Once you’ve found a couple of bodies in the park, just a few steps from your front doorstep, once the police ask for a sample of your DNA, saying they can’t rule out anyone as a suspect, it’s inevitable you’ll write a murder mystery. For me it was anyway.
I’d just finished reading Stephen King’s On Writing. I’d never written fiction of any length, although I’d written plenty of technical stuff, like patent applications. (I’ve 58 patents from a prior life.) But King made writing a novel sound so simple. Just start with a situation, he said, and delete adverbs until it hurts. Or something like that. There were hundreds of pages in his book, but situation and adverbs, that’s all I remembered.
With those simple ideas, I was primed, and woke the next morning with the vivid dream of having murdered a woman, crushing her head with a pipe. So I’m a murderer, I thought in the dream. And I believed it. It seemed like something I’d always known, but had forgotten. As morning dawned, the dream faded, and with it that strange belief. But by evening, an even stranger belief had taken hold.
The belief that I was a novelist.
Thanks to King’s book, I had the situation—a person who maybe was a murderer. Or maybe just remembered being a murderer. Okay, I’ll admit it didn’t sound all that specific. But, I had found bodies in the park, and I was committed to murdering adverbs.
And, on that first day as a novelist, it seemed like enough.
Alas, I was so naive!
Three years and six novels later I finally realized I needed something more. Something to complete me as a novelist. Something like...a publisher.