I hope you’ll forgive me this week if I repeat a blog I did over at Sirens of Suspense a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been rushing around like eejits for the past week or more, and although we expected to be home a couple of days ago … we’re not. Long story that involves builders letting people down and the prospect of houses not being finished for Christmas means our DIY skills have been called into service. And, weirdly enough, we rather enjoy it.
Part of the rushing around involved seeing our friend, fellow crime author Anne Zouroudi, doing two events for Kirklees libraries with Penny Grubb and Lesley Horton, plus a crime writing workshop also with Lesley, and interviewing the delightful Martina Cole at the 4th Reading Festival of Crime Writing last Friday. So, if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been very quiet on these pages, that’s my excuse …
When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? Or took a moment to really observe rather than just see your way through a familiar journey?
As a race, humans are becoming hardened to beauty, disconnected from the simple pleasures in life, and I find that very sad. As a writer, part of my job is to dig deep into the kind of emotions that drive us on a primal level. To do that, I need to be in touch with those kinds of feelings.
And maintaining a sense of wonder definitely falls into that category.
Andy (my Other Half) is as daft as I am about this. We rush to the office window to see a steam train passing on the other side of the valley, a low-flying Hercules transport plane lumbering overhead, or a particularly beautiful strake of sunlight on the hills behind our house.
I still build snowmen – and snow-bears, and snow-Easter-Island heads, and I was in the middle of a full-size horse last year, but the snow turned powdery and its head fell off, dammit. I know – what an excuse – the wrong kind of snow …
I still ride the shopping cart back to the stack after we’ve loaded up the car at the supermarket, still laugh like a drain at dirty jokes and whoopee cushions. But frost on leaves or winter mist or sunlight through a cloud leaves me breathtaken.
Because how can you hope to write something that will instil any sense of wonder if you don’t have it yourself?
We are not simply hardened to beauty in the modern world, but isolated from it. A fabulous cliff view will now have a safety railing to save you from yourself. Everything, we are told, would be better with our lives if we just had the latest gadget, a larger TV, a newer car, a bigger house. And it takes something drastic to make us realise that those things are not important.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to come out with some worn platitude about the best things in life being free. Whoever said that has never had to pay for meds, make the rent, or put food on the table. Those things cost money, and you better have it when the red bill arrives, or life is going to turn pretty ugly pretty fast.
At the moment I’m caught between rich and poor in my writing, and it’s making me re-evaluate a lot of things. By definition, my bodyguard heroine Charlie Fox works for those wealthy enough to afford her services. In the latest book, FIFTH VICTIM: Charlie Fox book nine, she’s babysitting the rich and powerful of New York’s Long Island playground. She sees what too much of everything has done to these people, and it makes her reconsider what’s important in her life – love, health, happiness.
And just as FIFTH VICTIM is gearing up for its January 2012 publication in the States (sorry, but it’s been out in the UK since March this year) I’m also hard at work on the next in the series – DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten. For this book I wanted to set the ‘haves’ much more firmly alongside the ‘have-nots’. Where else was better to do that – where was the contrast more stark – than New Orleans, post Katrina.
OK, so the centre of NOLA looks very much as it always did, but some of the outlying areas are derelict ghost towns. It’s a fascinating setting for a book, and one that grabbed me from our first visit last year. As for the huge recycling plant – Southern Scrap – a crime thriller writer couldn’t ask for a better location for a confrontation, or a show-down.
But driving round the place it was hard not to be saddened and sobered by the destruction still on view. I came away grateful for what I have, and even more determined that as I pass the good things in life, I don’t want to miss them because I have my eyes in a text message and my ears in an iPod.
So, ‘Rati – what did you see today? And what will you notice tomorrow?
This week’s Word of the Week is innuendo. An Italian suppository …