Sunday, August 22, 2010

Welcome Heather Haven

Writers, their family and friends

Thanks, Ginger, for letting me blog with you and your friends. This is a real treat!!

I like nothing better than writing and I find it comes so naturally to me, I often forget that to some people I could be considered little more than a piranha looking for a fresh meal. I find that some friends -- and even family -- worry I might take their personage or some horrible event they’re going through and fictionalize it for all the world to see, without one jot of consideration for them or their feelings.

Just recently, I spoke on the phone with a friend of my husband’s, who happens to be a CPA. He’s a nice guy, mid- to late-50s, married for thirty years to the same woman, and likes to play the sax on the weekends and in his spare time. As I say, nice guy. A little vertically challenged, but let’s keep that among ourselves.
The singularly most important thing for me was my husband’s friend is a CPA, and in the 3rd book of the Alvarez Murder Mystery Series, Death runs in the Family, that’s all in all. The fictitious love interest in the book, Gurn Hanson, is 36- years old, a Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserves, charming, gorgeous, works for the government on the QT, and is in love with our heroine, Lee. Oh yes, he happens to be a CPA, as well. Which is how it cycles back to my husband’s friend.

When I mentioned to said friend that I would like to pick his brain for my newest mystery book on what kind of incriminating and illegal financial information a CPA could discover from a microchip, his first question to me was, “I’m not going to be in the book, am I? This isn’t about me, is it?”

Now boys and girls, let’s do a reality check. I write light, fluffy, and hopefully funny murder mysteries. Putting aside I don’t write memoir or biography, why on earth would I devote a book to an unknown, middle-aged, CPA who blows a sax?
But let’s say I lost my mind and wanted to change the course of my writing style, chart new waters, write a 21st century Marty. Do you think anyone would recognize hubby’s friend as one and the same unless I used his name five-hundred times in the book? Without those kinds of clues, could they pick him out of a line-up? I think not.

Also, me being me, I would never knowingly do, say, or write anything that would hurt someone’s feelings or cause them embarrassment. This is why the National Inquirer has not been beating down my door with job offers. Light and fluffy, that’s me.

So his question surprised me. Until then I realized that most non-writers have no idea how we do what we do. And when you don’t know about something, your insecurity buttons get pressed big time.

Like most writers I know, I put together composites of a variety of people’s characteristics, finding a facet here, another there, gluing them into one piece of fictional Papier-mâché, until I’ve created an entity, a character for one of my books. I can see them as clear as day. I love them. To me they are as real as my neighbor but they are not my neighbor because that’s a form of reporting I simply don’t do.

Then there’s the research, something a writer can get lost in. Back to hubby’s friend, truth be told, I don’t know squat about him, other than he’s nice, a CPA and blows a sax. That’s not even a full paragraph. How are you going to write a book about that? Off the top of my head, I would say anyone who writes an entire book about one person, needs to devote months if not years to getting to know the subject at hand. And you better love what you’re doing, man. Or have a very generous advance. ‘Cause you’re in for one long haul.

Lastly, there’s the writing of it, the actual fun but scary part. You’ve created your characters, you’ve invented a plot, the story sings so loud and constant inside your head, you need to put it down on paper or you will burst. And you try to do it in around 75,000 words, more or less. Words that someone will want to read, that make sense, are clear, concise, entertaining and worthwhile. And you get to live with these characters, plots and stories for weeks, months and sometimes, years, 24/7.

Sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night, realizing you can’t have him tell her that because if he does, she won’t go away with him. Or, you left the murder weapon in Toledo, Ohio, and you’d better go get it.

Just recently, in the new book I’m writing -- and I don’t think I’m spilling too many beans by saying this particular incident revolves around a catnapping -- I got as far as writing the cats being snitched and on their way to Las Vegas when something came up and I had to stop writing for three long, torturous days. Late one night, my eyes sprung open, I threw back the covers, leapt up, and raced to the computer. A newly awakened, blurry-eyed husband watched me from the other side of the bed.

“What are you doing?” he said, with a yawn.

“I have to write something.”

“Now? It’s three in the morning.”

“You don’t understand,” I said to him. “The cats have been in back of the station wagon for three days. I can’t stand it one minute more. I’ve got to get them out.”
He sighed, rolled over and went back to sleep. We’ve been married for nearly 30-years and he knows better than anyone what it’s like to be married to a writer.
I sat down and couldn’t stop writing for 8-hours until the cats were rescued, happy and well-fed. I am loathe to admit it but emotionally, the cats were real to me, in a real dilemma, and I had to free them, even though I knew intellectually they were merely characters in my book.

So you’d better like being a writer and you’d better like living with one. Because we’re nuts.

Or maybe less piranha and more clown fish.

Murder is a Family Business Youtube book trailer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79vqXtCrRsE

http://www.heatherhavenstories.com/excerpt_from_murder_is_a_family_business



Just because a man cheats on his wife and makes Danny DeVito look tall, dark and handsome, is that any reason to kill him? The reluctant and quirky PI, Lee Alvarez doesn't think so. The 34-year old ½ Latina, ½ WASP and 100% detective has her work cut out for her when the man is murdered on her watch. Of all the nerve.

Set in the present, Murder is a Family Business is the first in a series of humorous mysteries revolving around Lee Alvarez, a combination of Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone and Janet Evanovitch’ Stephanie Plum, and the rest of Alvarez Family, detectives all. Seemingly light and frothy on the surface, the novel nevertheless explores familial love, the good, the bad and the annoying.

Completing the family is Lee’s Never-Had-A-Bad-Hair-Day aristocratic mother, Lila; computer genius brother, Richard; beloved uncle “Tio;” and her energetic orange and white cat, Tugger. When this group is not solving murders, they run Discretionary Inquiries, a successful Silicon Valley agency that normally deals with the theft of computer software. The love, humor and camaraderie shared within this family are what set this series apart from others.

8 comments:

MuseItUp Publishing said...

Great post! And I love you sense of humor, Heather. Remind me a lot like Ginger. You guys twins? :)

Roseanne Dowell said...

I can relate to waking in the middle of the night with a thought like that. Hubby doesn't even ask anymore. And maybe they are only characters in the book, but they're as real to us as everyone we know. Only problem with real life, we can't fix the problems. I can't wait to read this book.

Karen McGrath said...

So that's why my neighbors are gingerly waving hello to me these days...they don't want to end up in a book! I would never do that either, Heather.

I can't wait to read your stories. They sound delightful!

Best wishes!!

Arlene said...

Got a shirtshirt from a relative. Says on it: Careful, or you'll end up in my novel.
Seems to be a common worry around those with netbook and crazed glint in their eyes.

Marva said...

I've got the opposite problem. My first book was a series of short stories based on my father's boyhood growing up in West Texas during the Depression. He keeps mentioning that he's got another story to include! What an ego!

Also, my murder mystery just sold to MuseItUp has three characters taken from real life. They can all hardly wait to see themselves in print!

Lin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lin said...

My dyslexia is acting up...so forgive me for deleting previous comment...here's what I said...corrected.

Heather, I absolutely love you, but never moreso than now. I read your guest blog and smiled the whole way through. May I say I have the opposite issue. I have a family member who is hoping I make him the hero with a harem of sexy ladies dropping at his feet whenever he walks by. This is a man who thinks nothing of rafting down a treacherous river wearing speedos hoping the women he imagines are hugging the clifftops will swoon at the mere sight of him challenging the river's menace.

Somewhere, in my writing future, I will have to create a hero based on him and of course dedicate the entire story to him.

Love to you Heather, always, and you too Ging. You gals keep me smiling.

S.Durham said...

Heather, wonderful post! I too go out of my way not to have a character resemble anyone I know. And I love the image of a fictional Papier Mache', that is so true.

Thanks for sharing.

Sara

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