Monday, May 07, 2012

Caught between two fictional worlds

I know some readers keep two or three books going at once, and even some authors work on more than one manuscript at a time. I know authors who read five or six novels a week, even while working on their own--do they sleep? I couldn't do it. I can't even read two books at once, and when I'm working seriously on a novel, I don't read much fiction. I immerse myself in the world I've created for my characters--their reality becomes a sort of reality for me, and I guess I don't want too many worlds colliding in my brain.
Last week I did edits on the final draft of what I hope will be the first of a new mystery series--Blue Plate Mysteries. This will sort of salve my urge to write a culinary mystery, though it's by no means gourmet cuisine. The Blue Plate Cafe is in a fictional small town in East Texas, and they serve chicken-fried steak, fried catfish, smothered steak, and the like--oh, and turnip greens, which figure in the story. For many years, my children and I visited friends Charles and Reva Ogilvie at their guest ranch outside Ben Wheeler, Texas, and we usually ate at The Shed in Edom. By small coincidence, the grandmother of son-in-law Christian owns the house right next to The Shed. We once drove all over Edom looking for her house; he was chagrined when he got home and asked her and she said it was next door to The Shed--we'd eaten breakfast there that morning.
But back to my story. I was finishing up the manuscript which will, I think, be called Murder at the Blue Plate Cafe, not very original but a good place to start. But in my head I was in Wheeler, Texas, with a cast of characers including two totally opposite twin sisters, one of whom runs the cafe, a financial planner from Dallas, lawyers, a police chief, etc. These people and that town were real to me.
But I had to yank myself out of their world when I got final edits on the third Kelly O'Connell Mystery, Trouble in a Big Box. The deadline for going through the edits was tight, so I was quicky back in the Fairmount Historic District with Kelly, Mike, their daughters, and a host of other familiar characters. I'm still in that world, because, having sent the manuscript off, I'm re-reading every line of it. But I keep waiting for Kate, wearing her Blue Plate apron, to pop up or that nasty mayor of the town or maybe Dave Millican who runs the nursery. Nope, they're back in Wheeler where I left them. In a way, it's like playing with dolls and putting them to bed for the night.
Now I'm going to put myself to bed for the night. Big day tomorrow with a trip to Dallas for a signing for Fran Vick's new book, Letters to Alice, an edited compilation of the letters of Richard Kleberg (of the famous South Texas King Ranch) to his beloved wife. Oops, another world--and a fascinating one, but this one real, not fictional.

5 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

I'm very much like you, Judy. When I'm writing, my reality is my characters' reality. The questions are: What would logically happen in this situation? What might really happen? What if _____ happened? How would it affect my characters, and how would they feel? Then, I'm feeling it, living it and talking it. (I try not to act out so others don't think I'm crazy.)

I read a lot, but I read only one book at a time. For a time, when I wrote I couldn't read. I hated that, so now I only read in the morning or at night when I'm not working. I've learned that I have to push my novel aside so I can have a fresh perspective.

Suzanne Lilly said...

You're like the jet setter of writers, Judy. First you're here, then you're there, hopping all over the globe. Your Blue Plate mysteries sound fun.

Polly said...

I totally agree, Judy. I wrote a blind character, and putting myself in her place was frightening. Write what you fear the most. Boy, did that put me in another place.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks all, for your comments. I think one thing that makes the fictional world so real is that I write in the first person, I get into the protagonist's head and see the world and community and people from her point of view. A blind character would be really tough, Polly. I don't even like to think about that.
And Suzanne, I only wish I were a successful jetsetter!
E.B., I'm laughing at you trying not to act out. When I wanted to practice a talk, I'd sometimes do it while walking the neighborhood. But I had to be careful when cars approached because I didn't want them to think I'm crazy!

Judy Alter said...

Thanks all, for your comments. I think one thing that makes the fictional world so real is that I write in the first person, I get into the protagonist's head and see the world and community and people from her point of view. A blind character would be really tough, Polly. I don't even like to think about that.
And Suzanne, I only wish I were a successful jetsetter!
E.B., I'm laughing at you trying not to act out. When I wanted to practice a talk, I'd sometimes do it while walking the neighborhood. But I had to be careful when cars approached because I didn't want them to think I'm crazy!