Saturday, November 18, 2006

Elmore Leonard's Ten Rules of Writing

Probably everyone who has thought of writing crime fiction in the last twenty years has read some Elmore Leonard. Most of us have probably read his "ten rules of writing" at least once.

But for me, it's always a good idea to read them more often. If only because of, "If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." And all that stuff about keeping the writer invisible, making the story about the characters and letting them tell it.

And only use "said" and never modify it in any way.

Works for me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Fact or fiction

Three of my favourite authors - Denise Minna, Christopher Brookmyre and Ian Rankin - all have a scene in one of their books in which someone is tied to a chair and killed. In the Rankin the guy tied to the chair manages to get to a window and jump out, but he's impaled on a fence.

Now, all three authors are Scottish and the books came out around the same time, so I'm wondering, was this account based on a real event?

What I found really cool was how all three had very different backstories for the crime that all made sense.

Friday, November 10, 2006

What can you learn about me from my fiction?

When I sat down to write Dirty Sweet I didn't think about selling it. I just wanted to write a book for me - pure escape. I'm a stay-at-home dad with two sons. When I started the book my oldest son was in junior kindergarden five mornings a week and his little brother was in a playschool three mornings a week. I figured soon enough both boys would be in school all day and I'd be back emptying garbage cans on movie sets. But for now, I had three - two hour sessions a week. I wanted to get as far away from diapers and mashed bananas and Bob the Builder as I could. So, I started writing about crime - adult crime. Internet porn, sexy women, shady bad guys, cool cops. Nothing like my real life at all.

But I didn't have a lot of time for research and it turns out the internet porn used up most of it. So, when I went to create the main character of Vince, I used a lot of my own background. I just made him a hell of a lot cooler. So, Vince and I were born in the same year, we both grew up in a working class nieghbourhood of Montreal and we both dropped out of LaSalle High and moved to Alberta when we were seventeen. And we both worked as night janitors at the Sears store in the Chinook Mall and we both got arrested. Then things get a little different. I was one of two guys on that night shift to be let go with no charges being laid. Vince, though, he went to jail.

That was the inspiration for the book. It's all about opportunity - how some people see it everywhere and some people don't know when it's slapping them in the face. I never saw it. Vince sees it. I wondered, what would have happened to me if I'd gone to jail? Would have been a whole different life. Of course I would have become an internet porn entrepeneur, a millionaire, a guy who doesn't lose his cool when people point guns at him. Sure, I would.

No, I moved back to Montreal and went to Concordia University.

But Vince and I like the same music, we saw the same movies when we were teenagers. It was just easier to write it that way. Vince moved to Toronto after he got out of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison. I moved to Toronto when I got married. I'm not going to make any jokes about that.

Now my boys are in school all day - grade one and grade three - and I'm still at home. My second novel, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere will be published next May and there's no one in it like me. I have more time for research now.

Some people have asked me how I knew so mch about that Brazilian wax Roxanne gets in Dirty Sweet. For that, you have to ask my wife...