Well. There’s nothing quite like a four-day enforced separation from the internet to make a person appreciate the world’s foremost time-wasting mechanism. As you may have heard, a huge and violent storm called a derecho came ripping through a broad swath of the country (Chicago to Washington DC) and left absolute devastation in its wake. Millions were, and are, left without power and for many of us lucky enough to avoid a power outage we still lost our tether to the outside world. No TV, no internet. No fun.
The plus side to this crippling loss is that I had plenty of time to reconsider my current work decisions. You may recall that a week ago I was talking about where I planned to take my writing once my June break was over. Would I continue with Grand Champ or switch out to another story, called Blacktop? There were good and bad reasons for either choice and I enumerated them in that post, so if you want to read them, I suggest skipping over to that entry and checking them out.
Anyway, the project that seemed most likely to derail progress on Grand Champ was this horror novel I’d come up with. Horror is not technically my area, as I am associated most closely with crime fiction thanks to the positive splash made by The Dead Women of Juárez and the attention that will likely follow from my next book, Tequila Sunset. It’s not that I think Grand Champ isn’t a worthwhile pursuit — quite the opposite, I think, despite reservations by my some in my camp — but Blacktop promised to be lean, mean and fun to write. Fun is at a premium when it comes to writing professionally, as most of the time writing is all business.
As much as I like the idea of Blacktop, however, I now don’t think I should write it. It turns out that the concept jibes too closely with a film called Highwaymen. I might be able to rejigger things so that this isn’t the case, but that would require more effort than I’m willing to put into the book right now, so the best thing to do is set it aside and look wistfully at it as a project that could have been.
I wrote a book a few years back that almost sold to Harlequin — we got stuck negotiating rights and payment and the deal didn’t go through — that I tend to think is pretty good, but the execution was too similar to the output of a couple of other thriller authors. Everyone who’s rejected it has commented on that comparability and that’s pretty much the kiss of death. I don’t want to go through that process again with yet another novel. It’s bad enough when something wholly original and unique doesn’t make the cut, but it’s far worse when you’ve put the time and effort into something that eventually turns out to cut too close to someone else’s bone.
I had a similar fear when it came to The Dead Women of Juárez. Maybe mid-way through the writing of that book I became aware of a movie called Bordertown, with Jennifer Lopez. The subject matter (the feminicidios) was the same, and when I was all done with my work I watched the film with my heart in my throat. What if I had tread the same ground? As it turns out I had nothing to fear, but it was not a pleasant situation.