I Feel Broad Already

imageMark Terry is guest-blogging today on my favorite subject: travel. The Fallen, in his Derek Stillwater series, just came out, and he also has his bestselling Joanna Dancing thriller, Dancing in the Dark, available exclusively on Kindle. Check them out! You can read more about his writing life at his blog.

Natasha and her SO packed up their belongings and hit the road. I envy them.

Oh, who am I kidding? You couldn’t pay me enough money to live out of a frickin’ camper! I prefer not to cross the great outdoors for my nighttime wee-wee breaks, thank you very much. As a woman I worked with once said, “If there’s not a mint on the pillow, it’s camping.” (Okay, I’m not quite that bad.)

But they say travel is broadening and although my doctor says imageI’m broad enough already, I do like travel. Most of my travel these days is work related. I edit a technical journal, and the organization involved hosts a technical meeting every year in a different city— this year it’s Phoenix, Arizona; last year it was Jacksonville, Florida. For this meeting alone I’ve spent a week in Cincinnati, Denver, Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Houston. Other business trips have taken me to Washington DC, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

Series fiction is often built in a specific city—Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in Boston; Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, and Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware all in Los Angeles; Rick Riordan’s Tres Navarre, who may have retired, in San Antonio.

image My Derek Stillwater changes cities every book. In The Devil’s Pitchfork it was Baltimore and Washington, DC. In The Serpent’s Kiss it was Detroit (more or less my home town). In The Fallen, my latest novel, it’s a resort outside Colorado Springs. The next book, scheduled for September 2011, takes place predominantly in Los Angeles. And the Derek Stillwater novel I’m working on now takes place in Moscow, Russia.

Lee Child’s novels featuring Jack Reacher also have a different setting for each book. So, for that matter, do most espionage novels, which my novels more closely resemble than Lee Child’s Reacher novels.

But setting is important. Unfortunately, I probably won’t be going to Moscow to research this book. In fact, I almost didn’t start it because of that. I have a story idea that could take Derek to Jacksonville and I spent a very hot week there last year. After Russia, if Derek and I are still dating, I expect Jacksonville to figure in a book, unless something in particular strikes me about Phoenix.

So I’ll be curious to see if Natasha’s travels influence her work.

How about you? Do your travels affect your writing?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,

The Great Gap

The gap between taste and skill is torturous. Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life explains about the most frustrating period in an artists’ development in the video below: that is, when your taste far outweighs your skill to deliver content that lives up to your taste.

“Your taste is still killer. And your taste is good enough that you can tell that what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you… that you can tell that it’s still sort of crappy.”

Glass claims that most of the creative people who he’s known have lived in that phase for years. He lived there for eight years, he says in the interview.

I’ve been chasing that gap since I started writing. It is probably why I always hate my work when it’s finished. There’s always a betrayal of what I’d hoped for, what I’d dreamed of delivering. Sure, there a couple I’m proud of, now, but the rest? Oh man, how the shortfalls torture one!

He says people outgrow this phase. I’m not feeling hopeful at the moment. It’s true: I am proud of a few of my last ones. They are closer to being the writer I want to be, and I’m not sure I would change or could change the books into something better: books are limited to the level at which you are when you begin them. Maybe you can make it a perfect book at that level, but all the editing in the world won’t make it as good as the best book you’ll write ten years down the line. Some knowledge just has to be there before you begin, has to be an organic component of the process, a part of your subconscious understanding.

Glass says that the most important thing you can do during this phase is just to do “a huge volume of work.”

I’ve written and sold a million words. (I was close two years ago before I lost the paper keeping track.) I’ve been writing for just over eight years. I still feel like I’m chasing that gap, like I’ll be forever chasing that gap. I do feel closer, but it’s a definitely a daily battle.

Part of the problem is that I work on improving my taste as much as I work on improving my writing skill. That’s sort of a two-edged sword, isn’t it? Because if you keep on improving your taste, then your skill can never catch up.

I guess I can live with that.

Do you struggle with the gap? Have you ever conquered it? Is it behind you? Is there hope? Or do we just have to enjoy living in the gap?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing,Writing Craft | Tags: , ,

From Russia With Irving

image Time changes a story. I first read John Irving in college. I’m not sure how I discovered him or why I fell in love, but I did. Lately, I’ve been revisiting his works.

It’s funny how different they are. Part of it is age. Another part of it is that I first read Irving as someone who never imagined she would write; now I read Irving as someone who’s written. Before I enjoyed the story and the characters, and now I’m still enjoying the story and the characters, but I can see the craft, too.

Below is one of the best interviews I’ve seen with John Irving. He talks about his life, how he writes, and his stories.

What stories have changed for you, upon re-reading years later? Are you a re-reader? Do you have a favorite novelist?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Writers on Writing | Tags: , ,

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