He’s irrepressible, funny, clever, and a brilliant writer. He’s also someone I’ve been honored to work with this past year. His first book, Vinnie’s Head, was a huge hit, and I have no doubt that Tiny Little Troubles will follow suit. Please extend a warm and gracious Murderati welcome to my friend Marc Lecard!
THAT SECOND BOOK
Hello, Marc Lecard here. I’m the author of Vinnie’s Head, and the just-published Tiny Little Troubles.
The mighty JT Ellison asked me to blogsit for her while she does some
heavy deadline-wrestling, so I’m taking over this Friday slot. But just
for today, so don’t worry.
My second novel, Tiny Little Troubles,
came out from St. Martin’s Minotaur this week. It’s a caper novel, my
own take on the classic subgenre wherein a group of criminals gets
together to knock over some improbable target–a casino, a racetrack,
an impregnable bank.
I love these novels. I love the guy with
the big idea, the criminal who thinks up the heist. He’s got an angle
no one else has thought of, unique, personal, something that’s been
done a hundred times before but never exactly his way.
love the assembling of the "team"–each member with his or her own
specialties, and of course unique flaws and eccentricities.
started out wanting to do a respectful homage to the subgenre, a
reprise of all the things that I love about it. I began, like a master
criminal, to assemble my "team"–a nasty collection of thugs and
bruisers, some with unique specialties, all with deep flaws, hidden and
not so hidden.
I was especially proud of the main bad guy, a
real piece of work who was a gift from my subconscious. I mean that
most often I construct my characters by Dr. Frankenstein’s method, a
part here, a part there, quirks and qualities stolen from people I’ve
observed (often from friends, but they’ll never know). I’m fairly
deliberate and conscious in this process, but look for that moment when
the construction begins to walk and talk by itself.
But Pablo Clench, the main bad guy, cut to the chase and just stepped
on stage fully formed. I don’t know where he came from. I only know I
never want to go there.
Then I looked around for something for these guys to do, a target worthy of the team. And that’s where I hit the wall.
Because it looked like it had all been done before–and better–and I
had no new idea, no new angle of approach. My caper was a bust before
The problem, I thought, was in the McGuffin, the
prize, the thing “all the fuss is about.” A bag of pearls? Come on. A
gym bag full of currency? Nah. Even I had already used that one, as
satisfying as it is.
Stymied, I tried to come up with
something different. I believed that the best place for new ideas is
always near at hand, in your local circumstances (I learned this from
reading William Carlos Williams). Where was I? Sitting in the back of a
garage in South San Francisco that I had made over into a writing
studio with some spare pieces of plywood , a cheap rug or two, and a
semi-antique computer. What was unique to South City? Well, it was the
biotech capital of the country–the chamber of commerce sign by the
freeway exit said so. Genetic engineering, that had to be interesting.
The possibilities for screw-up seemed limitless.
But I wanted to write a comedy, a comic crime novel. And I found myself
unable to get around to the light side of global pandemics. Infection
is just not funny.
The idea of thugs taking over a start-up seemed workable, though. But what kind of start-up?
In my notebook of possible book ideas I had scribbled down a scene that
occurred to me without context or explanation in which a gangster is
suddenly turned into a pile of underwear. I didn’t know why. This is a
book that will never be written, I thought as I closed the notebook.
Maybe a crime novel for very sick little kids. But I’ll never be able
to use it in a novel for adults.
Now the weird vision came back to me. Maybe the bad guy turned into
lingerie from some kind of genetically engineered plague that got out
No. I had it. Nanotechnology. Little robots,
made to manufacture things. A common trope in science fiction novels.
Not so common in crime fiction (I hadn’t read Swierczynski’s The Blonde yet).
I didn’t want to write a science fiction novel, a book that would
explore the ramifications of this technology on society, or deeply
imagine how that technology might work. I just wanted a bag of pearls
for my guys to fight over.
But swapping in a nanotechnology
start-up for the casino or heavily guarded bank, and having an idea be
the prize rather than a stack of bills seemed subversive enough to be
The science-fiction-y McGuffin pushed the book out of shape, though,
required some reworking of the original idea, and generated some
characters I hadn’t counted on. The book changed to the point where the
original conception was buried. It was still a crime novel, though. And
it was still funny, or at least I thought so.
I mean, I had my doubts. Little robots that you can’t even see? Underwear? WTF?
But it’s too late now. The book came out last Tuesday.
This is answer 3, 487,992 to the question "Where do your ideas come from?"
MARC LECARD lives in Oakland now. His next novel features crooked
appliance salesmen, the resurrection of the dead, and Kyrgyzstani
wrestler/gangsters, among other things.
P.S. Friend of Murderati Kaye Barley (AKA Kaye from Boone) is guest blogging at The Stiletto Gang today. Be sure to check her out!