Book Launch Eve Post: A Study in Chocolate

Here it is, the night before the release of A Study in Chocolate.  This makes eight novels – and there’s still an element of anticipation and excitement in the fact that tomorrow, a story I wrote goes into the hands of mystery fans.

As always, I feel like I’ve had a chance to grow personally from writing this book.  As Felicity has moved forward in embracing her need to appreciate art, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what art and creativity – and the very act of writing – mean to me and my life.  Writing helps me to sort through and process emotion, to find fictional context for things I want to understand about life and about people.  It helps me feel balanced.  The fact that people want to read it – that’s a huge bonus.  For me, and the type of person I am.

But the value towards fulfilling that creative need is more in doing the work, and in finding the discipline to edit and polish it into something you are proud of than in anything else. I had a discussion with a writing student recently, who felt that his writing was only validated if it was published – which he wasn’t sure he ever wants to do.  I told him that it is perfectly okay to write something just for yourself, or to print thirty copies of a book just to share with friends.  There’s something performative about publishing, and as writers, we’re pushed to see it as an essential final step.  We’re told on all fronts that we have to submit our work to the public for critique – and inevitable criticism – in order to prove it meaningful.  Otherwise – why edit at all?  Why take classes, read craft manuals, attend conferences?  Admittedly, publishing is exciting.  And yes, selling books does help justify the time spent on honing the craft.  But if you want to make art just for you – and you enjoy it – that’s all the validation you need.  Please, don’t push yourself into something you’re not comfortable with.

What I have come to appreciate more during the research and writing of A Study in Chocolate is the way being a published author opens the door for conversations, and allows you to go places and learn things you otherwise would never have taken the time to visit or absorb.  I had several conversations with local artists when we visited the Art Walk in Galveston.  They were excited to talk about their work, and their connection to art.  Tidbits of that experience wound up in the book.

We were also able to go to Hawaii, doing research for future books.  Having the Bean to Bar books already out and findable lent enough credibility to get interviews at cacao farms and, and helped me know the right questions to ask when visiting coffee farms.  Because of the role octopuses and sea turtles play in the Bean to Bar books, when we were able to interact with these creatures on tours, it didn’t feel random – it was filling in the gaps, of what I’d already learned and imagined.

I think that’s what I enjoy about the writing mindset – the ability to walk through the world with an extra layer of observation and a desire to understand the who and how and why of wherever I find myself.  There are extra measures of joy.  Writing this book, I think I learned to appreciate that more.

A Study in Chocolate actually took less research than a lot of my other books, since I know a little about art already, and as a voracious reader, having the strong literary connection in this one felt like it was just tying things together.  I hope it feels as seamless to you when you read it.  Thank you all for sticking around for all of Felicity’s adventures.  And have an EXCELLENT evening.

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