Writing Novels

Golden Gate GraveyardI recently published my latest mystery novel, Golden Gate Graveyard, and have received so many inquiries that I’ll share my responses here. At the end I have also included some readers’ responses to the book.

 

(For the synopses, see “Books by Jet Eliot” tab; for my background, see “About Jet” tab.)

 

For each new mystery novel I write there are two major decisions: setting and plot.

 

Setting. Having lived in the Bay Area for over 30 years, in a city that many people have visited pictorially or in-person, San Francisco was a winner for Golden Gate Graveyard. I wrote Wicked Walkabout before that, and relished the uniqueness of Australia for its unusual wildlife and quirky locals; I had spent six weeks there on two different vacations.

 

Jet researching, green coat, far left. This was an event at 5 a.m. in downtown San Francisco at the Lotta's Fountain anniversary celebration of the 1906 earthquake.

Jet researching, green jacket, far left. This was an event at 5 a.m. in downtown San Francisco at the Lotta’s Fountain anniversary celebration of the 1906 earthquake.

Plot. As a mystery writer, part of my job is thinking about murders. I like murders in the plot because it is one of the most serious offenses we have in this world. I use this serious action to drive the story.

 

Jet researching for the Alcatraz scene, at a scaled model of Alcatraz Island in SF at Pier 33.

Jet researching for the Alcatraz scene, at a scaled model of Alcatraz Island in SF at Pier 33.

Research. Every new novel has challenges, and it’s always a joy to meet them. For Australia, the challenge was not having grown up there. Regarding Golden Gate Graveyard: I have lived in the Bay Area for decades and had more familiarity, so I dove into the city’s history, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

Jet's desk.

Jet’s desk.

Structuring. People ask me if I use an outline. Always. I frankly do not see how an author can write a mystery novel without using an outline, but some do. I have found that outlines give me the freedom to create when I know which direction I am headed.

 

Once I have chosen the setting and the plot has been established, I work on the characters. Who is going to move the plot forward, who is/are the murderer(s), the suspects, etc.

 

Characters. I find the human race fascinating, endearing, sometimes baffling. When I am out and about, I have all my senses turned on high. I watch, smell, and listen intently to people.

 

Jet and her friend Susan, the cover artist for Golden Gate Graveyard.

Jet and her friend Susan Sternau, the cover artist for Golden Gate Graveyard.

When I was a young writer in my 20s, having so many characters in my head  was a challenge because I didn’t have the experience to discipline my thoughts. Over the years I have developed techniques for managing a head full of voices and antics. I turn them off and I turn them on.

 

The characters change as the book evolves. Wicked Walkabout took almost two years to complete, Golden Gate Graveyard took three. When I first create the characters, I do not know them; they’re strangers to me. But as we sit together in my office, over the years, they become more familiar.

 

Every character has a purpose, whether it’s to move the story or share a theme, so if they go off their track, I have to reel them back in.

 

Organizing. I have been writing for over 30 years. I have developed my writing skills one decade after another. All the methods you’ve read about here I have designed with the skills and talents I know to be mine. Thoughts and images, memories, they all fly through me like they do for everyone; I have just learned how to organize and articulate them.

 

Jet and her two beta readers for Golden Gate Graveyard

Jet and her two beta readers for Golden Gate Graveyard. Athena on left, Nan on right.

Editing. The more I write, the more fluid I become…and less invested in every beautiful sentence. If it doesn’t move the plot, it doesn’t belong in the book. For every sentence I write, I throw away hundreds.

 

Readers. Through the years of blogging here on WordPress, I have met hundreds of fantastic people; and a variety that can happen nowhere else but on the internet. I have had over 66,000 viewers; over 17,000 comments have been exchanged. I have learned a lot by sharing thoughts and photographs with individuals from all over the world.

 

Thank you for your interest and support. You can do me a favor by sharing my books with your friends and loved ones. Write a comment here, or a review on Amazon or Goodreads; buy the book and read it, give it to someone you know, or simply tell your friends about it. By spreading the word for me, I can spend more time writing the next novel. And the one after that.

 

If you have additional questions, please feel free to email me (see “Contact” tab). Below are a few recent comments I received on Golden Gate Graveyard.

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

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Quotes from Amazon Reviews:

from BP:  “A clever mystery that keeps you guessing. I love the mystery-solving Anne Lamington, a complex woman with a kind heart but clear eye who shows a tenacious resolve to get to the bottom of things and put them right. All the characters are drawn with compassion and wit, including San Francisco which is really more a character in the story than the setting alone. The story has twists and turns as every good mystery should and also delights with its keen portraits of people and places.”

from SS: “If you love mysteries set in everyone’s favorite City by the Bay then you’ll love this new book in the Ann Lamington series. Jet Eliot takes you on a wild ride through San Francisco that keeps you guessing right up to the end. No spoilers, but the scene on Alcatraz was movie-worthy.”

from HH: “…The author weaves a twisting tale of intrigue that kept me guessing until the last moments. The characters are interesting and likeable (mostly!) and I found myself drawn into their world. San Francisco is also a great character in the book – the author weaves its history and present into the story effortlessly, so that I felt that I was on those streets with the characters. A thoroughly enjoyable read.”

from SF: “I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It is engrossing and well written. The descriptions of the place, characters and history add depth to this novel.”

Quotes From Other Readers:

NM: “GREAT book. I highly recommend it.”

AD: “What an opening chapter. Your book was great! I do not often read mystery/detective novels these days but I really enjoyed this and you touched on a number of issues that need to be addressed by wider society.”

DG: “I bought it right away and have read a couple of pages. I almost could smell the smoke….”

GU: “Did I mention I really, really liked your book?”

JR: “I am really enjoying the book and learning so much about the history of San Francisco…I love the characters…some of them are so strong and colourful….I could also imagine your books being made into a film/movie.”

SW: “I am reading your new book and it is FANTASTIC — congratulations. I love reading about San Francisco through the eyes of vivid and interesting characters – well done!”

ACI: “I finished your very suspenseful novel last night…. Excellent mystery and characters that had me guessing many outcomes throughout the story.”

PC: “Read GGG and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for that!”

San Francisco Hyde Street cable car

San Francisco Hyde Street cable car

 

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