It takes a long time to write a book. The time between inspiration and publication often spans years. This can be a problem for writers who sprinkle their books with identifiable locations. Places change, buildings fall, natural disasters occur, wars erupt, nothing remains the same in life.
DEATH DIVE, my newest book, is releasing on September 19th. The Blue Hole of Belize is a featured player. I originally wrote the book in 2016 as the third of the Hayden Kent series. My publisher ceased operations. The book never appeared. I put it on the digital shelf, and life went on.
Fast forward to 2023. After much soul-searching, I decided Hayden Kent, the book’s protagonist, wasn’t done with me. I dusted off the book, sent it to my editor, and prepared for a final read through. My file filled with notes of story facts to check and issues to resolve. I am familiar with the Blue Hole dive, at least the top one hundred thirty feet of it. The Hole itself is roughly four hundred feet deep. Well beyond the capability of recreational divers.
When I wrote the book, no one had been to the bottom of the Hole. The facts as written were correct in 2016. In 2018, an expedition made a submersible dive to the bottom. The dive was live-streamed, but the reports were not published until late 2019, when the world’s attention turned toward the budding pandemic. The exploration significantly changed our understanding of conditions at the bottom. DEATH DIVE needed to be updated. Fortunately, the premise survived the new information, but some scenes needed significant revision.
Some books face issues that cannot be resolved in revision. In June, author Elizabeth Gilbert removed her latest book, SNOW FOREST, from publication out of respect for her Ukrainian readers. The book, three years in the writing and scheduled for release in early 2024, featured a Russian setting. The decision has drawn both kudos and criticism. Few authors operate at her level on the world stage. This raises the question of how many other books were silently abandoned before publication because of current events.
The decision to include a real-life location in a novel is akin to casting it in amber. The writer trusts it will always exist, if not forever, at least long enough to make it to the book’s debut. This isn’t always the case, and the author faces three options: revise, rescind, or relinquish the story.