Here to tell you about it is the lovely DEBORAH COONTS:
I’m not proud, I’ll admit it: I have a problem with “shoulds.”
The moment someone said, “You really shouldn’t.” I jumped in with an, “Oh, yes I think I will.”
Consequently, I had to learn most important lessons in my life, the hard way.
I’d like to think that maturity has tempered my rashness, but, in reality, probably not so much.
So, when I was a beginning novelist, and the people who ought know, those I refer to as the collective they, told me I really should only write what I know, I bet you can guess my reaction?
Why would I do that? I asked. What I already know is boring. I want to write about something I don’t know. I want to write about something I can imagine.
So I did.
And I had a great time. I wrote a light, romantic mystery series set in Las Vegas—the first in the series was WANNA GET LUCKY? At the time I wrote it, I knew very little about the hotel/casino business in Vegas. The research was a blast—and no I won’t tell. If I violated that whole ‘what happens in Vegas’ thing, I’d lose my Vegas card, for sure.
So, off I went…three books in the series. Four. Five. Now seven, plus five novellas. Seven!!
All that research! And, guess what—now I’m writing what I know.
That part of me that prods me to do stupid stuff is missing the guiding light of the unknown. Don’t get me wrong—I love writing the Lucky stories. And each story does teach me something new. I will continue reporting her adventures until she stops talking to me and tells me to leave her alone. Curiously, and I really didn’t make this connection until just now, but the latest Lucky book, the seventh, is titled…wait for it…
LUCKY THE HARD WAY. I kid you not.
And I didn’t plan it that way at all.
Clearly my subconscious knew what my conscious didn’t—that I need that thing I don’t know, that story that scares me, that is way outside my comfort zone. Like Lucky was when I first started. So, in LUCKY THE HARD WAY, I took Lucky and the gang out of Vegas and dropped them in Macau, China.
At the time, I knew nothing about Macau. Research trip! Fascinating place!
But, now what?
So, I started talking to fellow writers about what to do next, about how to find that divine spark of the unknown. I bet you know what happened.
They said, “Well, to be successful, you should pick one genre and write just that.”
Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Not that. Not going to do that. Not me!
Of course, their rationale was very sound, grounded in basic business principles…but, well…
Now I bet I’m a lot like you—I read practically everything. Across many, many genres, through different age groups. Give me a good story and I’m in. I don’t care if it’s this century or another, magical realism, fantasy, or real life.
So, if I read across the board, why can’t I write across the board? They told me that of course, I could, it would just be a very hard way to build a career.
How did the line from A League of Their Own go? It’s the hard that makes it good? Justifying, I know, but it’s my best thing. And, if I’m anything, it’s consistent.
So, I wrote a contemporary romance, CRUSHED, it’s out now. In researching it, I learned a ton about wine, and got to stay in Napa for a month. Heaven. Next up, the sequel, BROKEN. Artisanal cheese, Sonoma county…and horses, there have to be horses.
And then I wrote a romantic suspense, DEEP WATER, coming out in February or March, featuring a female helicopter pilot and a Coast Guard Commander. I already fly, but I don’t have too much time in helicopters. And I’ve never flown over the Gulf Of Mexico and landed on an offshore oil rig. Have now. So incredible.
And then there’s the thriller, AFTER ME, which is up for preorder now and launches on the 27th. I attended a stem cell conference, talked to tons of doctors treating the tangle diseases, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and ALS. And I explored the nooks and crannies of Portland, OR, a city I had never been to. And then there was the whole motorcycle angle…
Exploring the unknown! I loved it!
I have found my stride as a writer. I’m all over the board, learning so much new stuff, that I’m constantly energized and engaged. Both very good things when trying to write stories that are both.
But, as I venture into this sort of schizophrenic approach to my writing career, I’m a bit worried—readers expect one thing from me, the Lucky stories. My other stories…aren’t Lucky. They are different in tone and voice, but they still are my stories, written in my style.
As readers, will you follow an author you like when she writes out of her normal genre? Or do you want an author to stick with what she knows?
DEBS: I'd like to do half the research Deb has done, and I'm fascinated by her subjects and her settings. (Wine? Sonoma? Horses? And helicopters???? I love it!) But AFTER ME touches on a subject that's very personal for me--I lost both my parents to forms of dementia. Deb, I want to know how you imagined what life seems like for your heroine, Kate.
READERS, are you willing to jump genres for an author you love? I certainly am.
More about Deborah Coonts!
My mother tells me I was born a very long time ago, but I’m not so sure—my mother can’t be trusted. These things I do know: I was raised in Texas on barbeque, Mexican food and beer. I am the author of WANNA GET LUCKY? (A NY Times Notable Crime Novel and double RITA™ Finalist), its six sequels, LUCKY THE HARD WAY, the latest and just out, and four between-the-books novellas. Currently I’m stretching my writer muscles working on a women’s fiction/contemporary romance series set in Napa—the first novel, CRUSHED, is out now. Next up is AFTER ME, a thriller incorporating cutting-edge science and a protagonist who literally can’t remember why everyone wants her dead. In the pipeline is a romantic suspense series featuring a female helicopter pilot, as well as the next Lucky adventure—all very different projects. So, if you see me with a glass of Champagne in hand, you’ll understand. I can usually be found at the bar, but also at www.deborahcoonts.comwww.deborahcoonts.com.
And here's more about AFTER ME:
Kate Sawyer, a former NYPD undercover cop, injured badly in a takedown gone terribly wrong, is living in Portland, Oregon safe in the Witness Protection Program, while she undergoes experimental stem-cell treatment for a genetic case of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Everyone thinks Kate can provide vital evidence that will lead to the recovery of twenty million dollars of diamonds that disappeared during the takedown.
If she could only remember.
One night, Kate returns to her condo to find a dead man in her bathtub with a note stuck in his pocket.
I know what you’ve done.
Her cover blown, Kate runs, knowing the clock is ticking. Chased by shadowy figures she can’t remember, Kate must solve the mystery before it’s too late. People close to her are being killed. Shadowy memories tease her. Some she recognizes as her own. Others don’t seem familiar at all.
Running from people she can’t remember, dogged by a past lost in the haze, Kate discovers no one is who they appear to be, perhaps not even herself.