Rotten Weather, P.D. James, and Inspiration
May 31, 2010
The winds have been blowing relentlessly in my part of the Mojave, and last weekend I decided I’d had enough. It was also cold, more like Fall than Spring. I needed to escape. A dear friend of mine, and one of my editors, Virginia Moody sent me P.D. James’s “The Private Patient” as a present when it was first released. I’ve held off reading it, waiting for the perfect time. This was that time.
If you’ve read P.D., you already know her literary strengths. To say her characters are finely crafted, her plots multi-layered and deftly revealed, and her use of language exquisite—would be to go over well trodden review ground. Particularly, I love her use of language. She seldom fails to select the absolutely right word to describe or explain. But for me, she is more than an accomplished author I enjoy reading—she is one of my main inspirations. And her influence is what prompted me to write this blog.
It’s easy to say another author inspires you, but not so easy to explain what that means. For me, P.D. epitomizes the level of craft and art (if there is a distinction)—and potters discuss the point ad infinitum—that I strive to achieve. There are many authors I think are good, and I love reading their work. Some, I even think are great. But when an author captures your mind, and emotions in such a way that you hate to finish the book, don’t even care about the plot, just love the experience of reading their words—something more is going on.
Places inspire me, and I think are crucial to my stories. Consequently bringing the reader “there” is an important element for me. “The Private Patient” is set mostly at Cheverell Manor in Doreset, England. Through her words, my mind went there, walked the grounds, felt the architecture, looked up at a Dorset night sky. To my taste, I couldn’t ask for better descriptive writing.
Every author needs a guiding light. She is mine.
I’d guess being a literary “rock star” is burdensome—all those demanding fans with their expectations and adulation! But I just can’t help myself, every time I read a new Adam Dagliesh novel, I’m not only in heaven, but “know” again where I want to go. I wish a similar literary beacon for every author.
June 17th – 20th I’ll be attending the annual Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA) Conference in Las Vegas. As part of that conference I’ll be on a panel moderated by Sue McGinty on the importance of “setting.” Fortunately, I’ll still have the residual glow of “The Private Patient” with me as a reminder of how important setting really is.
Can’t wait for P.D.’s next book! Sigh.