Sunday, December 12, 2010

Silly, Silly Me (And An EP)

It’s always a mistake for me to think I can take a few weeks—or wow, maybe a month—off from writing to enjoy a sense of accomplishment—and maybe recover a little—from having completed a novel. Turning in Sammy Keyes and the Night of Skulls in November looked like good timing, too, because the last month of the year is always nuts. We hosted Thanksgiving, Mark’s birthday was shortly after, then we celebrated our “Dutch Christmas” which takes the first five days of December and requires a bit of work on my part, and the rest of the month doesn’t get much easier. Our younger son has a birthday in mid-December (which we strive to make unique so it’s not lost in the holiday shuffle), and then there’s the final ramp up to Christmas and New Year’s…by the time we cross the finish line on my birthday in early January, everyone’s exhausted and definitely broke. So I was convinced that it was okay to take December off from writing. After all, I haven’t received any official contract for the last Sammys. What was the hurry, right? So I got busy writing Christmas cards instead. Silly, silly me. Late last week my editor told me that the next Sammy is due in May. May! “June at the very latest.” Good grief. My head’s barely escaped the graveyard mayhem of Night of Skulls. And The Running Dream is coming out in January! I’m going to be away on tour! How am I supposed to get a book done by May? Or even June? But having been ingrained in my youth with my parents' indelible (and often damnable) Immigrant Work Ethic, I know I’ll give it my best shot. Which means buckling down and getting started. Which means an emergency plot-talking-session with Mark. Which means (because we have no road trips planned) going for a long run. Once the broad strokes of a story are painted, it’s not hard for me to fill in the details. But I have to really understand and like the broad strokes. So even though I’ve got the basic idea for each of the final four Sammy’s defined, I need way more than that to begin writing. It’s like the pot of paint is open, but the switch plates haven’t been removed and the trim isn’t masked and there’s no drop cloth on the floor. It is definitely not paint time until everything is ready, ‘cause if you start before everything is ready the cleanup is going to be enormous, and no matter what you hope, the job won’t come out pro. So early Saturday morning Mark and I set out on a ten mile run, and we talked plot. There’s something about the rhythm of running and the inability to do anything else that makes running the perfect vehicle for tossing creative ideas back and forth. The basic idea for Sammy 15 is that there’s this (kinda loser) guy who creates a (very lame) superhero persona and makes it his mission to monitor the mini metropolis of Santa Martina for evildoers. Officer Borsch, of course, thinks he’s a nutcase and a nuisance. Which he is. Sort of. The (kinda loser) guy, however, thinks Sammy is a star. Which she is. Definitely. But she's never actually had a "celebrity moment" before, so this is all a little strange. Maybe even creepy. Anyway, that was my starting point. And it may not seem like much, but that’s pretty typical for me. Sometimes I’ll write a Sammy Keyes book from the crime out, but most often it’s from the character in. The people have to fascinate me to keep me interested, and from them I fashion an event or crime that would fit in with their sub-world or psyche. This (kinda loser) guy—who has yet to be named—fascinates me. And I know I’ll have no trouble sustaining my interest in him through 250 or 300 pages. It’s the events surrounding him that needed to be developed, but after ten miles of running through back roads I'm happy to report that I have some really great (and funny) plot ideas for the mystery thread of Sammy #15. (I also have a huge blister on my pinky toe which I'm going to break down and pop.) Now, when I say that all I was starting with was this idea for a (kinda loser) guy, that’s not really true. There is, of course, the developing thread of plot lines established in previous books. Like the mystery of who Sammy’s dad is and the set-up for the Big Reveal in Book 16. There’s also the dynamics among established characters, and how all the threads will tie together. But after 10 miles on the road, I’m feeling a lot more ready to dip the brush. Which is a huge relief. But still. May? I have a feeling I’m going to be logging a lot of miles between now and then. Switching subjects—I’d promised to let you know when our CD (make that EP) was on iTunes, and it is now. It’s also on Amazon. Just search “Risky Whippet” and you’ll find us. (I’ll post the artwork so you know what it looks like.) Hope you think it’s fun! Post questions if you have them--I'm happy to answer what I can. Thanks so much for checking in. See you next week (when I hope to have details about my tour schedule)!

12 comments:

Caradith Craven said...

The Risky Whippet CD/EP is an awemsome rockin' experience. Your blog readers should definitely go to Amazon and download the tunes. The sound is just amazing. Great job Risky Whippet family band--what talent each of you possesses.

Wendelin, good luck with meeting the May deadline. I know you, and you will meet it with another wonderful,can't-put-it-down story plot with unforgettable characters.

bookworm said...

ok.... SK14 isn't out yet, neither is the running dream (although it comes out in january) and now you start up talk about SK15 and 16. Wendelin, you couldn't have devised a more exquisite torture.

Hunger Games Lover said...

oh gr8, now i hav to wait for 2, no THREE books! y? night of skulls, first. the one with the (kind of loser) guy, and the one where we find out who SAMMY'S DAD IS!! thx for letting us know...
anyway, wat do want to name the guy? how 'bout Norman. or Max or Nathan. Probably something that starts with an 'N'...What do you think?

Hunger Games Lover said...

ps. whats a whippet?

Sam said...

I agree with HGL, exept i have to wait for FOUR books cuz i still need to read wedding crasher.

Optimistic4ever said...

Wendelin! You already had us anticipating the arrival of Night of Skulls, and now you're talking about the 15th which seems even awesomer, and the 16th, which sounds epic! You're really good at torture, you know?

Anywho, good luck with the deadline and don't worry. You'll end up writing a book that none of us can put down. And I'll check out the Risky Whippets soon as I get the chance.

Elizabeth said...

My birthday is mid-December as well... on the 18th, I turn 18! :D. I've been listening to Risky Whippet for the past couple days. Great buy! I was already in love with Won't Let Go, but like Girl is Silver a lot too!!! :D. Actually listening to that one now ^_^. And MAY?!?! That is crazy! I'd probably have a panic attack if told that... but I'm sure that you can make it. I'm glad that you were able to make some serious plot planning progress on that run! And I'm sure that it will be fantastic, and I'm sure that your followers will buy it and love it :). I know I will! And the (kinda loser) guy sounds very interesting-can't wait to get to know him better! I hope that you are able to enjoy this month, and the next, despite the insanity, and that you manage to enjoy your BIRTHDAY despite the exhaustion! Thanks for everything you do, and for updating us on it! (listening to Gingerbread Man now, btw :D).

Eleanor said...

On the subject of naming the (kinda loser) guy, I believe that his name should be Larry, because that name holds great power, if you say it one way like Laaaarry it sounds kinda lame and loserish but if you say it with a British accent then it sounds smart and awesome. And that is why you should name the (kinda loser) guy Larry.

ilove2read! said...

Like everyone else, I have to ask! Why!? I am going to go crazy here! I have about 20 books (not even kidding, I just counted) that I'm waiting for between now and October! But - let's see if I can say this - no pressure. Ha! I said it! Even though I hardly mean it. I know it would probably take me like three years just to finish the first draft of a 200 some page book.
Anyway... moving on to a less torturous topic... Congrats on the new album! I am going to check it in a second. I can't wait for the tour in January. Please update us on dates times and places soon soon soon!
As for naming the (kinda loser) guy, I know you'll find the perfect name for him. It's gotta be a weird yet somewhat normal name... like Dan or Bob or something! (How awesome would that be? Bob! I just love that name!)

Ryan said...

Wendelin...

Sorry for hijacking your blog, but I can't seem to find a way to try to contact you on behalf of my daughter. Her name is Hannah, and she absolutely loves your Sammy Keyes books. She turns 13 this upcoming Sunday (the 19th) and we've had to cancel all the celebration we had planned because of the flu in our house. I'm simply asking if it wouldn't be too much trouble to perhaps write her a simple 'happy birthday' note. If you're able to, it could be sent to my email: ryan.g.mobley@gmail.com

Thanks for considering & have a great Christmas!
Ryan

Alexa said...

May?! WOW! I can't wait to see who Sammy's Dad is! Suspense.....

I'll have to check out your Risky Whippet CD (That's a really catchy name! RISKY WHIPPET) I love to sing! (Although I have like no clue if I'm good or not... I haven't really sang in front of other people. I'll just keep writing songs and believing I'm good ;) )

That sounds like that (Kind of loser) guy is funny :D. Pretty good plot starter! I don't like it when characters get boring. They lose my attention real quickly. I have so many stories I haven't finished because I got bored with them. I have a really short attention span for somethings sometimes :D. I still do love writing though! I would be soooooooooooooo bored without it.

If I ever got a band (which I probably never will. But hey I can dream, right?) I would name it: Everything Changes. I just think that name has so much meaning, but so much mystery in it. I like it :D

Wow, one LONG comment! See ya next post :D Lexa

ann said...

my sister and i have been fans of the sammy keyes series since the hollywood mummy first came out. we grew up reading your books! when you were talking about a sammy keyes 15 in your entry, my first thoughts were "sammy when she's 15? is wendelin van draanen going to expand the series?" we eventually figured out our mistake and you were talking about your upcoming book but do you think the idea of expanding the series is far fetched? I hope not, because i think alot of people myself included would not like to see an end to this series and would follow sammy as she ventures into high school or adulthood or wherever.

food for thought? can't wait for your next book!