You’re driving a manual shift vehicle up a steep incline. The engine is laboring in high gear, choking and sputtering. If you don’t do something soon, you’re going to stall out. So you press down the clutch, flip the shifter knob into first gear, and slowly ease the pedal up to engage the engine once again. If you do it right, you’re home free, but if you miss the gear, if your foot slips or moves too quickly or slowly, you’re dead in the—well, on the hill.
Wait, you thought this post was going to be about writing? You have an automatic transmission, right, or take the bus? You don’t need driving lessons, but inspiration or insights into the mysteries of a writer’s world.
If you write, though, you’ve probably stalled or come close to it many times. They call it writer’s block sometimes, but it’s more than that. We are all complicated, layered personalities, like the best characters ever created in fiction. Sometimes we even contradict our own inclinations. I am a country girl at heart, for instance, who learned later in life to love the grit and energy that can only be found in the bustle of city life.
I pour my love of the city into my Street Stories suspense novels. When I was writing and editing the recently released second novel in the series, Bend Me, Shape Me, I was in high gear, flat out and fully immersed in that world I was creating. I sent it off to my publisher with high hopes. Then I hit the hill.
I wasn’t blocked. I could still write, still chugging along even if there were a few fits and starts along the way. My internal engine, the complicated, many-valved, pieced-together heart of me that makes me unique, was signaling it was time to switch gears. My country girl needed her share of traction as well.
No problem, I thought. I’m a writer. I write. Ideas, both good ones and really stupid ones, abound in my head. I have had a cozy mystery idea in mind for years, based on the farmstead I once lived on in rural Illinois. My small mother-in-law house resided across the driveway from a huge farmhouse that had been the home of a family who raised twelve close-knit children who were friends of mine. Think The Waltons on the open prairie.
In real life, I always thought it would be cool to buy the larger house and turn the place into an artist and writers retreat. Real life can be pretty expensive, though, and a lot of work. So I decided to live my idea virtually by writing a series of books instead. Since I am a lover of mystery and suspense, of course I had to murder someone to make it even more fun.
Writing A Bull by the Horns is a fun but scary ride. I love being able to give full throttle to a sense of humor that is shades lighter than the dark cynicism of my protagonist in the Street Stories novels. I also worry. I am proud of the intricate characterizations and weighty themes in my first two published books. Is this new book just a lot of useless fluff?
Will readers of one series be put off when they find I also write another that is completely different? I have chosen to write my lighter books using my maiden name of Deb Donahue in order to differentiate between the two. Do I need to keep up a pretense that they are two real people instead of just different gears in the complicated vehicle of my personality?
What do you think? Would you be willing to travel along with an author who switches gears occasionally? Or do you prefer a cruising along in drive, knowing ahead of time what the scenery will be like?
Debra R. Borys is the author of the STREET STORIES suspense novel series. A freelance writer and editor, she spent four years volunteering with Emmaus Ministries and the Night Ministry in Chicago, and eight years doing similar work at Teen Feed, New Horizons and Street Links in Seattle. Her publication credits include short fiction in Red Herring Mystery Magazine, Downstate Story and City Slab. Learn more about Debra from her Amazon author page and her website.