The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Comes Next?

     Early in my scientific career a mentor gave me a key piece of advice. He said, ”When you get news you’ve received a research grant, don’t run out to have a party, or even a drink. Rather, think about the answer to the following question, what will the next grant be about?” There’s a real parallel to writing a series of novels, I believe, and it’s a good idea to start thinking about the next one somewhere between half way through the first draft of the current book and beginning to edit it the entire first draft. I’m presently about half way through the next one (which will be book #4 in my South American Mystery series), and have begun to consider some serious thoughts about book #5.

       My youngest son, Michael, has suggested that we collaborate on a book, which sounds like it might be a lot of fun to try. He has an idea, but it will require setting the story in the suburban Washington, D.C. area. That’s cool---it’s not South America, but Suzanne could do with a visit to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to learn the newest cutting edge DNA sequencing techniques for her research. Several years ago in my earlier training as a postdoctoral scientist I spent several years at the NIH, so I know the area pretty well, at least as it used to be. Michael works in that same geographical area now, so he knows the current terrain, and we visit him every now and then so we can check out the scenes we would use. In the meantime he’s taking digital photographs of a few key places he wants to use as locales for the action, and through the wonders of the Internet and Google Earth I can see them from 3,000 miles away. Michael has an idea for the plot. Being Michael he won’t tell me any details, just the basic premise and a couple of situations. He thinks that if I have to logically deduce what he has in mind at each step of the story, we’ll have Roger’s thought process tuned up for the comparable deductions in the novel. I’ve never done it that way before, at least not consciously, but it sounds like a challenge that could be fun.
      On the other hand, if we stay in South America for book #5, or return there for book #6, I’d like to bring Roger and Suzanne (or the entire family) to Brazil. Elaine, Matthew (another son) and I spent a week or two in Fortaleza as tourists a few years ago paying homage to Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, which originated there. Elaine and I also spent a little time in Rio de Janiero a long time ago, and we’ve spent a day or two in Foz de Iguazu, so we have a little background in Brazil. Elaine would like to see one of these books set against the backdrop of a dog show, a milieu she knows very well. Maybe we’ll have a murder or two at a dog show in Brazil? Who knows at this stage?
     Book #4, the one in progress that doesn’t yet have an official title, is set in Montevideo, Uruguay and Santiago, Chile. With apologies to reality, the Montevideo of this novel is much like the lawless Chicago of the prohibition years. The body count in this novel may surpass that in The Surreal Killer. That’s part of the fun of writing fiction----an author can turn one of the most law-abiding and civilized big cities in the world into the wild, wild west of the 19th century American frontier with the stroke of a pen (that’s a metaphor; it is more the click of a keyboard these days). The book brings back a couple of our characters from Books #2 and #3 for a cameo role (Martin Gonzalez, an Uruguayan policeman) and a major role (Eduardo Gomez, a Paraguayan policeman), respectively. In an interview on Pat Bertram's blog last February 18th, Pat interviewed Eduardo who shared his impressions of life as a minor character in a series. I remember he wanted a bigger part in a subsequent book. Well, his wish was my command and it's happening here in the next book of the series. I suspect he still won't be happy until he has his own book to star in. We'll see--------

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