Happy Martin Luther King Jr's Birthday, Constant Reader!
I have a lot to do today, but it's not a holiday for Paul AND he had early morning meetings, so here I sit at my desk, the entire day yawning in front of me. I have editing to do, revising to do, cleaning to do, and reading to do. Of course, I could have done a lot of this over the weekend, but somehow (like always) time slipped away from me.
A while back (several years, in fact) I wrote a series of posts about how my novels came to be written. I don't really remember how or why I started doing this, I just know that I did, and I think I stopped at Murder in the Garden District, aka Chanse V. (I remember writing about how I adapted the plot from a novel I wrote when I was twenty--NEVER THROW ANYTHING AWAY!). But I never continued after that point, at least not that I recall.
So, I suppose the next novel after that one was Vieux Carre Voodoo.
I love treasure hunts. That's one of the reasons why I love the Indiana Jones movies so much, and why I read Steve Berry's novels and yes, Dan Brown's(I know it's fashionable to bash him--nothing like success to make one a target, but I will say I do enjoy reading his books). Many of the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew mysteries (and all the other series as well) books were, in fact, treasure hunts where a puzzle had to be figured out and then the treasure was found (one of the absolute best was The Mystery of the Laughing Shadow, a Three Investigators mystery). I also have always loved history, so treasure hunts steeped in a historical mystery--well, it's like I've died and gone to heaven.
When I was a kid, I checked out my first Phyllis A. Whitney mystery for teens out of the elementary school library--The Secret of the Tiger's Eye. It was set in Cape Town, and it was in the reading of this book in the racially charged 1960's that I first learned of South Africa's policy of apartheid, and I will never forget Ms. Whitney's description of how to pronounce it: "like apart-hate." During the course of the book, our heroine Benita read a classic novel called The Moonstone, which of course intrigued me. I checked it out from the public library but it was a bit much for my nine year old self to read.
I went back to it when I was in my late teens, and loved it. I've reread it several times since.
So, where we last left off the Scotty series was I'd turned in a proposal for Scotty IV called Hurricane Party Hustle along with the manuscript for Mardi Gras Mambo three weeks before Hurricane Katrina rolled ashore and the levees failed. I emailed my editor, obviously, you can toss that proposal--can't write that one now. Kensington was enormously patient; by the time I decided I could continue the Scotty series, a lot of time had passed, the year to write it and the year it would take to go through the whole publication cycle would make it four or five years since the previous one; and they just felt the series would have lost its traction by then. And while I didn't want to leave Scotty and Frank hanging in perpetuity the way I had at the end of Mardi Gras Mambo, it looked as though I'd have no choice.
But when Bold Strokes Books took Rough Trade after the sale of Haworth orphaned it, I was really pleased with the entire experience. I loved the cover they gave the book, I loved working with them--the entire experience was so amazingly pleasant that I thought, you know, you could write Scotty IV for Bold Strokes, if they want it. So, I tentatively emailed Radclyffe...and the rest is history.
I was, actually, rather frightened when I started writing this book. I had changed so dramatically in the wake of Katrina and everything else that had happened in my life prior to that; I wasn't sure if I even had a sense of humor anymore, let alone had the ability to write something light and funny, especially since it seemed almost disrespectful to write something funny about New Orleans--even though it had been several years, a lot of people were still suffering and the recovery/rebuilding was nowhere near complete (it still isn't, and people are still suffering). But I remembered getting really hammered with another local author one night after a Banned Books reading, and in the car on the ride home I brought the subject and he told me, in no uncertain terms as we hurtled around Lee Circle that 'of course you can write it, and maybe we all could use a bit of a laugh these days.' As I have nothing but the greatest respect for Other Local Author, I wrote that down on a piece of paper and stuck it to the wall over my desk so I could reassure myself any time I lost my way or lost my confidence.
My intent with the book, frankly, was to finish Scotty's story, and resolve all the personal issues I'd left up in the air in the previous book. I also wanted to do a treasure hunt as a tribute to The Moonstone, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to start the book. I knew the treasure was a jewel stolen from an idol in southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and one of the thieves had to be a family friend...but for the life of me couldn't figure out how to start the damned thing. Then, one day as I was walking to pick up my lunch from the Nelli Deli in the Quarter from the office I walked underneath a balcony, my iPod on, and when I came out on the other side was completely soaked by someone on the balcony above watering their plants.Since my earbuds in, I didn't realize I swore quite as loudly as I did, and when I looked up, I realized I actually knew the person--who was most apologetic--it really isn't a big deal, and as I said, "hey, no worries, I should have remembered rule number one of walking under balconies" it came to me in a flash--this was the opening of the book; and I saw it in my head--Scotty in a speedo getting soaked. As I walked on to the Nelly Deli, it all started coming together in my head--Scotty is in a white speedo because he's riding in the Easter Parade and his mom made him wear a gay Easter bunny costume; the water makes the white suit see-through, and the person on the balcony is the family friend...and the family friend passes on something to Scotty that contains a vital clue to where the jewel is actually hidden.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book. Coming up with the clues, going around New Orleans looking for inspiration for the clues as well as making sure they worked--such a blast. In fact, one day I was walking around my neighborhood verifying all of this in the pouring rain--and I added that in to the story. I also had to do a book signing in Houston when I was struggling with a scene with Mossad agents, and as I stood outside the store smoking, Rhonda and Lindsay came riding up on their motorcycle and I thought to myself, of course! Make the Mossad agents NINJA LESBIANS!
And when it was finished and I'd turned it in, I was rather pleased with myself. I'd given Scotty a wonderful send-off, and a chapter of my writing life had been closed.
Thanks for sharing that - I love treasure hunts / mystery stories combined, too!
It's great to know you finally found inspiration from something so close to home - often it's the way I suppose, you worry and fret over something for ages and then a simple act kicks your thought processes into gear!
Three cheers for balcony plant watering!