You can find Part 1 here. Let's pick it up, shall we?
I Can See Clearly Now: We went through a phase where we were watching all the Schoolhouse Rock videos. I noticed that it's a lot of the same personnel on pretty much every song, and I just started wondering what it might have been like to work on that project in the early 70's. What resulted was purely a product of my imagination, as I did not want to taint my novel with research about the actual Schoolhouse Rock. I was also thinking about the complicated role of mentors after a long conversation wtih an old friend. A lot, though not all, mentors are in it for the adulation and the ego boost. Which doesn't necessarily make them bad mentors. This is what I was trying to do with the character of Pamela in this book. She's manipulative and narcissistic, but she does wind up drawing better art out of everybody.
This was my first, and possibly only novel that doesn't deal with death or grief in even a peripheral way. Weird.
The Mall of Cthulhu--Another book I decided to write because I was ahead of schedule. I had had the Vampire Sorority story floating around since college--I actually wrote the beginning of a screenplay based on this idea in 1989--but by this point in my life, I was more interested in the aftermath of that situation. How did the two heroes cope ten years down the road? Not very well, as it turned out. I thought of the title, and the story just kind of coalesced around it.
This is the novel I've probably done the most research on. I actually went to Providence and walked around, looked in the Brown University libraries for Necronomicons, (they claim it "doesn't exist.") and found that the Lovecraft house had been moved. So Ted's whole stakeout of the utility crews comes from that trip. While in the Brown library, Ted reads a book called Patterns of Animal Disease. That's a real book written by someone named Brendan Halpin who is not me. It was my little clue that I am Seamus Cooper.
Ted's apartment in Providence is based on my friend Joe's first apartment in Providence, which was a complete shithole. Joe's last name is also the name of the agent Laura winds up working with.
The Providence Towne Centre is of course based on whatever that huge mall in Providence is. Said mall actually did have big, creepy abandoned Masonic temple adjacent to it for years. It may still. I haven't been there in a while.
Shutout--The last book I finished while writing full time. My daughters had just been assigned to the B team when the team they'd been playing on was split into A and B teams. They were pretty devastated. I was talking to Lori Lobenstine, one of my fellow dog owner buddies in Franklin Park, while walking dogs. She coaches high school basketball and talked about the difficulty when one friend makes varsity and the other doesn't. The story unfolded from there, and I connected it to the whole state championship story, which is based on a real incident at a school where I worked. It played out pretty much exactly as it unfolds in the novel. At least as far as I can remember. It's extremely likely that my memory made a much better, more dramatic story than what actually happened.
I really liked the fact that the blended family in this book was just the family, and that that wasn't the point of the book.
This was the easiest book I've ever written. I usually write between 1 and 2 thousand words a day, but on this one, I was banging out 3, 4, or 5 thousand. I wrote the whole thing in three weeks. Fifteen work days.
The Half-Life of Planets--Emily and I met a couple of times and talked about collaborating. I was excited to try something new. The idea for this book was hers, and I was really happy I got to write the Hank chapters. We traded chapters back and forth and only fought a little bit. I'm really proud of how this came out. It turned out it wasn't that hard for me to find a character who had deep, pointless music knowledge spewing out of his mouth all the time. I don't think I googled any of the music facts Hank came up with. That crap was all floating around in my own mind.
I was really excited about writing this largely because I have a young friend who was diagnosed with Aspergers' Syndrome. I had seen him have a kind of tough time, and had even heard adults who were nominally friends with his parents be uncharitable about him, but I always found him really delightful as well as hilarious. He read the book and said, according to his mom, that I'd gotten it right, which is the best review I've ever gotten on anything.
Notes From the Blender--I live in a blended family, so that's an issue that's always on my mind. I remember walking up my steps with groceries one day and thinking how much harder it would have been to blend our families if the kids had been teens rather than first and second graders. And then I thought how much it would suck if you were an awkward and painfully horny boy and the hottest girl in school suddenly became your stepsister. And thus the novel was born. I was on board with writing awkward and horny, but I felt pretty at sea about what it was like to be a popular girl, so I called my friend Trish and asked if she'd be willing to write the girl part.
I really appreciated the fact that the editor on this allowed me to go full throttle on describing Declan's horniness. I have been asked on numerous occasions to tone this stuff down, so it was very liberating to be able to just let loose.
More to come!