Let’s welcome Chuck back. Always a welcome and popular guest. Chuck has the distinction of being the first Author to begin the new year of 2022 with the Story Behind the Story. See it HERE.
He’s got something new in the works and his fans (myself included) are anxiously waiting for the next thriller and/or cozy.
A little twist to this post as we stray from the SBTS, and we get some background on Chuck’s writing.
Where Did That Come From?
- Chuck Bowie
I am what is known as an ‘intuitive writer.’ Actually, it’s not so much what I am as how I write. I don’t operate with outlines, spreadsheets, number limitations (words per paragraph, words per chapter, size of book…). I just sit down, and well, write. There are times when an idea ‘arrives’, but for the most part, I sit at my desk and wait.
Usually, I wait less than a minute.
I write mysteries: Thrillers and Cozy Mysteries. In general, my stories begin with an individual, an event, or a location. This part doesn’t matter to me so much, but it’s always interesting when an inspirational event – from real life – happens along to get my creative juices flowing.
I had mentioned in a previous episode of The Story Behind the Story: SBTS that my first cozy had been inspired by the true story of an inn renovation where a skull, probably from the 1920s had been found between the wall studs. But I have been inspired as a novelist by individuals, events, and locations since I began to write.
In Three Wrongs, I was working in Romania with a single (Canadian) colleague, and awakened from a dream with a character fully-formed. Donovan, a thief for hire with little to no conscience carried a contract to steal a chalice from a palace in Bucharest, and I was off to the races.
In AMACAT, inspiration came from locations. I had been travelling to France, London, and New York (not to mention Canada), and as my story unfolded, these locations presented opportunities to narrate specific plot elements. A woman being set up for fraud works in London. A stolen cask of wine disappears from Provence, in France. A mask changes hands as it travels from Provence to Montreal, and back to France via a riverboat cruise on the Rhône. In every instance, I believe that the setting inspires and amplifies the story.
Steal It All presents a wonderful illustration of how the story behind the story can unfold. I had made lunch for my son, and while we waited to eat, drinking copious mugs of coffee, Jon recounted a CBC article about the Manchester gangs of the 1980s. I borrowed the concept as a major element of a Manchester gang that (ahem!) caught Donovan’s interest.
An Individual (Who disappears quickly)
In The Body on the Underwater Road, I introduce a character who features prominently in the first two chapters, and then promptly disappears for the rest of the novel. While in her brief tenure on my literary earth, she sets off a chain of events upon which the rest of the novel hinges. ‘Kill your darlings,’ indeed!
So Much Location!
In Her Irish Boyfriend – my wife gifted me with this wonderful title, by the way – we had set out on a grand adventure to England, almost a month in length. At the last minute my son suggested that if we didn’t mind a detour, flying into Dublin would save us several hundred in flight costs. Did we mind travelling to our original thought for a destination? Of course not. Off we went.
We land in Dublin and the kernel of an idea begins to form. Trips to Trinity College and, yes, the Temple Bar District solidified the genesis of the novel. Off we sail across the Irish Sea, into Wales and off to London by train. Crime two is set. After brief jaunts to Bath and Cardiff, we swan off the York, where Crime 3 falls into my lap. By the time we’re back in London, the climax – in Dublin and Yorkshire – writes itself, so to speak. So, location, location…location.
And here is the opportunity cost of being an intuitive writer, as exemplified in the paragraph above. I had sat down a few weeks ago to write Cozy #4. Before I got three words down, the Muse sat on my shoulder, shook her head (I just discovered that my Muse has a gender!) and said, ‘Did you not read Her Irish Boyfriend? Remember the new character, Loic, from the very end of the book? Well, Loic is in trouble. Donovan must go help him. So, thriller now; cozy later. Off you go, Chuck.
Anthologies Have Back Stories As Well
Recently I, with a number of my writer friends have begun a seasonal collection of anthologies. Autumn Paths is in the can, as is Winter Paths. Spring Paths is, of course, on my mind, but I digress.
Anthologies can also contain stories behind the stories. In Autumn Paths, I was inspired by the writing of my friend, Allan Hudson, having just read his action thriller, Wall of War. I decided to write a yarn based on my character, Sean Donovan, meeting Allan’s character, Drake Alexander. By melding a common setting: eastern Canada, I was able to bring the two characters together to solve a mystery. So fun.
Winter Paths was quite different. I had been visiting an older gentleman who was housebound. His daily regimen was solidly etched in stone: coffee first, cat food for kitty, lunch, hockey or curling on the TV, late afternoon news, etc. I decided to write a story featuring such an individual together with his regimen. However, I threw a wrinkle into the mix, and watched what happened. I think it is an interesting tale. You should read it.
In fact, reading novels – all stories, really – and imagining the back story can be a satisfying part of the reading process. At least, I believe it to be so.
Thanks for being our guest this week, Chuck. Wishing you continued success with your stories.
And a big thank you to our visitors and readers. Feel free to tell us what’s on your mind. Comment box below.