Jim Hayman: Yesterday, I finished edits on my third book which I am presently calling Darkness First and sent them off to my agent. She, in turn, sent the manuscript to my editors, Stef Bierwerth at Penguin UK in London and Charlie Spicer at St. Martin’s Press in New York.
The third book was the hardest of the three to write and took the most time, nearly two years of pretty much full-time solitary effort to complete. Quite a bit longer than either of my first two, The Cutting or The Chill of Night. Much of this time was spent evolving the story into something quite different from where it started out.
Focusing so completely on my writing for this amount of time was an interesting experience. It was solitary work, but it wasn’t in any sense lonely. I got to spend a lot of time immersed in the lives of good, albeit imaginary, friends, the characters created for this third book. For the most part they were very good company.
One of America’s greatest writers, William Faulkner, put it well when he said, “…writing is a solitary job, that is nobody can help you with it, but there’s nothing lonely about it. I have always been too busy, too immersed in what I was doing, either mad at it or laughing at it, to have time to wonder whether I was lonely or not lonely. It was simply solitary. I think there is a difference between loneliness and solitude.”
While Darkness First is a continuation of my McCabe series which started with The Cutting and continued with The Chill of Night, it represents a departure in a number of important ways. The first and most obvious is that McCabe is a secondary character in this one. His Portland PD partner, Maggie Savage, is the key protagonist. Secondly, only a few of the chapters are set in Portland. Most of the action takes place in Washington County, in Machias and to a lesser extent in Eastport.
It also allowed me to get into the heads of several new characters who I found both challenging and rewarding to create. The first is Maggie’s younger brother Harlan, an ex-marine who was badly wounded in the Iraq war and who is suffering from PTSD. The second is a slightly nerdy, slightly weird eleven-year old girl, Tabitha Stoddard who is the younger sister of the murder victim. Both play central roles in the story with a number of chapters told from their points of view.
For me, building complex and complete characters is perhaps the most rewarding part of the writing process. Which is no doubt why I was so inordinately pleased to read the first UK reviews for The Chill of Night, which just launched in Britain last week. It came from Milo’s Rambles one of the top British book blogs. What pleased me so much was not just that the review was good, but that Milo really got what I was trying to do with perhaps the most complex character I’ve ever tried writing, Abby Quinn, the 25 year old schizophrenic who witnesses the murder. Perhaps immodestly, I’ll quote one paragraph of Milo’s review:
“Knowing very little about schizophrenia as I do I found the whole subject matter intriguing and poignant, Hayman dealt with the illness with so much compassion and tenderness. He doesn’t rush her scenes and I truly felt part of her story and her complex life. I could quite clearly get inside her head and see the world as she saw it – a frightening and frustrating place at times. In one scene we find Abby picking up a tennis racquet, swinging it for all her might, and refusing to put it down. When Hayman writes about a simple backhand stroke its simplicity took my breath away. I was in that very room watching Abby fall apart. Sensational stuff.”
If you like, you can read the rest of the review at: