others here to visit, and it was very interesting to see our two cultures mesh in some places, or clash in others.

    — Larry

  7. Tina Hoggatt on December 4, 2010 at 10:56 am

    I would be interested in how you develop your plot. I would imagine that you have method and that there is also the serendipitous inspiration or intuition as you work. I would also find methods of moving story along and answering character motivations and with methods other than outline very useful. I find outlines difficult to get excited about, while at the same time I understand that they make writing easier. Tricks for helping oneself discover truth about character or scene while working through a novel would be really helpful. I am so excited to hear you are working on this book about craft. Cannot wait!

  8. Judy on December 4, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    At what point do you let a good story get in the way of truth?

  9. Gail Lelyveld on December 5, 2010 at 6:40 am

    This is Gail Lelyveld. I am interested in the none book writing way you do
    things. I marvel at how you can write a blog, write, do housewifely thing
    or do you. How many are on your staff? Do you have help with the blog? I
    assume you have researchers. Is your business the size of the Maine King?
    Do you have a personal assistant? How do you work and keep the whole thing
    going? Gail

  10. kitty macey on December 5, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    HI, I would love to know as do a few others how you find the time to do what you do. I am a college professor ( a costume designer really) and I am trying to write as well as teach, design, mentor,go to conferences, be a mom, a wife, a reiki master, and just kick back and relax some time. That would be great.

  11. Dawn on December 6, 2010 at 6:47 pm


    Mary Russell is the greatest new character to hit the literary scene in 50 years. Is there any way to get PBS to make this into a series for Masterpiece Mystery? Casting would be crucial to have a Mary who could be believable at 15 and meeting Holmes and then going on to become his wife…..and we would certainly not want that arrogant ass Rupert Everett as Holmes (Holmes would NEVER have treated Watson as cruelly as Everett did when he played Holmes). Your books have the potential to be one of the greatest series ever on PBS. Perhaps you could write a script for Beekeepers Apprentice and AMROW for Rebecca Eaton to review. A Monstrous Regiment of Women would be excellent on screen as well. We want Mary Russell !!

  12. Pat Floyd on December 8, 2010 at 11:41 am

    An appeal of your books for me and for many others is their depth. You deal with human issues of love, family, loss, disappointment, anger, grief, and redemption and with many larger social issues. I would be interested in your reflections on ways personal convictions and experiences enrich one’s art.

    Furthermore, I appreciate reading about current issues that concern you deeply, something you have shared from time to time in the past. This latter suggests the topic of the risks writers take of polarizing readers and alienating publishers when they write about controversial convictions. Also, the extent to which something can be understood and accepted when presented in story form and/or historical context that would otherwise raise red flags.

  13. Lila Grace on December 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    How do you incorporate expert knowledge of a topic into a story? For example, Mary Russell studies theology and a good amount of her research becomes part of your books. How do you layer it in, and when do you know how much is enough? And how do you make sure that what you write sounds like a story, and not a research paper?

  14. Marisa on December 10, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    I’ve enjoyed your books for many years, and I feel like I’ve grown up with Russell (minus, of course, the life or death adventures, famous husband, and academic interests).

    I recently came back from a trip to SF, and while I’d been there before, I’d never been to Alcatraz Island. I know that the history (or at least the Hollywood version of it) is fairly well-known, but I was fascinated of the idea of seeing a “total institution” where prisoners and guards alike lived on an island. It struck me as to how similar their lives must have been in some ways, routinized by the same forces, and I wonder how it impacted the relationship between them.

    It also made me think about those whodoneit-type of mysteries, where the entire cast of suspects is trapped in some space, and the amateur detective or whatever has to figure out who did it. I’ve never figured out why authors do this, since it always seems so unrealistic to me (and oftentimes, the relationships between the characters are pretty uninteresting). And one of the reasons I feel like it’s unrealistic is because there’s usually nothing particular about the place itself that shapes them, like a total institution would. One of the reasons I really like your books is that I feel like you give a depth not just to characters (“good” and “bad” guys), but also to the settings where you place them.

    So I’m not really sure if this is an idea or not, or if it’s just a long-winded complement, but I always enjoy your perspective on things. It’s very refreshing!

  15. Marisa on December 10, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Hi Laurie,

    Sorry for butting in here twice, but your post got me thinking…it would be really interesting to explore different theories of crime in a blog post. Fiction aside, there are tons of interesting criminological theories, and I wonder which ones your characters would buy into.

  16. Steffi on December 11, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks a lot for being so open about your readers’ ideas. That’s amazing! As for what would be interesting to read… I think what especially interests me when it comes to writing crime stories or novels (particular novels as they tend to be longer) is how you plan the plot. Meaning how do you manage to drop all the little hints and bits and pieces that enables the main characters (for ex. Mary Russell and Holmes) to solve the case and yet confound the reader that much so that s/he doesn’t see what’s going on. Meaning how do you make sure you’ve knoted up all the different plot- and hint-lines without having to take recourse to a deus ex machina at the end because you’ve overlooked some loose ends (unless your aim is loose ends).

    Another ‘interest’ of mine (both academic research and professional interest) is how you look at translations (and I know this is only loosely connected to writing crime fiction)? What is important in your opinion to translate ‘well’? That the translator loves crime fiction, that s/he knows the characters well (for ex. the Mary Russell series) or do you think a good feel for language is enough? This came because when I had a quiet moment recently I sat down with ‘A Monstrous Regiment of Women’ and compared your original English text with an extract from the German translation and immediately stumbled over at least three instances where I thought ‘hm, the translator might right on the literal language-side of things but that’s not the spirit of Mary Russell nor how this scene might be meant to appear (when viewed as ‘one part after several parts’ since this is not the first book in the series’). Would be interesting to hear your opinion about this.

    A third thing (sorry to take up some more space) is more ‘would you consider writing about this in particulary the Mary Russell series’ (and again: out of personal interest/package). Would you consider bringing the topic of sexual violence into these books or into the Russell-Holmes relationship? How would that fit into a crime novel (apart from being a crime of course)? Are there any specific crime-related topics, do you think, or could everything be part of a crime novel set in a specific time and place and between specific people? You already introduced a lesbian into a novel (which I liked a lot), so what about the ‘negative, more animalistic side’ of human sexuality? Not necessarily through a graphic description more along the lines of… I don’t know… do you know the film ‘The Seven-per-cent solution’ with Holmes and Sigmund Freud? Am thinking of the way how Freud is trying to find out why Holmes have started using cocaine.

    And now I shut up; sorry for length.

  17. Heather Ormsby on December 11, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Research! How you go about it? When is it enough? How do you stop yourself from getting carried away?
    I love the historical settings of your Russell books, and certainly a lot of research had to go into writing them? It would be too embarassing to get something wrong about the period that would distract from the story telling. But do you have to become an expert to write about it?

  18. Micheal Barker-Hamm on December 13, 2010 at 11:11 am

    I think The BeeKeeper’s Apprentice is your best book. Mainly because it’s the first book of yours that I’ve read. But trust me, I will read more. You have inspired me to write my own books. I will definitely not be as good as you, but I will do my best. Thank you.

  19. Tiffany on December 13, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    You’ve mentioned (more than once I believe) a visit to Japan made by Russell and Holmes on their round-the-world trip. I’m just waiting for you to jump back in time (like in O, Jerusalem) and tell us what happened there. I think it would be a great book- I loved Israel in ‘O, Jerusalem’, and India in ‘The Game’. So do you think you might take us readers there?
    I read a lot… a LOT, and your books rank high up there with me, lady! Keep up the fantastic work.

  20. Vicky on December 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I would be interested in your decisions to write the Russell books mostly in the first person. Do you find first person or third person easier to write?

  21. Cora on December 26, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    When will we see more kate martinelli?

    • Laurie King on December 30, 2010 at 8:10 pm

      Sorry, there won’t be any Martinellis for a while, heaven only knows how long…

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