J. Robert King

A Man in Trouble

There’s an old saying that comedy is a man in trouble. If that’s the case, then tragedy is me in trouble.

So, when I tell you that I’m in trouble writing my new novel, Death’s Disciples, you might laugh or you might cry. What you do depends on whether or not you’re me.

Now, let’s be clear. The trouble I’m in has nothing to do with being behind schedule or losing my inspiration or deciding I’d rather watch Dancing with the Stars than write a novel. That’s not the kind of trouble that real novelists get into, any more than Tiger Woods gets into trouble saying, “Oh, I just don’t feel like hitting a little ball into a little hole today.”

No, Tiger’s a golfer. He’s all about hitting the little ball into the little hole. And I am a writer. My whole shtick is putting twenty-six letters, ten numbers, and twenty-odd punctuation marks in an order that makes people cringe and guffaw and wet themselves and hide under the bed.

That’s what I do, and the trouble isn’t ever whether I still want to do it. Of course I want to. I just made that guy wet himself and hide under the bed.

The trouble is that my characters are about to die. They’re lost in the Montana mountains. They’re being hunted not only by the terrorist group, Death’s Disciples, but also by the government mega-group meant to stop them. How could two people possibly survive this?

And I’m only on chapter 7!

That’s my trouble. But it’s a good kind of trouble.

Writing is hard not because it’s hard to put your butt in the chair. Every day, billions of people put billions of butts in billions of chairs and relax as they do so. Not the writer. While the writer’s butt is in the chair, his mind is dodging bullets and puzzling out strange clues and succumbing to the odd alure of the cigarette girl.

Writers are characters in their own stories. They have to get lost as their characters get lost. They have to despair when their characters do. They have to breathe every breath, quirk every eyebrow, feel every pang of regret. They have to die whenever anybody in their books dies.

So, I’m in trouble–a good kind of trouble. I’ve got to keep these two people alive for twenty-five more chapters, and I don’t think I can.


August 17th, 2009
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