Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Writer's Quandary

With A PERILOUS CONCEPTION, due out next month, I'm currently in that stretch of time called Promotions, when a writer sets aside writing stories in favor of blog posts, interviews, and inquiries to bookshops, all calculated to get people interested in reading the upcoming masterwork.

Whenever I've been in this space before, I've known what my next book would be, and used the back of my mind (and copious numbers of sticky notes and hotel scratch pads) to jot down ideas, so that once I'd completed my promo efforts, I could sail full tilt into my upcoming story.

This time, though, it's different.

While I was writing my ragtime trilogy, a friend who was helping with genealogical research got to fooling around online one day, and found census records which indicated that my mother, who always claimed she'd been an only child, did in fact have two younger sisters. There they were in the 1920 census - but in 1930, their lines in the census report had been crossed out. My mother was a serious narcissist who had been very strongly attached to her father, and on learning the news, my sister and I had word-for-word reactions: "I'll bet she killed them so she could have her darling father all to herself." Nice start for a mystery novel.

Then, during my early medical training, I participated in a botched surgery that was so horrific, I still dream about it. For years now, it's been crying for fictional treatment.

I thought I might be able to combine the two, but probably not. They work together about as well as two other ideas of mine that started life as conjoined twins, but finally evolved into separate existences as THE RAGTIME KID and THE KING OF RAGTIME.

Complicating the situation, last spring I acquired a collection of manuscripts, musical compositions, correspondence, business records, and personal effects of Brun Campbell, the real-life Ragtime Kid, who died in 1952. Much of it is material Brun once hoped to publish, but never did, and it needs to be carefully preserved, then organized into a nonfiction book, probably with an accompanying CD.

So for once, I'm looking forward to finishing my promotional work on a book with as much apprehension as eagerness. Imagine having made marriage overtures to three lovely women, then facing a deadline to choose among them, and wondering whether you might be able to carry off being a bigamist, or even...what would it be, a trigamist? A pigamist?

Well, I guess I'll just have to see how it works out. In the meanwhile, I feel like Carmen Cohen, the little girl with a Latino mother and a Jewish father. Her father's family called her Cohen; her mother's relatives called her Carmen, so the poor kid didn't know whether she was Carmen or Cohen.


john M. Daniel said...

Larry, from what you've told me about your mother, I'm rooting for the mystery of the missing sisters. Since you're going to depart from the facts anyway, I don't see why you can't somehow work in the botched surgery, although that would make another fine novel, the next one down the pipe. Meanwhile, though I don't know the female equivalent of "fratricide," there lies my vote.

Larry said...

Thanks, John. I always appreciate your suggestions, and will give this one serious consideration. So far, the botched surgery plot seems more eager to hatch a protagonist and run, and the 2 stories together seem like oil and water. Go figure. One point in favor of the BS story is that it may present an opportunity for a bit of interesting fantasy. Actually, I'll be talking to my son and daughter in law tonight, both avid fantasy readers, and if they shoot down my idea as horribly overdone or otherwise awful, I may go back to the missing sisters. One way or t'other, I think these 2 *will* be my next books. And my Word Perfect folder for the sisters book is called "Sororicide." I think it's a neologism, but OK - as you say, what else could I call it?