“The Shark, The Girl, & The Sea”, the final book in my Maine Oceanographer Mara Tusconi mysteries, will be “out” in a couple of weeks. I’ve reviewed the electronic version, will look over the actual hardcover book in a couple of days, and then “The Shark” goes live.
“Cold Blood, Hot Sea” — book one in the series — was published in 2016. At the time, I was a novice fiction author who had just retired early from her job as an ecology professor to embark on the road to mystery writing. I’d never personally met a mystery author and knew pretty much nothing about actually creating the genre I loved. To the extent that I’ve succeeded, I gratefully thank Sisters in Crime, events including The New England CrimeBake, and generous colleagues like Barbara Ross, Paul Doiron, George Smith, and Connie Berry who wrote blurbs or reviewed drafts
At book events or after talks I’ve given it’s not unusual for someone to ask what it’s like to write a book. It’s both truly hard and fulfilling I usually say.
In “The Work of Writing” Elizabeth Rankin relies on over twenty-five years experience to help us understand why and how writing can be “enormously frustrating at times but also immensely rewarding”. In the first chapter Rankin explains that writing is neither “a simple skill or an inborn talent” but instead a “complex intellectual activity”.
Okay, so what’s so challenging about writing? It’s things like how to put a particular specialized language into one a layperson can understand, Rankin explains. I certainly relate to that difficulty. Through my series I’ve struggled to explain things like “Why Is The Gulf Of Maine Warming Faster Than Any Similar Embayment In The World” in a way that doesn’t bore readers to death.
One strategy I’ve used is to have a relatable character explain the issue or phenomenon to someone else in a situation that makes sense. For example, in “Secrets Haunt The Lobsters’ Sea” a Maine lobstermen fearful of loosing his livelihood talks about rapid warming Gulf of Maine with oceanographer Mara.
Any professional-turned fiction writer, be they lawyer, cop, physician, or whatever, has faced similar issues about translating their professional experiences/worlds into a story that would draw in a layperson.
I’ll end here with the rewards, which are many. Again, there are the people – including other writers. For instance, I stood next to Kate Flora several days ago at the Books in Boothbay event. What a joy to talk books, readers, etc. with an eminent mystery writer, double winner of the Maine Literary Award for crime fiction, author of 19 books, founding member of the New England Crime Bake, and a lot more!
One thing I’m really looking forward to in post pandemic-time is actually speaking to an audience about my books – what motivated me to write them, who the characters are, key issues, and what has been especially challenging.
But for now holding my latest book and flipping through will be a reward onto itself!