Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A PEEK BEHIND THE CURTAIN OF CRAFTING A TRIOLOGY





Ever wonder what goes on BEHIND the BOOK? Here is a behind the scenes look at how my HarperCollins Trilogy (City for Ransom, Shadows in White City, and City of the Absent – recently released for Kindle sales all over again) came about in the first place:


City for Ransom by Robert W. Walker, Avon\HarperCollins, 349 pgs., $6.77 pub. Date Dec. 28th 2007

I wrote City for Ransom, a big departure from my Instinct and Edge series work largely out of frustration that’d set in around the forensic novel right about the first CSI episodes and all the clones. I asked a simple question: “What’d the cops do before forensics?”


The answer sent me to gaslight Chicago 1893, a time when animal and human blood remained a mystery! Instantly, I knew I’d have to act the detective to ferret out the retired owner of the defunct Chicago history only bookstore--Chicago Book Exchange. I eventually learned that the bookstore “lived” in a small bungalow in Evanston, Illinois, a house that held the Exchange stacks! Mr. Kenan Heise had years before helped another ‘upstart’ author, my hero, John Jakes in a similar request when Jakes needed information about Chicago history for North and South.


I felt in the right place, in the right company, purchased $300 worth of titles on Chicago crime and medical history, and the final result is City for Ransom and its sequel Shadows in White City with a 3rd Ransom title in the works.


My “mission” was to create a detective like none other, one not always capable but always determined—a kind of bumbling fellow who cleans up well and can make the recovery sooner than the discovery, a kind of fellow who must remember to straighten up, a sort of lumbering bear who can, if pushed, strike like a viper. “The entire time I spent writing Ransom, I kept seeing the actor Brian Dennehey. I wanted to team Alastair with a female partner of sorts, but while there were women working for the Pinkerton Detective Agency, there were no feminine police inspectors at that time. So I drew on research about women doctors of the era and out of this came Dr. Jane Francis Tewes.


My novels have always had the reputation of being like a poison-tinged knife being twisted in the dark, of characters standing against all odds with only half the facts to stave off the evil—certainly the case with Alalstair Ransom and Dr. Tewes. With the World’s Fair as backdrop, you can’t imagine the amount of research required to bring this era to life. I am a stickler for making the story compelling. To make 1893 as compelling as a current day novel is the task I set for myself. I consciously used contractions and speed of language, active sentences, and a suspenseful narrative voice. I wanted it to read as effortlessly as any novel set in the here and now.

At the same time, I wanted to maintain my gallows humor….and I weaved in laugh out loud ‘stuff’ throughout. I always feel that if it makes me laugh, then I know there’s a sick element in there somewhere worth laughing about. I consciously wanted a Conan Doyle feel to the book, but also a Dickensian feel as well. Both of which, I believe I accomplished with my own style overlaying all.


My readership loves the intelligence of my main characters who are articulate and knowledgeable in the arts, letters, history, music, the bible, mythology, psychology and now pseudo-sciences of 1893, such as phrenology and spiritualism. City for Ransom is a culmination of my career, the book I feel I was born to write. As a native Chicagoan who points to the fact I “survived” both inner-city Chicago crime-ridden streets and the Chicago Public Schools to go on to earn a teaching degree and a masters at Northwestern University, one can well believe that yes, this is the book that I was meant to write, along with Ransom sequels. While born in Corinth, Mississippi, I’ve lived in Chicago since age four.


The real story behind the story might well be this: When I delivered the manuscript to my editor, she immediately pointed out a line in our contract that I’d ignored stating the book length be 85,000 words. The script I delivered was 140,000 words. It took three consecutive rewrites back-to-back and a ton of coffee to reduce the story to 90,000 words, but I had just created three short story for the horror anthology Small Bites –in which all stories had to be five hundred (500 )words. I learned to cut big time doing the three Small Bites stories accepted. I took what I learned from that exercise to Ctiy for Ransom, and without having had the Small Bites experience, I don’t know how I would have managed to cut the novel by 40-50,000 words! Thankfully, I was able to use most of what was cut for Shadows in White City, sequel to City for Ransom.


My next book returns me and my readers to present day Atlanta, Georgia and is an equally wild ride, a kind of modern day NOIR was my intention in crafting DEAD ON which sees print from Five Star in July. But anyone can sample in now and until July at my website www.robertwalkerbooks.com

Thanks to Marilyn Meredith for indulging me here at her blog! It’s been a gas. I’d be happy to return some time and discuss the BEHIND the scenes stuff for DEAD ON if she’ll have me back!

Rob Walker


Note from Marilyn: I've read all the books that he talks about here and they are great. I'm definitely a fan and I'd love to have Rob back to talk about the behind the scenes stuff for Dead On.

5 comments:

Sharon said...

Delighted to have found your blog and I'm looking forward to reading your books on Chicago. Best wishes.

Sharon said...

Delighted to have found your blog and I look forward to reading your books on Chicago. Best wishes.

Sharon said...

...I meant Walker's books. Silly me.

F. M. Meredith, author said...

If you want to see what Rob and his dog look like, click on that little sliver to the right, for some reason I didn't get that on their right. I'm a bit computer challenged.

I'm going to have Rob on again later this month or next to talk about his newest book, promise I'll have Rob's pic so you can see it.

Marilyn

Morgan Mandel said...

I wish I wrote too much and had to cut it down, but I have to struggle to get my word count up.

Hope you deducted all those expenses - $300 for research books, wow!

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com