Please join me in welcoming author James Hayman as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.
James is currently on a blog tour with his latest release “The Cutting.” He stops by today to talk with us about insomnia and the fine art of writing murder mysteries.
Did you ever wonder what it takes to write a successful murder mystery? Or a series of murder mysteries or suspense thrillers featuring the likes of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, Tess Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski? One answer is not sleeping. Ms. Paretsky once noted the secret to her success as a writer (or at least one secret) was the inability to sleep. And the longer I ply this particular trade the more I think she’s right.
Every time I come to a point in one of my books where I can’t figure out what’s going to happen next, I find the best way to come up with an answer is by lying awake in the dark when I “should” be sleeping and obsessing about it. I do this a lot. And it always seems to lead to something that works better than anything I thought of during my normal waking or working hours.
When this happens, I know full well that if I just lie there and eventually fall sleep, I’ll have forgotten the idea by morning. I know some writers keep a notebook and pencil by their beds for just such occasions. However, I happen to share a bed with a woman who gets grumpy when she’s woken by me turning on a light to write something at three in the morning. So I get out of bed, be it two or three AM or four AM, and trundle into my writing room where I wake up my sleeping laptop and write out the idea in some detail.
I hate it but it works. It helped in the writing of The Cutting and it helped in the writing of the second McCabe thriller, The Chill of Night, which St. Martin’s/Minotaur will be bringing out later this year.
Right now, I’m trying to work out the basics of the plot for my third McCabe thriller (as yet untitled). In this book, McCabe’s daughter, Casey, has grown into a drop-dead gorgeous sixteen-year-old who boasts her mother’s good looks, her father’s stubborness and a brand new driver’s license.
In the new book, Casey falls for a really hot nineteen-year-old who’s definitely the wrong kind of guy. And it gets her into trouble (No, not that kind of trouble) and, for the past week or so, I’ve been unable to figure out how to get her out of it.
A few nights ago at three-eighteen in the morning the answer came to me. Thankful for this gift from the gods or the muses or whoever they are, I got up and went to work, beating most of the local farmers, fishermen and lobstermen to the grindstone by a good forty minutes.
Like McCabe, I’m a native New Yorker. He was born in the Bronx. I was born in Brooklyn. We both grew up in the city. He dropped out of NYU Film School and joined the NYPD, rising through the ranks to become the top homicide cop at the Midtown North Precinct. I graduated from Brown and joined a major New York ad agency, rising through the ranks to become creative director on accounts like the US Army, Procter & Gamble, and Lincoln/Mercury.
We both married beautiful brunettes. McCabe’s wife, Sandy dumped him to marry a rich investment banker who had “no interest in raising other people’s children.” My wife, Jeanne, though often given good reason to leave me in the lurch, has stuck it out through thick and thin and is still my wife. She is also my best friend, my most attentive reader and a perceptive critic.
Both McCabe and I eventually left New York for Portland, Maine. I arrived in August 2001, shortly before the 9/11 attacks, in search of the right place to begin a new career as a fiction writer. He came to town a year later, to escape a dark secret in his past and to find a safe place to raise his teenage daughter, Casey.
There are other similarities between us. We both love good Scotch whiskey, old movie trivia and the New York Giants. And we both live with and love women who are talented artists.
There are also quite a few differences. McCabe’s a lot braver than me. He’s a better shot. He likes boxing. He doesn’t throw up at autopsies. And he’s far more likely to take risks. McCabe’s favorite Portland bar, Tallulah’s, is, sadly, a figment of my imagination. My favorite Portland bars are all very real.
You can visit our website at www.jameshaymanthrillers.com.
Thank you James for stopping by today and guest blogging. I think insomnia is something a lot of us can relate to, as well as having to write your thoughts down at 3 in the morning so you won’t forget them. So what do you do when you can’t sleep? Any tips on how to get to sleep?