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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Where on earth do you get your ideas? Part Uno...

I thought I'd switch languages.  Part Uno...I like it.  We'll count in Spanish for this series of articles.

Many writers hate the commonly asked question, "Where on earth do you get your ideas?"  I actually like that question.  I remember vividly how all my plots germinated and developed and came together.  Maybe all that engineering training has left me with an engrained appreciation for cause-and-effect.

Well, this time, I'm starting at the last book (or the next book, as it were) and moving forward.  The plot of my as-yet-unnamed seventh Faye Longchamp archaeological mystery is much on my mind today.  I had planned to set the next book in Key West.  They've got pirates and smugglers and tourists and palm trees and centuries of history and gorgeous blue-green water.  I can work with that.  And I can certainly enjoy my research trips.

As I type, however, that gorgeous blue-green water is seriously threatened by the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  I am heartsick.  I grew up seventy miles from the Gulf.  I'm sitting about that far from the Gulf at the moment.  I worked offshore the summer I was 19, not far northwest of the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  And Faye's fictional Joyeuse Island is in the Gulf of Mexico.  It's a beautiful place--warm water, teeming with sea life and ringed by sugar-white sand.  I cannot imagine what we may see when this crisis is over.

I spent last week "reading for a living," which is what I call it when I'm filling my brain with details about a new locale, in preparation for starting a book.  I read about the archaeology of the Florida Keys and the material culture of 17th-century pirates and the building of the first railroad to Key West and the discovery of a sunken slave ship.  Now, I've put that reading on hold.  I think I need to wait and see where the oil slick comes ashore.

There's no doubt that environmental consultants will be called in to assess the damage.  (I know this because I am one.)  It only makes sense that they will bring archaeologists with them, because so much of our history is at stake.  The Gulf of Mexico and its shores were an early center of activity after the first Europeans arrived in North America.  The cities in danger--Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola--are very old indeed.  Jean Lafitte's pirate lair, one of the few pieces of physical evidence of the pirate life that remain, is on an island just west of the Mississippi River delta.  They're going to need people like Faye to save our endangered heritage.

And it's very possible that the location of Faye's fictional home, Joyeuse Island, will be inundated with oil, as well.  Neither Faye nor Joe will take this well.

So I don't know what my next book will be about any more.  Watch this space and you'll be among the first to know.

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