Sara Paretsky’s Blog


Are the Cubs a Giant Boil?
June 3, 2009, 3:38 pm
Filed under: Books, Chicago writers, reading

Chicago’s book fair, which is always the first weekend in June, will take place June 6-7 this year.  I’ll be taking part in a panel on the Chicago Cubs at one p.m. on June 6; a lot of Chicago crime writers will be talking about crime fiction (if you’re going to talk about crimes, just go straight to the Cubs), the endlessly inventive Mary Zimmerman will be present, as will short story virtuoso Jean Thompson.

And if you don’t want to sit through a program, all writers will be signing books after their events.  Mystery writers will be hopping in and out of the Centuries & Sleuths tents.  Dozens of booksellers set up tents where you can actually handle a book and see if you want to read it without downloading it to your e-reader.  Paper, ink, illustrations–it doesn’t get any better than that.

The Chicago Tribune, the book fair’s sponsor, interviewed me this morning about the Cubs.  The interview explains why I compare the Cubs to a giant boil.

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Galleys
May 30, 2009, 9:06 pm
Filed under: Books, Chicago writers, reading

Today I received bound galleys for Hardball, which is always an exciting time in the life of a book.  It’s a strange time, too, because it represents a kind of final separation between you and the work you’ve lived with for a long time–it’s in print, it’s thrilling, but the book no longer belongs to you.  It belongs now to readers, who not only bring their own experience and expectations to the novel, but understand it –complete it– in ways that differ from your own ideas  while you were writing it.

My novels run about 135,000 words.  That’s a lot of text and it takes a long time to write.  I don’t make them that long on purpose, but as a story and characters develop, and they become more complex, it takes that long to work all the threads of the story out.  

It also takes time to work out such dense story lines.  I’ve been urged to write two or even three books a year, but I’d have to think in a different way than I do now, a staccato, ad-copy kind of way that focused only on brief bursts of action, with less time spent on thinking through my characters.  Even if I could reprogram my brain to write like James Patterson’s stable of writers, I’m not sure stories like his would appeal to V I’s readers.writers block

I often write three or more drafts before a novel comes into its correct shape.  I wish it didn’t happen like that–I wish the first draft were the final draft–but that’s happened to me only once in the course of the eighteen books I’ve published–and that was with the fourth novel in the V I series, Bitter Medicine.  More than once, I’ve discarded over two hundred pages, and found I could use only two or three paragraphs of the work I tossed.

Thank you all for staying with me on my writing journey.



New York: Hardball and Dorothy
May 8, 2009, 11:56 pm
Filed under: Books, Chicago writers, reading

I’m back from New York, where I spent an energizing morning with my publishers, talking about plans for the publication of Hardball, the next book in my V I series.  It will be on sale on September 22, and, given how whole years seem to go by while I’m blinking, that’s pretty much just around the corner.  Putnam has done a great jacket–it says “Chicago” in a bold, PI kind of way.IS4063RF-00009313-001

 

Before going into the city, I spent a day upstate with a beloved old friend, Dorothy Salisbury Davis.  Dorothy is 93 now, frail, but still with a tough, insightful mind.  I leave  her always with new insights into life, living, and writing.  I leave her always with a painful wrench–parting is so hard that it’s sometimes hard to bring myself to visit in the first place.  Dorothy was one of the great masters of crime fiction in the fifties, sixties and seventies.  Unfortunately, her books are no longer in print, although Christina Pickles just read from one of them on Selected Shorts.  Look for Dorothy’s books in your used bookstore or your library–she’s so insightful, such an economical storyteller.

I could write for days about Dorothy and not exhaust what I know about her, or my love for her, but I’ll just tell you two of the many suggestions she’s given me: if you’re stuck in a book, if the story isn’t working, stand it on its head.  If you like the basic story, turning it upside down, in structure, or in whose narrative viewpoint you’re embracing, can sometimes shake things loose.

The second insight is that you are your best source of material.  What you’ve lived, how you’ve lived.  Of course, Dorothy’s life holds richer physical material than most: she was the daughter of a poor immigrant mother and tenant-farming father, and her first job out of school was as a magician’s assistant in the middle of the Depression; after she married and moved to New York with her actor husband, Harry, she landed in an exciting milieu of writers and artists– she knew Elia Kazan, Paul Robeson, Joanne Woodward, Hortense Calisher, Carson McCullers and a host of other names we conjure with.  

She’s written about her childhood, and her magician boss, often.  But she really means, your emotional life is your goldmine.  Understanding yourself, being prepared to perform surgery on your emotions in public–that is, on the page–is the only way to write in an authentic voice.



Studs Terkel, Rest in Action
November 1, 2008, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Chicago writers | Tags: , , , ,

Studs Terkel died yesterday. Studs was one of the country’s great journalists, in print and on radio, a gifted listener, a commanding raconteur, the ultimate “voice of the voiceless.” He was born in New York, but Chicago was his home for the great span of his adult life. He had a restless curiosity for the human condition and human life, and he continued to do his best work in his last decades as he had in his first. It’s a joy to have known him and worked with him, a sadness to have lost him–especially before Tuesday’s election. I don’t want you to rest in peace, Studs; I want you to rest in action, so that those of us who remain behind don’t stop the work which you “have thus far so nobly advanced.”Studs on WFMT