Here's what happens now: I am in the process of finishing my 20th novel, a book called THINGS HAVE CHANGED. When that's done, I have some edits to do on a few of my other books - my last novel, MY AGENT OF CHAOS, and a new version of a nonfiction book called CHART OF DARKNESS. My desk should be clear in mid-April, which is when I will launch into the first draft of EATING ANIMALS.
The through-line (I don't really do plots unless I'm writing a mystery or crime novel) is similar to a few of my other books: people who are roughly my age are trying to deal with love and life, despite the unnerving persistence of the past and their fleeting brushes with success. If you wanted to sum up what I'm about, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. However, there are differences: of the four main characters, two are chefs - a profession I've been wanting to write about for some time. These two guys are also both straight; I've been wanting to write about straight adult male friendships for awhile and one of them always ends up being a woman or a gay dude.
I've written about two of these characters in the past. One of them, Alicia Stander, appeared in two of my past novels - WOLVES IN THE BLACK and THE LEGEND OF JENNY MCCABE. Her journey almost seemed complete. She started off damaged in WOLVES and in JENNY she'd healed herself. I wrote both those books in the Aughts. Wade Gimble, her boyfriend, appeared much earlier, in a short story called, "Last Night at the Bear," which I wrote in the mid-1990s. Wade was an analogue to who I was back then, and when he showed up (completely unplanned) in JENNY MCCABE, it was interesting to catch up on who he's been and what he's been doing. He and Alicia found each other and helped each other. But Wade's been in my mind a lot lately. I've begun wondering if there's a chance for drama - for conflict, for a good story - after healing. I think there is.
There's also a character I want to use who mirrors Kathy in Steinbeck's East of Eden - one of my favorite novels ever. I'm trying to figure out if there's a way to build a character like that without feeling sexist, and I think it'll be a good challenge for me as a male writer.
I'm also delving into stuff like technique and structure in this book. Normally, I start off each book having a vague idea what drives the characters and having some vague conflict they need to deal with. I've plowed through a lot of books that way and it usually works. This time, I want to have an interesting structure, and an interesting way to introduce the main players. My books have usually employed a three-part structure. Most recently, the parts consist of: characters start somewhere / ROADTRIP / come back home changed. This ... likely won't change that paradigm. But I'm going to be dealing with the past of the characters in a more personal way, because Wade's past is MY past.
So that's where we stand on EATING ANIMALS. I'm currently weighing the pros and cons of releasing the novel in segments so you can all read along as I write it. We'll see how I feel come mid-April and it's game time.
Thanks again for giving me the urgency to finish this novel. I already have some ideas for book #22 coming up (it's going to be very short), and I have to start writing it in November, so let's hope EATING ANIMALS has a quick gestation. You've all supported me and the concept of independent writing and publishing, and I can't tell you how gratified I am.
Read well, write well, and let freedom ring!