Monday, April 12, 2010

TOUGH GUYS DON'T DANCE -- WELL

I'm happy to welcome Mark Terry. Mark is a full-time freelance writer, editor and novelist. He is the author of numerous novels including the bestselling DANCING IN THE DARK, THE FALLEN, THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK, THE SERPENT'S KISS and others. He lives in Michigan with his wife, two sons, dog named Frodo, and a bunch of guitars mostly named after Greek gods: Athena, Poseidon, Ares, and Larry. His favorite guitar's name is Layla.

Mark, your favorite guitar is rightly named after the best guitarist I've ever heard: Eric Clapton.

The Fallen has gotten raves from Booklist:
The Fallen maintains its intensity up to the very end, and Stillwater is both a sympathetic and believable hero. Readers of previous Stillwater novels will eagerly wait to see him in action again, and those new to the series will seek out his earlier adventures (including The Serpent’s Kiss, 2009).


Here's what Mark has to say about those tough guys he writes about.

I write a thriller series about Dr. Derek Stillwater, a troubleshooter for Homeland Security. His particular expertise is biological and chemical terrorism. A typical Stillwater novel involves some sort of terror attack that is going to be followed by a worse terror attack. Derek’s job is to prevent the worse terror attack from happening. If there’s a formula, that’s it, and if you think that makes it easy, you’re crazy.

In THE FALLEN, my latest (the third featuring Derek), he’s undercover at a resort in Colorado Springs where the G8 Summit is being held. He has intelligence that a terrorist group might take a run at the Summit, and yeah, they do. Things go to hell, and Derek, trapped inside a resort with the terrorists, starts his own guerilla war against the bad guys, using the crawlspaces, tunnels, air ducts, and elevator shafts to move around the facility. Think “’Die Hard’ at the G8 Summit.”

Just before I started writing this column, I was working on the fifth Derek Stillwater novel (the fourth is already written and scheduled for September 2011). It too is about terrorism and there’s already been at least one attack. But the action takes place in Moscow and Derek is there for several reasons, and one of them is to meet a son he has only recently become aware he had. And that’s the scene I wrote, the one where he meets the little boy.

But here’s the thing. The woman watching the boy doesn’t speak English; and Derek doesn’t speak Russian.

Derek’s an action hero, sure, although he’s prone to panic attacks and a nice variety of neuroses and superstitions. If you stick a gun to his head, he knows how to act. If you show him a bomb, he might freak a little, but he knows what to do. Bring him to a scene of a chemical weapons attack, once he’s done with his panic attack, give him a biohazard suit and send him on his way.

Have him try to give a stuffed toy to a two-year-old boy in front of the boy’s grandmother … we’ve got problems.

I just know I’m going to be tweaking this chapter for the next year. You just know when you’re writing a scene like this that you’re cranking open a window into the character’s soul in a way that’s very different from everything else you’ve done. This scene’s damned important and it’s got to work. It’s got to hurt.

And that’s the hardest part of being a novelist.
What do you think? What’s the hardest part for you?

6 comments:

Carly Carson said...

You put your finger right on it. Emotion is the toughest thing to write. Especially when you aren't going to cheat and use internal narrative or something like that. Sounds like you'll do a great job!

Mark Terry said...

I try to stay away from any lengthy internal narratives for a lot of reasons, but one is simply that they slow the pace way down and my books, especially the Derek Stillwater books, are page-turning thrillers.

Gerrie Ferris Finger said...

Thanks for dropping by Mark. It was apleasure having you. Gerrie

Mark Terry said...

Thanks for hosting me.

Eric said...

A scene like that would certainly be hard to write. I guess the stuff Mary and I write isn't heavy on emotion but more in the classic detective genre. What I worry about if I try to write something like you describe is what if it feels "right" to me but readers, looking at it objectively, just find it silly, or maudlin or sentimental or or...? I suspect people differ in how they feel things more than in how they think things. Logic is logic but emotion in more personal.

Mark Terry said...

Eric,
I suspect John and Derek have a lot in common. They can both be a little removed, although there's a fair amount of emotion below the surface.