It seems simple for some authors. Agatha Christie once indicated ideas came without bidding. Many current authors produce two, three, four books or more every year. How do they do it?
I have difficulty coming up with a single scenario, and I’ll discuss my pain in creating one in a future posting. But how do I even get started?
“Write about what you know.” I imagine many have heard that excellent advice at sometime or other. Sounded like good guidance to me.
So what did I know? Well, I’ve been a nerd all my life, graduating with degrees first in electrical engineering and then math. My employed life was in industry followed by four decades of university teaching and research. Perhaps a university setting?
That’s when I met Elmo.
As the story developed I decided I wanted a brilliant but somewhat childish mathematician to provide both a little comic relief and a gifted mind that could help solve a murder. Ergo, Elmo!
“I said I’d be glad to help him.”
“Yes, Elmo, I remember.”
“Told him it’d be real good to spin a university tale. And if he got in trouble, I figured I could solve any problem he conjured. I guess I did, huh, Bob?”
“You did, Elmo. You were a big help, but others also contributed.”
“I know. Nice bunch of people they were, too. Became good friends with ‘em.”
Two of those others were Jim and Donna Albright, mentioned in my first blog. He’s another mathematician, competent but not in Elmo’s class. I like to think of him as a better version of me.
Thus, with Elmo’s encouragement, I created my first novel, Math Is Murder. Then my second, Murder By the Numbers, a sequel that also features Elmo, Jim and Donna.
The titles suggest math themes because again that’s an area in which I have some expertise. But I suspected not everyone would be thrilled with that.
“It’s true, Elmo.”
So I came up with plots in which you don’t have to understand or even like math at all. I hope you’ll give them a try. They also provide some insights into university life.
After those first two books, though, I was a bit tired of the setting, hopefully only temporarily.
So, for my third book, I searched for another area of my competence. What else did I know? I’ve been a runner for over half my life, including eight half marathons. Not a big jump to set my next book, You’re Almost There, in the running community. That’s the one I thought Elmo could not be in, but there he was. Funny how that happened, because it definitely was not in my original plan.
By this time I had exhausted areas of any knowledge. I have several ideas for future stories in the university or running areas, but I wanted to try something else.
Dare I attempt a theme completely outside my experiences? Sure. Why not? So Patriotism was born.
In writing Patriotism, a story of political intrigue, I had to deal with a lot unknown to me. But that’s a familiar problem as there’s much I didn’t know even for books in my so-called areas of expertise. After all, I have no first hand knowledge about murderers or law enforcement (except for my speeding ticket) or the workings of commercial grade kitchens. So I have to learn. Often I can seek out experts in fields where I’m weak. At other times there’s Google.
I think Patriotism turned out well, and it has been a fun experience. I’m not going to limit myself in the subjects I explore.
“Good, Bob. Looking forward to being in your next book.”