Unless one is Michael Connolly and can produce two books a year, keeping up with technology and the calendar is a challenge. I found that to be so while I was writing Death Over Easy. Granted, it was my first murder mystery and took longer to write than expected. Still, between the time I started and wrote The End, I had to get Emma Trace texting, taking pics on her cell phone, Tweeting, switching from the six o'clock news to getting news on her computer, and burning evidence to a disk. Companies went out of business while I wrote. New words entered the lexicon. But it was easy for me to manage, because all the action took place in the week before Emma's 40th birthday. That was a constant.
In the WSJ article, some authors talk about being surprised by their own success and wish they'd started their detectives at age 30 instead of 40. Now these sleuths have creaky knees and arthritis. Patricia Cornwell stopped aging Dr. Kay Scarpetta once she reached 50. Sue Grafton's solution was to age her character slowly, adding just eight years to Kinsey Milhone's life over the life of the series.
I've been thinking about dialing back Emma back to 35, or maybe 32, for her first adventure. It would mean changing the ages of several other characters and the dates of historical events, but it would be doable. I'd feel sad moving her birth forward from the year Van Morrison released "Moondance," but maybe I could finagle things to keep the connection.
My next book, Death Under the Radar, takes place a mere four months later. I'd like to set the action soon after the first book, when Emma's learning to fly. I'd like to show some continuity and growth in her relationship with Tony. Can't skip it all and age her to some guess-point when the book may be published, which may be years from now. So maybe she'll be 32...and four months.
A slowly aging detective in a quickly changing world. Series writers, how have you solved this problem?
It's good to be back! Where I've been:
- plotting Death Under the Radar
- revising some short stories
- painting and installing new carpet
- enjoying daughter #1's wedding
- looking forward to daughter #2's wedding next summer
- missing you all!