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Calvino Number 9: The Start of the process

This week ends with my first attempt to breath form and substance into a new Calvino novels. Call it the kiss of life. The act that brings a story kicking and screaming into the world. I don’t have a title for this new baby. I usually wait until after I finish the second draft before finding a title that fits the book. I am a long way from a first draft. The main challenge of writing a series is to keep the continuing characters engaged in a fresh, novel story that does justice to the crime fiction genre and to the place where I live: Thailand. Finding a right story that is both original and entertaining is always a challenge. I have outlined the first eight chapters of the book (I can never get beyond that point in any book I start), and have done a bio sketch for the new characters (so I can figure out who they are and what they want). At this point in the writing, I try to understand the relationship of the new characters to the continuing cast of Calvino, Pratt, Ratana, and MacPhail, and the points of conflict between all of the characters. There is a line in the planning of the novel beyond which an author can’t really go. You can only plan to ski down a slope so long but until you take the plunge you don’t know whether you will make it to the bottom of the mountain in one piece. Novels chronicle the passions and feelings of the people who inhabitant the pages. While the new Calvino novel is set in Bangkok, the setting is not always the most important part of the book. It is the fidelity of the emotions of the characters to the things that are happening (or not happening) to them. When a farang comes up against the invisible cultural barriers in Thailand, suddenly hitting that glass window can and does create conflict. At this juncture, if I had 60 clear days, I could finish a first draft. With the earlier books I had more free time (or so it seems now).

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