Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disorder in Key West

It must be something in the water.
    Ever since Ernest Hemingway lived here in the the '30s, people have associated Key West with writing and writers. They're more plentiful than six-toed cats, especially in January during the annual Key West Literary Seminar. The list of authors participating this year is mind boggling: Carl Hiaassen, Sara Paretsky, Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly...practically everyone on my bookshelf.
      Most of the seminar sessions are sold out, but on Sundays they have free events open to the public.  It was my great pleasure today to attend the public session and hear poet laureate Billy Collins, Gillian Flynn (author of the very dark and twisted Gone Girl) and the absolutely delightful, kilt-wearing, Alexander McCall Smith.
       Smith -- who is best known for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Botswana --  just can't help being entertaining. Instead of a speech, he wrote a story set in Key West -- a little mystery of the Apple Mac Bandit -- which he read to the crowd. He got such a kick out of the jokes he'd worked into the story that he would always start laughing at the set up until he could barely read the punchline. Once again he reminds us that a plot needn't be complex or dark to be entertaining. A good story is all in the telling.
        I just finished reading Gone Girl and was amazed that such warped characters come out of the mind of such a personable, attractive young woman. She told us she wrote her first short story in third grade. The heroine was a little girl who gets attacked and eaten by wolves. She's definitely not afraid of the dark side. Her characters in Gone Girl exhibit the horrors of the mind rather than simple blood and gore. There's actually very little violence in the book, but I found it horrifying -- especially the resolution at the end.
        The seminar was particularly inspiring to me as this month I am working on rewrites of my third novel -- Full Moon Friday, the latest chapter in the Jordan Daily News Series.Flynn said she enjoys the rewriting process, writing whole chapters she knows will never be in the book just to see how well she knows what her characters will do in any given situation.
         So, as I return to my rewriting process I'll hear Flynn telling me to know my characters and Alexander McCall Smith encouraging me to have a good time telling the story..