Tag: #thrillerwriters

#thrillerwriters

Pay No Attention To My Browsing History…

I’m a mystery writer, not a murderer. Though, anyone looking through a record of my Web searches during the past year could be forgiven for assuming that I’m a human trafficker, drug dealer or worse. Here are a smattering of my searches for The Widower’s Wife: “How many people can squeeze onto a go-fast boat?” “What quantity of drugs have been seized from cigarette boats?” “What is the distance between the Bahamas and Miami?” (follow up)  “How does immigration check passports on day cruises?” “How to sneak into the Miami without documents?” “Average life insurance premiums for a thirty-one year old woman?” I am always surprised by the answers I find to these questions. Thanks to Google’s endless archiving of news articles, there always seems to be a story exploring the very topic in which I am interested, regardless of how lurid. For example, in response to one of these searches, I found a 1994 New York Times Special Report on undocumented immigration that detailed how would-be Americans would sneak aboard day cruise ships and walk into the U.S. without ever showing anyone a passport, Visa or any other kind of documentation. Having spent most of my adult life in a Post-9/11 America where border security has been a chief public safety concern, I could never have imagined that it had once been so easy to come into the country undetected.  For my book, The Widower’s Wife, I took some liberties with the timeline and used many of the methods outlined in the 1994 story. I assume that the “Loophole at the Pier” closed during the past two decades. Though, the cruise industry does have a considerable stake in fighting more stringent border controls given that long lines could sink the business for Caribbean day trips. So, it’s possible that a character could slip through the cracks and enter the country this way. At least, plausible enough for me to add it to my narrative.  The premiums for life insurance policies were also readily available online. MetLife has charts of the average premiums paid by healthy people in various age groups.  As a journalist for more than a decade, I believe in research and writing what I learn rather than just what I already know. The research component is a big part of my process. And, thanks to the endless reams of data online, immersing myself in a subject–even one that might put me on an FBI watch list–has never been easier.    

Read More

The Readers in My Head

I write for me. But editing that way would be too selfish.  At night, when I pour over whatever I penned earlier in the day, I try to wrest myself from my characters’ heads and my own mind and place myself in the heads of three people: my dad, my closest friend from elementary school, and my agent. Each person is very different. And, if I can please these imagined readers, I feel good about continuing my story.  My father is the critic. A sixty-six-year-old, soon-to-be retired accountant, my father scrutinizes stories like a balance sheet, searching for mistakes and plot failings. He wants to point out that something didn’t make sense or that a character’s actions were “unbelievable.” He refuses to allow well-crafted sentences to seduce him into an easy suspension of disbelief. Reading with my father in mind forces me to constantly ask myself whether or not I’ve done enough work to make my characters’ actions natural. If my fiction doesn’t feel truthful, my dad’s voice will accuse me of lying with all the venom of a parent thinking of a punishment for breaking curfew. I’ll need to go back to the drawing board.  My closest friend from elementary school is probably the person in this world most similar to me. She reads often. She likes stories. She enjoys being entertained. However, she’s a super busy working mother with a ton of responsibility. She doesn’t have time for tales that don’t keep the pages turning. If my story is not exciting and the characters are not compelling, she’s going to put it down–even though it was written by her best friend. There are just too many other pressing things demanding her attention. When I’m editing, I imagine her reading my book after putting the children to sleep. Does she place it on the nightstand because she’s tired or can she not help herself even though she knows her kids will wake up early the next morning and she’ll have to get them all ready for camp before heading to the office? If I can still have her imagined attention, then I’m telling an exciting story.  My agent is the seasoned professional. She’s read so many thrillers that few plots seem original and few stories aren’t predictable. She is my barometer for genre aficionados. If I can surprise her with a twist–or at least delay the inevitable guessing until the third act–then I may have something that will please serious mystery readers.  If, in my head, I’ve kept these three people interested in my story, then I’ve done a good job writing something that I can take pride in. If not, I need to write something better the next day when I’m back to being me.   

Read More

Search By Tags