Monday, May 2, 2011

Speaking of Spider Web

It was great seeing a lot of you out at Bears Quilt Shop on Sunday for the launch of Spider Web. I'm looking forward over the next month or so of seeing more Benni Harper fans as I sign around California and Arizona. For those of you who can't make it to one of my talks, I thought I'd tell a little about Spider Web here. I wish I could do a ten-week cross-country book tour, but this will have to do (actually a book tour like that would likely make me crazy!)

It's hard for me to talk about Spider Web in great detail because the things I want to discuss would give away too much of the story! So, I'm trying to choose my words and subjects carefully. With this book--the fifteenth in my series--I chose the title before I had a story. (I've done it both ways--have a story, then chose the title and vice-versa). I liked the way Spider Web sounded and I just had a hunch it would be an easy title to fit a story around.

Of course, when I sat down in front of that blank (computer) page, I thought, okay, what in the world is this story going to be about? In a long running series like mine, it starts to become difficult to write a book that doesn't sound exactly like the last one. With plot-oriented series (or series where the mood is lighter, that is, the author really isn't concerned about their characters growing or seeming real) the writer depends on the mechanics of the plot or a clever way of killing someone to carry the story. Since my books have always been character-driven rather than plot-driven, that just doesn't work for me. I also didn't want my characters to have the same old problems throughout the series. Seriously, how many times can Benni and Gabe fight about her getting involved in dangerous situations? Though a reader's willing "suspension of disbelief," is practically a genre requirement, I do want my characters to seem like believable people. So, I've attempted to move them forward and change their problems.

In State Fair I deliberately wrote it so that Benni and Gabe weren't arguing. I did it just to give them some relief! (Some of you didn't like that--you like their arguing!) In Spider Web, they aren't arguing, but there is tension because of outside stress that sets off Gabe's PTSD. When my father had his fall a few years ago and was in the hospital, some medication they gave caused him to have terrifying hallucinations. Some of his experiences with WWII came to the surface (as well as the time his father, an alcoholic, locked him in a dark root cellar). That started me thinking about PTSD, how it never truly goes away no matter how many years pass, no matter how much a person seems to have their life together. And it can be the smallest thing that sets it off. So I started studying PTSD. Then I started thinking about Gabe and what would set off PTSD for him. At the time, a local city here in California had their police being targeted by an unknown assailant (with bombs). I thought about how devastated Gabe would be if his officers were being stalked. That's how plots start for me. Something touches me and I start researching it and before I know it, it works its way into a book.

So, that's just a small part of what I go into when I talk about the writing of Spider Web. I'll try to tell a little bit more about how I write my books as I continue these blogs throughout the year for people who aren't able to come to my signings.

Thanks so much to all of you who are buying and reading Spider Web. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me on my website or find me on Facebook. I'll answer the questions there and also on this blog. Facebook has ended up not being as time-consuming as I worried it would be (though it is tempting to stay on there and chat! It's like the big ole church potlucks I remember as a kid). Just one more way to communicate. Not a bad thing.

I gotta get back to work now. Take care and Happy Trails until we meet again,