I have been chatting with Jeffrey for about a month now. His new novel “Empty Rooms” will be published Feb 8, 2015 by WordFire Press. We talked about the possibility of doing a guest blog and this is the result. We decided on a few topics to hit, but, overall I asked Jeffrey to write about his passion.
Thank you, Jeffrey!
Here is his blog…..enjoy:
The Author Who Wasn’t There
By Jeffrey J. Mariotte
Having been kindly invited to provide a guest post for what is one of the best blogs out there about our mutual passion—and I think “our” in this case means everyone who’s reading this—is an honor. And a little scary, because a lot of people will read this who might not know my name or my work, and I only have a few paragraphs to convince them that they should give my new book a try.
But then, scary is kind of what I do. Most of my novels have been supernatural thrillers or straight-up horror. I like combining elements of horror fiction with some of the aspects of thrillers that keep us up late,turning pages. Empty Rooms (published February 8 by WordFire Press), by contrast, is a pure thriller, with nothing supernatural about it. And it does, by all reports, keep people up late turning pages.
Writing the book was a step outside my comfort zone in multiple ways. It is, if the fates are kind, the first of a series, and I’m not typically a series guy. It’s a departure from my usual turf, which can also mean saying goodbye to some number of regular readers (and, one hopes, hello to a larger group of new ones). And it was a particularly challenging book to write, because it is, in large part, about two men’s search for a predator who preys on children, and has been doing so for a long time. I had to thread a needle, because I wanted it to be true and terrible without being exploitive or triggery. I’m told that I pulled it off, which is a relief, because that by itself was a scary thing to tackle.
But it’s also about much more than that. It’s about how the two characters, ex-cop Richie Krebbs and former FBI agent turned Detroit police detective Frank Robey, team up to find out what happened to Angela Morton, missing for thirteen years. It’s about how they stay human when they’re immersed in the worst of human behavior. It’s about courage and betrayal, honesty and stealth, love and hate. It’s about how men form friendships with each other, and maintain relationships with significant others. It’s about comic books and soul music and crime, and it’s informed, in part, by much of a working life spent in the comic book publishing and writing business, and by having written a true crime compendium of the worst of the worst.
I don’t know if this is how every writer works—in my experience, every writer’s approach is completely different from every other writer’s, although I feel instinctually that there must be some similarities somewhere. But in my case, writing a book (which I’ve done a lot—Empty Rooms is my 50th novel, or thereabouts) is a matter of combining the right set of ideas. No book—no good book—of more than 20 pages or so is born of one idea. And a lot of books start to be written (many of them by me) but are then abandoned, because it turns out that the ideas aren’t working together, aren’t gelling into a cohesive whole. The trick is to let one idea bounce around in the brain for a while, and at some point it’ll slam into another one and they’ll get along, and then they’ll sidle up to still another, and the next thing I know, that idea orgy is spilling out onto the page.
Empty Rooms grew out of the research I did for that true crime book, which required me to spend months studying the worst acts humans can commit. That research combined, after a while, with curiosity about how real-life investigators maintain some degree of humanity when those horrible things are their job, day in and day out, and not just an intellectual exercise. When what they do matters to actual humans. Then other ideas came along: the two characters, and how they would perform the delicate dance that happens when adult men meet and become friends; the idea that I wanted, after fifty-some books, to finally write about comic books; the fact that I wanted to explore Detroit in a fictional way (after exploring it in a physical way), and to let that troubled city serve as a metaphor for the lives of characters who were troubled themselves, but trying to rebuild.
Writing a book, basically, is the way that I figure out the world around me, and what my place in it is. It’s a way of trying on other lives, like suits of clothes, to find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s a way of creating some order from the chaos of life—and then, having plotted carefully and examined every component of the fictional work, making it look a little more chaotic than it really is, so readers recognize something of their own lives in it.
I write to find out who I am. To explain myself to myself, and then to the rest of the world. I write for my ideal reader, and I write to be widely read (or so I hope), because, after all of that organizing and ordering, I think I have something to say. And I think I can say it while keeping my readers up late, or ignoring household tasks, or skipping work, because they want to find out what happens next. After all, once I’ve written it and it’s out there, it belongs to the readers. Who I am isn’t their concern. They want to follow the characters, to celebrate their successes and mourn their failures and, most of all, to be surprised when they think they’ll be doing one and wind up doing the other.
So that, in the end, is the trick to the writing life. I write the book that could only come out of my head, making sense of the world as I see it, but then I have to disappear so the readers can put the story into their heads and allow it to help them make sense of their worlds.
Did I say there’s nothing supernatural in Empty Rooms? Maybe not in the story—but the act of writing it, or any book, becomes the greatest vanishing act of all.
“The Author Who Wasn’t There.” That’s a pretty good title. I might have to use that one someday.
Empty Rooms online: