Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tie-In Novels and the Real World

Here's the cover of the Alias novel that was just releasted. I was really happy with it, and delighted to see it in the stores this month. Then, just a couple days ago, I found this!

Now, is that cool, or what? I mean, a cover with the gorgeous Jennifer Garner and the gorgeous Carl Lumbly? Something for everyone! Well, okay, the first one had JG and Michael Vartan, which definitely doesn't suck, either.

All in all, I can say that I am very pleased with my covers. It's really cool to be able to check Amazon, and see your very own name on a book cover. My name is smaller than J.J. Abrams, and his is the one they're using to shelve it in Borders. But you know what? That's just fine with me. Mr. Abrams (whom I have never met, but I can always hope, can't I?) created a kick-ass series, and a really kick-ass heroine, and he let me play in his sandbox. Besides that, his name, and the Alias series name, are what will sell the book, not mine. So, I don't have a problem with it, if it means people can find the book, and buy it, and read it.

The thing about writing tie-in fiction is, it's really somebody else's world. You get to go visit, and they let you play, and they even pay you for it. But when it comes right down to it, it doesn't belong to you.

Another thing about writing tie-ins. It takes a lot of research. You have to get it all right. I spent the last couple months with Paul Ruditis's book ALIAS: APO, THE OFFICIAL TOP SECRET FILES, on top of my desk. I looked at it, a lot. Thanks, Paul. I would have been lost without you.

But it's not just the stuff from the show. It's all the rest of the world, too. Alias was particularly challenging, because of the diverse and exotic locations.

In STRATEGIC RESERVE, a good portion of the book was set above the Arctic Circle, along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. I have never been about the Arctic Circle, but I know if I messed anything up, I will hear about it from a reader or three. So I spent a lot of time looking at photos on line, studying maps, and reading accounts of people who have been there. I feel like I know nearly as much about Deadhorse, Alaska, as anyone who has been there. I can describe the housing for the drilling crews, and the local wildlife.

A TOUCH OF DEATH was the same way. I found out quite a bit about Vladivostok, and the region of Siberia just north of the Korean border. I learned about train schedules, and lodging (which is pretty primitive by the standards of Yankee tourists), and a million other details. I spent hours with Google Earth (a research gold mine), studying Tokyo Bay. I looked at dozens of pictures of the Floating City in Aberdeen Harbor, Hong Kong.

Did I get it all right? Probably not. There are things that you simply can't know without being on the ground in a specific location. For that, a writer falls back on his basic skill: he makes it up. And he hopes like hell that nobody notices.

On the other hand, DREAM HOUSE, (scroll down and admire that cover, too!) is set in Eugene, Oregon. I lived in Eugene for many years, and I tried very hard to capture the essence of that city. I used real locations, restaurants and office buildings, right down to the names of the streets, and local nicknames for neighborhoods.

So, yeah, writers tell lies for a living. But we try to layer in enough truth that you believe everything we tell you. That's when the magic happens, and you get lost in the story.

That's what a writer lives for.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Finished! --- For Now

Okay, today I get to crow, at least a little. On Saturday I finished the latest book, ALIAS APO: A TOUCH OF DEATH. Catchy title, that! And on Sunday I checked it over and emailed it to my editor, who got it this morning, and says she's looking forward to reading it.

Then, this afternoon, I was noodling around Amazon on my lunch break, and I found the cover, and a release date (December 26). It will be my second Alias book releaseed in 2006, which pleases me.

I'm glad to have this done, on deadline, though I will miss playing with Sydney and her friends. And I am glad to have a day without a deadline. But very quickly I'll be anxious to get another book under contract.

There are a lot of things I'd like to talk about, and I will, just as soon as I catch up on a little sleep, and go see my husband!