Living vicariously through your characters

Authors note: My third novel z2 is currently on blog tour through the fine folks at Reading Addiction Virtual Book Tours. The post below is part of that tour and it appeared a a couple of weeks ago on a blog called My Devotional Thoughts. It was inspired by a post I wrote here back in 2012, three whole books ago. A lot has changed for me since then, but apparently other things haven’t changed much at all.

Should you write about what know already, or about things that you wish you could do? Conventional wisdom says that your books should be about things you know. However, writing a novel takes a tremendous amount of research, planning and day dreaming. I’ve decided to use that energy to enter worlds I barely know but have always wanted to visit.

sailboatWith my first novel, x0, I adhered to normal perhaps a little too well. The hero of x0 spends her days largely doing what I do, interpreting seismic data for an oil company. She loves her husband and three children, plants flowers and loves to travel.  Okay, she also spends a little time reading minds, but other than that she and I both have similar lives.

By the time I started y1, the second novel in this collection, I was getting restless. I have always wanted to learn to sail, and to visit the South Pacific. My husband has no interest in the first and little in the second. That’s when I discovered one of the reasons that I write.

Guess whose second book takes place on a sailboat in the Pacific? y1 let me not only learn to sail, it let me hear the sounds of the gulls and feel the plunk of the waves hitting my boat. I woke many mornings to the smell of salt air as I studied navigation charts and planned my routes. It was a wonderful year at sea, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Maya 2Of course, my second book took a lot more research than my first and it took longer to write. It got me over being shy as I sought out beta readers who really had sailed, traveled though and even lived in the areas I wrote about. Now they are part of my life, having enriched it with their details of places I may never see.

I once considered being an archeologist, visiting exotic ancient tombs and solving mysteries from times long past. I don’t do that, but as I wrote z2, I swatted mosquitoes in Belize with the best of them as I uncovered artifacts and learned to read numbers in Mayan while I was at it.

Did I mention that I once wanted to climb Mount Everest? I know now that it’s a dangerous and expensive undertaking, but my latest novel c3 boasts a young woman attempting to summit the world’s third highest peak. I climbed every step with her, and I never had to leave my front porch.

It is true that my research slows my writing down, but I consider myself blessed to have the chance to create stories that enable me and others to enjoy alternate existences that would come at too high a price in our real lives.  To me, that is what a book does best.

Creating the future

fractal 3I’m deep into writing d4 now, and am finding that it has an underlying connection with my second novel y1. This doesn’t surprise me, I always saw the second three novels in the collection 46.Ascending as being an “octave up”, if you will, from the first three books. Sort of a one-three-five set of chords played once, and then played again. The simplest of songs, because of course I’m not a song writer, but just a word writer. By our very nature we write simple music.

In y1, my character Toby has no objection to people earning wealth, but he takes offense at those who hold onto the wealth earned by others. I was surprised recently to learn that CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper is the son of blue jean designer and heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, who for philosophical reasons does not intend to pass any of her wealth along to her son. Interesting.

d4 is back to asking questions about wealth and why we are so driven to accumulate it and whether the rules we have in place concerning it are fair. In my research I stumbled on this article from an investment manager who breaks the “top one percent” into smaller increments and describes them. Those in the lower 90 percent of the “top one percent” tend to be doctors, lawyers, middle managers and successful small business owners who have generally Psychedelic 1trained hard and work hard for their money and although they enjoy more, they still struggle with economic concerns. The author contrasts them with the 0.01 percent who claim a considerably larger share of wealth than all the others combined and who benefit specifically from laws and policies that slant the odds ever more in their favor. It is worth reading and thinking about.

I’ve become a big fan of Daily Science Fiction and the story today impressed me more than most, perhaps because it played right into my mood after just finishing the article above. Called “Life on Mars” by Kelly Jennings it tells of the discovery of extraterrestrial life from the point of view of a woman too overworked and tired to really care. It is well worth reading also.

Unlike y1, d4 is a book about the future, and how we create the future every day by the choices that we make. One has to look at the policies we have in place now and wonder about the kind of world we are in the process of making.