We are pleased to welcome to our blog today Joe Hefferon, the author of the exciting new hardboiled crime/noir mystery novel, The Last Meridian. He speaks a little about his process as a writer, and about what led him to create his fantastic new book.
Many writers are hesitant to talk about process. I’m one of them. We don’t want to overthink the way ideas form; we probably fear we’ll disrupt it. In 1786, Sir Joshua Reynolds told his architecture students to trust their “happy accidents” rather than always rely strictly on plans. Architects are still trained to trust them. The Last Meridian is one of those happy accidents. Sometimes, we get lucky.
I wrote The Last Meridian for much the same reason I write anything. I had to.
I often feel a surge of desire to write and it doesn’t matter what it is. The act feeds the jones. It usually comes after a period of drought and often hits me when it isn’t convenient to sit down and start, but I feel it wanting, pulling on a worn, fat cord dangling from my skull tower to sound that writing bell.
Joan Didion said, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking.” That makes sense to me. It seems I write to find out what’s poking me. There are emotions, unresolved conflicts and ideas that need air or they get cranky, so I write.
Sometimes it starts out as an overarching concept for a plot but more often it begins as a few lines of dialogue, spoken (aloud mostly) in dialect or accent that suits my mood. If I like the sound of it, I push it. I act it out, bringing in other characters and soon a conversation begins to take place between them, sometimes funny, sometimes not. It’s just that thing needing to be heard like a kid standing at the adult’s table trying to say his piece.
I just watched “Bridge of Spies” with Tom Hanks. The character who struck me was Michael Gor’s KGB officer, Mikhail Gorevoy. The portrayal was a cross between Peter Lorre and Christoph Waltz. I liked the way he moved. I began imitating the voice as I made a snack and wondered just what kind of killer would have such a voice and demeanor. Would he be polite and serve a proper tea before he pulled out the cleaver? Or would he just be the person everyone suspects because he’s so damn strange?
Maybe I’ll write about it and maybe not, but this is how it starts.
I know other writers meticulously devise plot lines but that’s just not my way. I prefer to let characters tell me their stories and ask me to speak for them. I try not to let them down.
I’ve wanted to write something hard-boiled for a long while, as a toast to the old detective flicks I’ve enjoyed. The fast-talking, quick-witted style of the characters has captivated me as long as I can remember.
I started typing. I picked a locale and began to sketch out a vision of a woman driving fast on a highway, someone with either a place to be or needing to be someplace else. I wrote an exchange between a sharp woman and a disinterested detective. I liked the way they played together. People matter more to me than intricate plots. It goes back to Maya Angelou reminding us that we won’t always remember what someone said but we’ll remember how they made us feel.
Things have to be simple when I start. Like design must work in black and white before color is added, good stories have to work at their most primal level. It’s one reason I like old movies—grayscale. The filmmakers couldn’t rely on special effects or sex to make a good picture. First, they had a good story and then they told it well.
I hope I’ve served that concept well.
Nina’s a cool customer, smart and present, but there’s always someone who can push the buttons of a woman like her. For that I had her husband. I knew him. I’d worked with him, drank with him, even acted like him before, but I knew how to get to her.
Once I started thinking about who Nina was and how she got to Los Angeles, questions about my son’s adoption began to crop up in her story. Nina didn’t seem the type to have kids, but that didn’t mean she’d never had one.
How would she feel about him after so many years? What if he needed her?
I knew what she’d do. I just had to figure out how, then determine how it was all going to end. It always does.
Once I put her son in a bad spot I had Nina’s intention. Her bad marriage, pride, fear, gangsters and other external influences became her obstacles.
According to the screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, intention and obstacle are critical. The writing comes after. And now the publishing. I hope you find something to love about The Last Meridian.
GRAB YOUR COPY TODAY!.
A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.
Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.
Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.