This blog is a continuation of last week’s, dated 11/21/14, and is intended to answer questions from my readers.
8) How do you come up with ideas for new books?
While only six chapters into Blind Revenge, I found myself returning to a recurring question: “When I finish this novel, what’s next?” Over the years, I’ve found that I can’t focus on the current book if I do not have some idea of what the next novel will be. A rough idea alone is enough. So because this question kept nagging me, I started to brainstorm some ideas with my coworkers at the company where I was then employed.
One fellow worker had an interesting idea for a book, but his concept of a pharmaceutical company deliberately spreading a virus to the public, then creating a vaccine to cure the disease fell apart when I began to do some research. I’ve heard the saying before, and here it held true again: the pharmaceutical industry is not in the business to create cures but to create customers. There is certainly more cost incurred by treating a diabetic or hypertensive patient over the course of his or her lifetime than administering a four-dose immunization of polio vaccine, a disease that has been virtually eradicated in the US.
Stumped for an idea for my next book, I was sitting in the waiting room at my doctor’s office when I picked up a copy of Science magazine and read with great interest an article by neuroscientist Dr. Simon LeVay. I came away pondering two questions: Is homosexuality biologically fated? Could there really be a gay gene? Now, I had my springboard for Genocide. All I had to do was flesh out the details.
As for the setting, since I lived in California at the time and loved visiting San Francisco, I set Genocide in The City by the Bay, and made San Francisco Darcy’s hometown after she returned to the US from abroad.
The opening chapter for Gadgets came to me while attending the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque one cold October morning. At the time, I was product manager for the laser product line at CooperVision Surgical in Irvine, California. As I stared up at the hundreds of colorful balloons that floated through the clear blue sky, I asked myself, “Why would someone want to blow up a hot air balloon and how would they go about it?” Weapon? Laser. Motive? Revenge. But revenge for what? I wrote the first chapter, printed a hard copy, and filed it away. There it sat until I finished Genocide and until I needed an idea for my next Darcy McClain thriller, which would of course be Gadgets.
The idea for Brainwash came about on a wintry day while walking Shotz in a thirty-foot deep arroyo on our land in Taos, NM. There was something intriguing about trooping through a narrow ravine with tall banks on either side, not knowing what I would discover around the next bend as the arroyo snaked its way across the desert terrain. And never knowing when, or where, that maze would end.
Some discoveries were exhilarating, like encountering a lone coyote who was as startled by my sudden appearance in that dry gulch as I was by his. He was wary of me, but more concerned about the growling black beast (Shotz) at my side. Our guard up, we gave him a wide berth and he scampered off in the direction we were headed.
Other discoveries could be described as disappointing. Once, we turned a corner and stopped in midstride, astounded by the huge pile of trash that blocked our path, the garbage most likely washed down by recent storms. After I made a mental note to have the debris cleaned up and properly disposed of, I glanced about to get my bearings.
On the north-facing bank, I noticed tracks leading out of the arroyo where the soft earth had been eroded by a rare watershed. Probably our coyote, but my attention was soon drawn to Shotz, who was muzzle-deep in trash. When I grabbed her harness and pulled her out, she dropped what she had retrieved—a floppy disk that would later morph (in Brainwash) into a USB. Now, I had my book’s starting point and my setting. All I needed was a plot.
On this particular vacation, I happened to be reading nonfiction on two subjects that fascinated me: nanotechnology and robotics. I wondered how I could weave these two topics into a new Darcy McClain thriller.
What if that dirty floppy disk discovered by Shotz had the words “Property of LANL” written on it? From this one question, the plot began to unfold. But halfway through the first draft, fellow writer Pat Snyder made an innocent comment that completely changed the course of the book (refer to blog post from 8/16/2014). Her remark that she knew my character (Johnny) in chapter 1 was not dead, when to me he couldn’t be deader, gave me pause. Keeping Johnny alive made more sense to the overall plot, so I kept him alive.
In my blog post dated 11/7/14, I described how Shotz and I were walking the trails at Bear Creek in Keller, Texas, as part of her rehabilitation from leg and spinal surgeries, and that during one such walk I discovered a hook for my next novel. Suddenly, Shotz was drawn to a black trash bag floating in the water. The bag contained the remains of a deer carcass, the animal shot out of hunting season. In book four of the Darcy McClain thriller series, the trash bag will contain the remains of Catherine Lord, a renowned geneticist and aunt of Vicky Lord, Charlene’s college roommate.
If you have a question you’d like me to answer, or you would like more information on the Darcy McClain thriller series, check out the rest of my website or visit me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and subscribe to this blog.
Next week: “Self Publishing and The Darcy McClain Series.”