It was a dark and stormy night…


…perfect baking weather, in my mind. So I made apricot-orange oat scones and then, since the kitchen was already a mess, cranberry chocolate chip cookies. C’mon over. I just put on a pot of coffee.

I was awake a lot during the night since bands of rain kept slamming the bedroom windows. And of course while I was lying there in bed listening to the wind, voluptuous prose started flowing out of my mind.

Did I get up to write any of it down? Nah. Am I pissed at myself for being a slouch? You bet. Full disclosure: most of the time when I have gotten up to write down those middle-of-the-night pearls, I find they’re not quite so pearly in the light of day. Last night could have been a breakaway point, though. We’ll never know, will we?

I just finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I carried it with me everywhere for the past couple of days so I could pop it open whenever anyone paused for longer than 2 seconds in conversation or I was waiting at a red light. Yeah, it definitely got under my skin.

I’m glad I didn’t see the movie, and I won’t. Too much really nasty stuff happens in the book, and I don’t want to see it replayed in color on the big screen. But it is making me think I’ll keep, maybe even expand on, some of what was making me a tad squeamish during my recent NaNo writing.

It probably goes without saying that NONE of my characters can hold a candle to Lisbeth Salander, the sociopathic main character in the Millennium trilogy. (Tattoo is the first book of the series.) That’s a problem – you’re boring – when you write what you know and you’ve led a fairly low-impact, neutral existence.

Larsson died before any of the books in his Millennium trilogy was even published. On Stieg Larsson came out last week. It includes a series of emails between him and his book editor, Eva Gedin, as they were editing the trilogy. A couple of those emails were printed in this Wall Street Journal article, The Man Who Launched a Blockbuster. I felt a little voyeuristic reading the emails, which of course adds to their appeal. I am looking forward to reading the entire book.

This exchange from the article stood out for me as I read it [possible spoilers but I don’t think they would stand in the way of your enjoyment if/when you got into the series]:

A rule of thumb has been never to romanticize crime and criminals, nor to stereotype victims of crime. I base my serial murderer in book I on a composite of three authentic cases. Everything described in the book can be found in actual police investigations.

The description of the rape of Lisbeth Salander is based on an incident that actually took place in the Ostermalm district of Stockholm three years ago. And so on.

The email went on to describe his thoughts about many of his characters, especially his so-called secondary characters who he believed were as important as his main characters in creating a “realistic universe”.

Larsson led a vastly more exciting personal life than most of us sitting at our kitchen tables pounding out whatever we’re pounding out while eating homemade scones. Even so, he got way outside his own skin to build his characters and his stories.

That’s part of the writer’s struggle, isn’t it, whether your life is exciting or mundane? To get outside your own skin and cast a wide net, troll around for those wrinkles and eccentricities, pick up the flotsam and jetsam of real lives that float in during a storm. Research. Listen. Get up in the middle of the night and write it down. Dream.

Getting outside your own skin. And then putting what you find there together in a way that will get under your readers’.

Still working on it.

6 comments to It was a dark and stormy night…

  • Yikes! I just bought this book for Kaitlin. I guess I should have done a little more checking before agreeing to it. I might read it though. I’ve been thinking about reading something a little darker since the JCO post. Although, technically this would qualify as a lot darker.
    I can’t imagine the research he put into these books, and I can’t imagine having to dig through court transcripts etc, to get the ideas. Talk about not sleeping…

  • Natasha

    I think you should read it. Believe me, it’s a fast and compelling read. Plus, I would think it could be a good discussion point for you and Kaitlin. Also look into Larsson’s life a little to see at least part of his impetus for the kind of writing/events in this series. It’s very interesting.

  • You’ve given me something to think about since I strive to show a world where the mundane becomes sinister, I revel in the mundane. But I do need to give some thought to getting outside my skin.

    Unfortunately, my husband yanked me out to see the movie before I could read the book. Lisbeth is an amazing character, I adore her. !!

    Although those midnight pearls don’t always look so great in daylight, sometimes there’s still a seed there … although to stick with the metaphor, I should say “a grain of sand” 😉

    • Natasha

      Well, I think you DO get outside of your own skin (unless you personally hand people wormy apples in your spare time) with your writing and do an excellent job of making the mundane creepy.

      …just sayin’…

  • I’ve read two of the trilogy and am awaiting my turn to pick up the third from the library. Amazing books!

    Writing a good book is not an easy task. The effort is an adventure worth the work for those of us who can’t stop trying.

    Great post, Natasha.

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