Finding our muses
My mysteries are somewhat organic: I just write. Every book starts with something important to me that I want to say (the obscenity of companion animals used in lab experiments in STOLEN; the cruel uselessness of cosmetics testing on animals in SACRIFICED). I do research. Then I decide who is going to bring this new “case” to my investigator, Kieran Yeats, what the roles of the recurring secondary characters will be, what the sub-plot will entail, and so on. But I don’t make an outline. Things just “grow”, like Topsy. I always know how my book will start and I spend a lot of time on Chapter One — the hook, the description of the crime. I’m very intent on drawing the reader in. And I always know how the book will end — I can see the ending in my mind. In between, well, it’s an adventure. I realize that other writers are more left-brained about things, but alas, I’m not. We all have to find what works for us. I’ve taken plenty of writing courses over the years, and each one has taught me something, but what I’ve learned from them is that I have to go my own way. I’m guided by William Stafford’s poem called “When I Met My Muse” and I hope I don’t get sued for quoting the whole thing here. But it’s for an educational purpose, wink, wink.
When I Met My Muse
I glanced at her and took my glasses
off —they were still singing. They buzzed
like a locust on the coffee table and then
ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the
sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and
knew the nails up there took a new grip
on whatever they touched. “I am your own
way of looking at things,” she said. “When
you allow me to live with you, every
glance at the world around you will be
a sort of salvation.” And I took her hand.
by William Stafford