[Just realized this post never made it onto the Pen, Ink, and Crimes blog … proving that social media can provide unexpected detours and “learning opportunities”! Hope you’ll enjoy it and make time to catch up with Meg Gardiner’s books this season. — Beth]
That’s what happened for Meg Gardiner, a California native who now lives in Austin, Texas. She’s spent plenty of time in the United Kingdom too, and her first book, China Lake, was published there and in many other countries — but declined by US publishers when it first came out, in 2002. As she added more books to her foreign published streak, American publishers resisted snagging them up because they hadn’t started with her first book. But when Stephen King read China Lake on a flight to the UK, he got hooked and read Gardiner’s other books, then began recommending them. Suddenly, American publishers wanted Meg Gardiner’s work after all, and six years after its first press time, China Lake took an Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original.
Interviewed by Steve Ulfelder at the Crime Bake 2013 lunch today, Gardiner admitted being a convert from seat-of-the-pants writing to thorough outlining (but scenes can change in the writing). She pulled gasps from the 300 or so listeners when she described her writing process: during the first draft (after the outline and research), two thousand words per day.
Ulfelder, a “car guy” who praised a BMW-involved chase scene in San Francisco in one of Gardiners’s books, asked Gardiner, “What’s harder, a chase scene or a love sequence?”
“A love scene,” she replied immediately. “Because your grandmother is sitting at your shoulder!”
Inspired to write crime fiction by the Kinsey Milhone series from Sue Grafton, Gardiner emphasized pushing through the writing, and responded warmly to an audience question about how she builds such depth into her characters in the midst of the action in her books: “I think you have to live with [the characters] in your head until you know them from the inside out.”
And that great idea for your next book — how do you know it’s strong enough? “An idea you can hang a novel on: It has to keep you up at night thinking about it. Also it has to be something you can explain in a couple of sentences.
One final note: The bookstore serving at Crime Bake (Porter Square Books) brought 24 copies of China Lake along — and sold every single one.