Writer Beware by Kait Carson

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.

Belize Blue Hole Photo licensed through DepositPhotos

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.

About kaitcarson

I write mysteries set in South Florida. The Hayden Kent series is set in the Florida Keys. Hayden is a SCUBA diving paralegal who keeps finding bodies. Underwater, no one can hear you scream! Catherine Swope is a Miami Realtor with a penchant for finding bodies in the darndest places. I live in the Crown of Maine with my husband, four cats, and a flock of conures.
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8 Responses to Writer Beware by Kait Carson

  1. John Clark says:

    I agree, it would be very interesting to know the number of books killed off by real situations.

  2. Kate Flora says:

    So many challenges. I once had an editor switch two books in the series, so the later one came earlier. Since in a series, characters grow and their lives changes…and they are changed by the crimes they solve, it was a nightmare. My earlier books don’t have current technology, like cell phones. Sounds like you had quite an adventure updating the book and it sounds like a great read.

    • kaitcarson says:

      Thanks, Kate. I cannot imagine the chaos that would ensue with a series book switch. That had to be daunting.

      I was lucky that the techno changes weren’t too striking. Added in a lot more texting.

  3. Interesting. Not only does it show the behind the scenes facts that need to change (or kill) a book, but it also makes a point about readers who read a book that is accurate as written but are only familiar with a world that has changed so they think the book is inaccurate. I had that happen with my first book, Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s. The details, including a main road, were correct for the date the book was set. Later, the real road was re-routed so another building could be built. A younger reader gave the book a 1 because I had that part of Ann Arbor all wrong. I debated responding, but luckily, the next comment (which gave the book a 5) explained how realistic the book was in so many details — and gave the date the road was re-routed.

  4. kaitcarson says:

    Good save on the reviews. Writing a book set in the recent past definitely has its own set of problems. So much has changed!

  5. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    I recently read a cozy mystery that would never pass muster if it were to be published today, and it wasn’t all that old. Maybe 20 years? The technology and politics were completely whack. I tried not to be distracted, but it was a hard slog. This is why I like to write historicals!

  6. Anonymous says:

    So true so true. World marches on – how come it doesn’t check with authors before it does that?

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