Every time I write, I lie to myself. I tell myself, “That character will live forever” just before I kill her off, or “This won’t be hard at all” even though I need a grasp of nuclear physics to figure out the climax. Mostly, though, I tell myself this whopper: “The story will run, maybe, 5,000 words.” In non-writer language, that means “short.” As in, “short story.” As in, “something that won’t take long.”
And the sad thing is I fall for that every single time.
Take Snipers. I read somewhere that most of the bad guys of the 20th century converged on Vienna in 1913, before they were famous for their misdeeds, before they had even committed most of their misdeeds, before they were full-fledged adults. They converged before World War 1 started, for heaven’s sake.
Time traveler’s paradise. Seriously. If you wanted to change the world with one bold stroke, Vienna 1913 is the place do it, provided you’re a bit cold blooded yourself and provided you have a time travel machine.
I do have a time travel machine. It’s that weird brain of mine. The lying brain. The one that says, “This’ll be short.” It wanted to spend some time in 1913, in Vienna. So I got a lot of books (not as easy as you’d think; I don’t read German, so I was stuck with whatever got published in English, which is less than you’d think, at least about 1913.
I researched, I started the story, I realized that the time traveler had to be a bit deranged, and I don’t think deranged people are all that much fun to read about as the protagonist of a novel. So Johann Runge showed up. He was a police detective in 1913 who wanted to know why all these random people were dying.
I wrote his story, and found that it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, which means happily, and besides, Runge’s story was half a novel long, mixed with the story of the time traveler.
And then I read a Jack the Ripper book. You know the kind: a version comes out every five years, proporting to “prove” who the Ripper was. Sometimes he was a prince; sometimes a painter; sometimes a random bad guy. But the book’s author always claimed to “know.”
That’s when it all came together. I figured that in 2005, my heroine, Sofie Branstadter, decides to write a book about the 1913 deaths, using modern forensic analysis. That analysis is confusing, not in the fact that it points to multiple people, but in the way that it points to…
Well, if I tell you much more I’ll ruin the whole thing. But the book time travels from 1913 to 2005 to 1953 to some vague unknown future. And the book genre-hops, combining romance, time travel, and thriller into something quite unusual. At least, I think it is.
The reviewers are agreeing. They’re calling it “a fast-moving thriller” (Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine); “an excellent amalgamation of history, thriller, mystery & science fiction (Astroguyz); and “a thought-provoking, entertaining vacation from reality” (RT Book Reviews).
Snipers just appeared this week, and I’m so pleased. The short story that my brain lied about turned into a novel I’m very happy with. It was fun to write, and I hope it’s just as much fun to read.
Just think: you get to time-travel back to Vienna without leaving your house. How great is that?