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Fun, counterintuitive story about Toyota, arguably the world’s best automaker, and how it’s trying to come from behind in the race to build autonomous cars. Read more here →
Thanks to Erin of the excellent blog, Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs, who gives BLEAK HARBOR a sterling review here.
“Little by little, all these secrets spill out, there are twists and turns, all woven together so well that the reader never sees them coming. And you never feel like something just came out of left field – it all masterfully falls into place, and the reader is drawn to finish the book as fast as possible, just to see what the heck happens next! And the characters were perfect in that perfectly human way – not without flaws, this was not a glossy magazine type family despite that they are the descendants of the town founders, they had their own past and secrets too … Overall, I loved this book. I found it exciting, and I couldn’t wait to see what would come next. It was chock full of mystery and surprise, and it was exactly the type of book I have been craving.”
From Kirkus, no less, the folks who called THE SKELETON BOX “Complex But Lumpy.” Which got me a cool T-shirt bearing those words from my wife.
Authors love it when a reviewer appears to “get” their books. Being an insecure writer type, I thought at first that “murky” and “exhausting” could be on a new T-shirt. But they’re actually meant as compliments for a book that explores many murky ethical pools and exhausts (or at least tries to exhaust) every possibility for drama it can.
The review’s conclusion is killer: “A deep dive into the deepest secrets of a one-family town and its leading family that sometimes gets murky, even exhausting, but is never less than enthralling. And you’ll finish it with a wonderful sense that you’ve finally come up for air.”
You can preorder BLEAK HARBOR now at amazon.com. Official publication date is December 1. Thanks for your support.
A: I started dreaming about writing chapter books when I was reading Hardy Boys mysteries in second grade. But I didn’t publish my first novel until I was 51 years old.
Flag me for rationalizing but, looking back, I think things happened the way they should have. The truth is, I never lost sight of my dream. I just took a detour: journalism. Without it, I doubt I ever would have written any serious fiction (wildly assuming, of course, that you consider my made-up stuff serious).
Reporting and writing non-fiction taught me a lot that I use to tell my imagined stories: Discipline. Deadlines. Organization. Research. Word economy. Observation (not just sight and hearing, but smell and taste and touch). Dialogue. Narrative. And respect for the wishes of readers who would prefer to have me blow up a car than ponder the meaning of life (or, for that matter, hockey).
More important, I spent a lot of years living before I attempted my debut, STARVATION LAKE. There’s no way I could have written a coherent novel with the slightest trace of maturity when I was in my 20s or 30s. Not to mention that I was a little busy helping Pam bring up our three children. I did a lot of fantasizing about the novel-writing, though. My late pal, the writer Brian Doyle, once told me that really all I wanted was to sign books at my first reading. It was a jab; Doyle didn’t think I was serious about fiction. Years later, he wrote me a long note about how the both of us had become real writers by writing thousands and thousands of words.
My journalism career is winding down after nearly 39 years. I look at that as an opportunity to crank up the truly fake news of my novels, using all the skills I learned writing the non-fiction stories I’ve written since I joined the staff of the Brighton Argus in 1979. For the record, I have yet to blow up a car in any of my novels. But I’m writing a new one, so who knows?
P.S. I’m writing this from a golf course near Cadillac, Mich., on my way to an annual boys weekend Up North.
A: BLEAK HARBOR opens with a scene of 15-year-old, autistic Danny Peters standing at the end of a dock, following a dragonfly: “It skitters up as if on a wire and takes the first mosquito without slowing. Danny pictures the cruelly efficient jaws and serrated teeth tearing the prey into a gooey black mash while the dragonfly plots the geometric path to its next target.”
Making Danny obsessed with dragonflies was one of the semi-random choices I make as I conjure up characters. The choice was influenced by a story I had read in The New York Times in April 2013. The story said dragonflies are often listed with ladybugs and butterflies on lists of insects people like. Yet dragonflies are also “voracious aerial predators” that “may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom.”
This dichotomy fascinated me, perhaps because I find dragonflies to be creepy even though I know they cannot harm me. Danny sings a song his mother made up about dragonflies:
Their wings are sparkly gossamer
They wear diamonds on their eyes
Pretty pretty pretty pretty
Yet Danny recognizes how dangerous they are in their world and indulges this recognition by counting the number of mosquitoes the dragonflies on Bleak Harbor Bay consume. The duality also serves as a metaphor underlying the tale in BLEAK HARBOR.
At my urging, my publisher, Thomas & Mercer, prepared a few covers that included dragonflies. They didn’t really work. But then T&M included a single dragonfly on the spine of the book between the title and my name. I can’t wait to see it when the hardcovers show up.