I’ll admit, I’m nervous to be here. Okay, we’ll say terrified.
I’ve been a regular visitor and fan of Murderati for a couple years. I met JT, Rob, Brett and Toni at Thrillerfest in 2006 and we hung out. We were in Arizona and there was something about that first ITW conference that was intoxicating. Not just the drinks, but the atmosphere. I mean where else could a newly published author like myself walk into a bar and see Lee Child hanging out? Or share a ride with the classy and smart and talented Tess Gerritsen? I felt out of my element. I wasn’t a real thriller writer, after all. I write romantic suspense. A little sex, a little violence, and the guarantee that my hero and heroine are going to survive and be together at the end of the book.
I felt far more comfortable with the Killer Year gang–the soon-to-be-published thriller writers of 2007. Sure, I had three books out in 2006, but they didn’t really count as three because they came out bang-bang-bang in consecutive months. It was *like* having just one book release.
Today, I feel just like I did two years ago when I stepped into the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. A bit in awe, shocked I’m here, happy as a clam, and feeling a bit unworthy. (Four cliches in one sentence! How about that.)
I rarely write anything profound. Occasionally, I can turn a phrase and impress myself, but usually I write how I talk–too long with lots of tangents. One thing I love about writing novels over short stories is that I have 100,000 words to play with. I can throw out all these threads and have plenty of time to tie them together. When I write short, it’s painful. Agonizing. My high school American History teacher gave me an “A-” on my final essay because I, “So eloquently said in ten pages what could easily have been said in five.”
The other bloggers here at Murderati have backgrounds that are professional, interesting or fun. Doctors, attorneys, executives, business owners. They’re smart, profound, and probably read all those intelligent literary books that make them even smarter and more profound. They care about the words, what they mean, and how they look and sound together. They anguish over making a sentence just right, to leave just the right image in the reader’s mind. Don’t try to deny it, I’ve read your blog posts, I know this about you.
I envy you. Sure, I get excited when I come up with something that sounds so good I can’t believe I wrote it. Those are the sentences that usually get deleted during revisions. I recently had one of those, “Wow, I can’t believe I wrote that” moments.
Okay, tangent time . . . I don’t plot. Ever. Even when I think I know where the story is going, it doesn’t go there. For example, I just finished writing SUDDEN DEATH (4/09). About two weeks before I was done, my editor needed a synopsis for the two books that follow it (for sales, art and the copy editors.) They had to know what the books were about so they could write cover copy. (Okay, tangent again — I wrote a synopsis for SD before I wrote the book because they needed it . . . I didn’t expect the cover copy so soon, and I sort of forgot to tell my editor that the story wasn’t what I said it would be. The cover copy sounded terrific–except I hadn’t written that book. We fixed it.) Anyway, back to the first tangent . . . I still had 100 or so pages to write for SUDDEN DEATH and I wrote a new synop and figured I knew how the book was going to end, I was so close to the climax, right? I finished the book Thursday. It didn’t end anything like I thought it would. You can see that writing a synopsis is paralyzing for me because NEVER has a book turned out remotely like the synopsis.
I wrote a brief synopsis (about 3 paragraphs each) for FATAL SECRETS and CUTTING EDGE, books 2 and 3 of my FBI trilogy. Immediately, I knew book 2 wasn’t going to work. The characters were wrong, the premise was great–but the story would be boring. I could see it. I put myself to sleep just thinking about it. And then woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat fearing I was stuck writing a boring book. So I emailed my editor and said, um, don’t send FS to copy because I’m not going to write that book. It doesn’t work.
But I’m getting excited about book 3 because already I can see all the possible threads and potential outcomes. Within the short synopsis I laid out I can go in infinite directions. I like my characters, they’ve walked right in and made themselves at home. I see them. My villain creeps me out, always a good sign. The story doesn’t have to go the way I think it might, because the set-up works. I have many paths my characters can choose.
My “wow” moment came Thursday when my editor sent me the draft back cover copy. I read it and loved it. I wanted to read the book! Well, first I have to write it, but still, I couldn’t believe they extracted that cool story out of my pathetic synopsis. The copy is going to be hard to live up to.
I get thrilled very easily. I lead a very boring life. When you get excited about touring the morgue or going to the gun range to shoot guns you can’t buy in California (but it was okay, because they were cops letting us shoot them–I wasn’t breaking any laws, so please don’t turn me in. Okay, I did break one law last week when I talked on my cell phone not using the hands free device that I hate, but the kids were in the car and the story I was hearing was not fit for their ears . . . )
So, anyway, I’m rather simple. You probably won’t get any brilliant commentary from my blog posts or find me as crafty as Alex or laugh-out-loud funny as Toni or as poignant as Pari. I love wine like JT, but for me it’s either, “This is really good” or “This is crap.” I often start talking about one thing, and end on a completely different note . . . for example, I originally planned to introduce myself here on Murderati with a post about why I love to write romantic suspense. I even talked out my blog while driving home after dropping the kids off at school Friday morning. You can see from my opening, where I mention I write romantic suspense, that I did intend to come back to that at some point. But this is already running long and — wait!! I now have a blog topic next time. Woo hoo, I’m already ahead of the game. 🙂 And I didn’t even plan it.
I thought I would share a couple facts about me you may or may not know:
** I have five kids. (Yes, I know where babies come from and how they are made.)
** I’m a college drop-out. UC Santa Cruz. Yes, our mascot was the banana slug. . . . okay, stop laughing. Seriously. It’s not that funny. It’s actually quite weird and disturbing. But . . . I suppose I saw this fate in my future. When I was 10, a columnist for the San Mateo Times, John Horgan (who was my uncle’s college roommate,) wrote a column titled, “Allison and the Banana Slug.” Yeah, I was THAT Allison. The rest is history. Please rewrite it.
** I love video games. It’s sad. I’m going to be 39 this month.
** I wrote a gushing fan letter to Stephen King when I was 13 and he wrote me back.
** When I was a kid, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist. Why? Because Quincy was my favorite tv show. (Yes, I know it’s not realistic. There was never any blood.) When I did my morgue tour last year and observed an autopsy, I realized that I wasn’t as squeamish as I thought. Maybe I should have pursued that career path . . . naw.
In light of my virgin post here at Murderati, I’m going to give away some books. Why not, right? And I’m being perfectly selfish in my gift-giving. The last book of my prison break trilogy comes out at the end of the month. I want to suck you in with the first two books so you’ll run out and buy PLAYING DEAD on September 30th. See, I’m really not a nice person . . . just ask my fourteen year old daughter who thinks I’m evil, don’t care, don’t understand, and just plain mean because I won’t let her date until she’s 16. And sometimes I think it’s odd that my agent has to preface any conversation about me with, “Allison is really very nice, honest . . . “
To win, all you have to do is comment. And maybe tell us one thing we don’t know about you. I’ll randomly pick five winners over the course of the week and ask Toni (please!) to post them next Sunday.
Thanks, gang, for having me. I’m truly honored to be here.