Delicacy: Sharing Two Posts from Serious Reading

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Delicacy

Since I, Claudia is now published, I have been writing a number of articles to promote the new book. And thought you may be interested in reading a couple of them.

Here is the article called Delicacy first published at Serious Reading.

“I was worried when my latest novel declared itself done at just under 65,000 words. But not surprised.

The apprehension was warranted. My first foray into historical fiction had produced a finished manuscript that was not only far shorter than any of my series of medical mysteries, but the word length of my new novel, I, Claudia A Novel of the Ancient World , contrasted starkly with the 100,000 to 120,000, expected word count of the average historical fiction novel.

The absence of surprise emanated from the need for what I can only term, “delicacy” while writing this book…of the imperative to take great care and not weigh it down.

The word “delicacy” is not a word that comes to mind when considering the qualities that one needs to write well. Indeed, it is a term that is dystonic to self discipline, persistence and the other characteristics of good, even great writers.

Delicacy connotes airiness, gossameriness, fragility; the adjectives describe a confection…a piece of exquisite pastry. But it is the only word that fits this sense I knew to be crucial in writing a new story of Pontius Pilate, a man many people and institutions believe they know and his wife Claudia Procula, the woman no one knows.

All writers know the process of conceiving and then writing a new novel well.  More accurately, perhaps we should say the phases of putting a new book together feel like well traveled routes.

  • The initial burst of excitement when the ideas begin to embrace, excite and provoke… that irresistible combination of exhilaration and terror of the new creation.
  • The immersion in the details of the esoteric subject matter that is wholly alien to our own experience. Natural curiosity provides plenty of fuel to keep us studying what others have said.
  • But then comes the time to stop reading what others have written. And to give license to these new places, cultures, and persons that are slowly taking shape in our imagination. Let them shrug off their cloaks and free themselves.
  • Who is he? Or she?
  • How did she get to this place?
  • And the terror takes over. READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

And here is a new interview, also first published at Serious Reading

If you were to change your genre, which one would you choose?

A most fitting question since my genre is/was medical mystery suspense thrillers. A most comfortable fit with my background in academic medicine and cardiovascular physiology. My next book would be the 5th in the Lindsey McCall mystery series. I was looking forward to it because I planned to bring back several characters I had loved in the 2nd book, Do You Solemnly Swear? That is until the title, I, Claudia as in the wife of Pontius Pilate showed up while I was on a March hike with my dogs. This switch to historical fiction was wholly unplanned, so challenging as to be terrifying. Just the proper ingredients for a risk worth taking.

Writers usually have a particular Muse, but some also have a different Muse which inspired different books – does that apply in your case?

Yes… to the first part of that question. But the noun “muse” connotes something fanciful, as in mythological. There is nothing imaginary about the inspiration, even direction of my writing. This has been so for each of the novels but far more so while writing I, Claudia. That change was effected by changes in me: willingness to listen to that inner voice and trust it.

What are the ethics of writing about historical figures?

Such an intriguing question. Although I did not think of it exactly like that, using a word like ethics, I was worried about these people I wrote about. Quite different from my characters in the Lindsey McCall mysteries who emerged from my imagination. These were people who had lived, dreamed and had goals and desires. About doing them ‘justice,’ making sure that what I wrote was at least plausible.

Of course, I did extensive research on both Pontius Pilate and Claudia by finding and studying what others had written. Just as I did on all the other novels I’d done. But eventually I got to the point where what I read did not ‘fit’ with Lucius (Pontius Pilate) or with Claudia. So it became time to stop reading what others wrote.

It is often said that in order to write something, you must believe in what you are writing. Do you agree with that?

Absolutely, wholeheartedly, I can write only about material I and people worth writing…and reading…about: provocative yet credible. There are caveats, of course. ‘Believe in’ in the sense that the characters, story line and overall plot offer something to the reader. Something perhaps that challenges long-held assumptions, prejudices or biases. In I, Claudia, the high priest Caiaphas and Pilate himself are both men that many see as uni-dimensional. That’s true of no human being, we are all complex combinations of motives and capable of both extreme good and extreme evil.

Which of your books took you the most time to write?

The first: The Fragrance Shed By A Violet. True because I did not believe I could, or should be capable of writing it. It was a long and difficult battle with what Stephen Pressfield in his splendid book, The War of Art, calls “resistance.” Another muse, if you will, but this one is dark and dangerous.

How did you celebrate the publishing of your first book?

HA! My husband and I were sitting and drinking a glass of wine shortly after Fragrance was published. (The first edition.)

He asked how I felt about it. I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well, Lin, you’ve written a novel. One that took you years to write…aren’t you proud of yourself?”

“No,” I answered, “I miss those characters! I cannot believe how much I miss them!”

“Well then, write a sequel.”

So, I did.

Guess that’s not a celebration, exactly. READ ENTIRE INTERVIEW