Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Help Wanted!

Would you like to be a character in my next book?

Then help me figure out what my next book is about.

I’m quite serious.

See, I’ve just put the finishing touches on THE SCHOOL OF NIGHT (due out in March 2011 from Henry Holt) and I’m going through the usual dance with my editor about the subject of Opus Next. I like to call it “a dance” because that sounds better than “eviscerating pain at the subcellular level.”

Here’s the problem. This time around, the dance has become one of those marathon dances so popular in the 20s and 30s. Have you seen THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON’T THEY? Imagine my editor and me helplessly entwined, staggering across the dance floor, our muscles and joints porous with fatigue, our brains fading to black.

Or, to torture another metaphor: Imagine me tossing up ideas like skeet. And now imagine my editor putting each clay pigeon into her gunsights and blasting it into a shower of fragments.

That’s pretty much how it stands now. A good two dozen skeet … gone.

Now my editor’s tastes are contradictory and sometimes downright unfathomable, but this much I have gathered. She wants the book to be set in America. (Brazil? Bad.) She would like it to feature some famous literary figure (an author or a character). She would like it to flirt with the supernatural. (For some reason, she really inclines toward voodoo.)

And beyond that? Well, I'm tapped out.

Maybe after a week’s vacation, I’ll start churning out more ideas, but right now, I’m dry-heaving.

So I’m quite seriously begging your help, Readers! If you can come up with some idea that even vaguely meets the criteria sketched above and – this is a much bigger condition – IF this idea makes it over the fiercely guarded moat of my editor’s skepticism – then YOU (or at least someone bearing your name) will become a character in aforementioned novel. With all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto.

I’ll throw in a backrub. And I’ll be your BFF. And if I ever get another cat, I’ll name it after you, too. Regardless of the gender.

HELP … ME ….

If you’ve got some brilliant, unassailable idea that you’re willing to loan out, then e-mail it to me. Or just set it in flaming letters across the sky.

If I sound desperate, I am. There’s only so much rejection a middle-aged guy can take.

Lovingly, at your feet,



  1. Not sure of a story line... yet, but I do know of two very interesting Americans that fit the bill of famous literary figures who flirted with the Supernatural - William James & Edgar Cayce.

    -Striker Corbin

  2. Margaret Atwood writing The Handmaids Tale.

  3. OK, my friend, sounds like you've got to get to New Orleans - or at least Louisiana. I think most of the familiar Southern writers are going to be too 20th century modern to give you the fictional distance you need.

    So how about working with Dion Boucicault - Irish melodramatist and actor mid - 19th century - eventually emigrated to the US - wrote "The Octoroon" set on a Louisiana plantation?

    You could bring him south as touring actor. Let you play around with mid-19th century American theatre... James O'Neill, the BOOTH family... Those old theatres make great settings.

    What he does? Who he meets there? Hell, man, you're the writer.


  4. Hey, guys! Awesome suggestions.

    Brian, you've stumped me. Never heard of this Boucicault character. Most intriguing.

    Striker, I actually gave a thought to Cayce, but not to James! Didn't he once have a vision of a squatting green-skinned man? Or was that his dad?

    Lodgers: I'm not sure Margaret A would take kindly to being someone else's character. And, being still alive, she may not qualify as historical. Great book, though.

    You guys rock.

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  6. What about Zora Neale Hurston? I think she's out of your normal historical time frame, but maybe that's part of what your editor is looking for? She studied voodoo rituals in Jamaica but is an American author. And she had a sad ending to her life - she had financial and medical issues and ended up in an unmarked grace until Alice Walker located her. Maybe you could write a story about how someone who didn't want her writing about the voodoo rituals cursed her. I'd read that!
    By the way, I enjoyed The Black Tower!

  7. Two words: Doc Holiday. Very supersticious man. Plagued by actual demons, not just the ones in the bottle. Be happy to take you on a tour of some of his Colorado haunts. [get it? haunts? heh, heh.]

    David Boop

  8. You ought to write a book about H. P. Lovecraft, encountering one of the sort of horrors that he wrote about. Of course it would be him, famously prickly and xenophobic and somewhat effete, and not one of his scholar/archeologist protagonists. And it would be in Rhode Island, which is real, not Arkham, which is not real, with its succession of antique bookstores and abandoned churches.

    Z. D. Smith

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  10. Oh, what an opportunity!

    How about Ansel Adams meets The Mystery House? Really, great photographers are legitimately "literary."

    But not in New Orleans proper, I think. In the bayous, in a creepy house.

    You could throw in a (preferably female) Huck Finn-ish character. The bad guy could be based on Louisiana's infamous Silver Zipper (governor circa 30 years ago with lots of hooker friends). Note: Interesting stuff went on when La's banks were confined to parish borders; kind of feudal, that.

  11. You guys are a total education. Zora Neale Hurston, Doc Holiday, Ansel Adams, Louisiana politics ... I feel smarter already.

    And Z.D., you are the SECOND person to suggest H.P. Lovecraft. Which makes it all the more embarrassing to admit I've never read him! Will have to remedy that forthwith.

    Thanks, guys!

  12. I'd say you should look at maybe jules verne type character or even a setting in the east coast, salem, MA and you would have a great setting for supernatural.

    If that doesn't work, watch ghosthunters and see if you can grab any ideas from there. Best of luck to you. Please though, skip the cat, go for a dog and I'll skip the backrub, one man rubbing the back of a bald man, might come off odd, let's say whiskey instead, cheers. :)

  13. You're already finished with School of Night? (great title, too) How about a novel about Matthew Pearl trying to keep up with Louis Bayard's pace? And everyone in the novel can keep pronouncing Louis and Bayard wrong.

  14. I'd like to suggest a book featuring Marie Laveau (b. September 1801, d. June 1881), voudoun queen of New Orleans. When she was about 15, she may have had occasion to meet Andrew Jackson and pirate Jean Lafitte during the Battle of New Orleans (January 18, 1815). Perhaps her voodoo powers were just budding, and she had some impact on the battle or she was budding in other ways and was involved in a love affair with a pirate?

    Or, during the 1830's, she may have had some sort of dealings with the Marquis de Lafayette or Prince Achille Murat , nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. She may have needed the prince's skills as a lawyer (although I don't know what kind of law he practiced).

    I hope that these suggestions have sparked something for you.

  15. When I think historical American literary figure, I think Twain. Pragmatic, grounded, skeptical. Who better to take on the supernatural?

    Wht stop there? Team him up with a strapping young Teddy Roosevelt, whom Twain ended up despising by the end of Teddy's presidency.

    See this letter Twain wrote to the New York Times:

    Roosevelt however,looked to Twain as one of his favorite interpreters of the Old West. (I smell conflict.)

    Maybe they are investigatig the ghost of Hawthorne walking the halls of the House of the Seven Gables, or some diabolical voodoo zombie plot to kill a foreign dignitary when he visits the U.S. Crap, maybe I should write this story. Naw, this is more your thing. Or, maybe not.

  16. I had to post here and tell you that I just finished The Black Tower. It was absolutely spectacular!! I am not a fan of historic fiction but your book is changing my mind on that!! I wrote a glowing review on my blog and will tell everyone that you are the best!!

    I'll have to dig around in my "little gray cells" and see if I can come up with an idea for your next book, that is if you still are trying to find one.

    Anyway, thank you so much for such a wonderful book, I look forward to checking out more of your work!!

  17. Your literary character is Thomas Benton Weir. He will first appear as the main character in the stalled novel "Weir Point," written by your own main literary character, Thomas Bacon. Bacon''s contemporary manuscript is an attempt to tell, in the form of a novel, the "truth" about what happened to George Armstrong Custer on June 25, 1876.

    As a matter of historical fact, Weir was a 7th Cavalry officer in one of the companies that escaped annihilation at Little Bighorn. Besieged with companies led by Captain Frederick Benteen and Major Marcus Reno less than five miles from Custer's command battalion, Weir disobeyed a direct order to hold his ground and attempted to lead his men to Custer's rescue -- all to no avail.

    There are two VERY deep, VERY intriguing back stories here. And I'll be happy to share them with you. Be in touch via my Facebook page. Your fan and fellow novelist, Charles R. Drago, Providence, RI.