Friday, July 25, 2008

Now I See Dead People

By Sue Ann Jaffarian
In about 3 weeks I will be submitting my manuscript for The Ghost of Granny Apples to Midnight Ink. This is the first book in my new Granny Apples series, a humorous mystery series populated by ghosts. And I’m a bit nervous. You see, for the first time, I’m swimming in uncharted waters. I’m putting down the Thin Mints and the paralegal certificate and stepping out of my writing comfort zone.

The Granny Apples series features two main protagonists. One is a tall, thin, well-to-do, blond divorcee, with a teenage daughter and ties to Hollywood. The other is the ghost of a pioneer woman who was hung in 1899. The book also leaves my familiar urban sprawl of Orange and Los Angeles Counties for the tiny town of Julian, California, a former gold rush town in the mountains of San Diego County that today is a tourist destination. I even abandoned my usual first person voice and wrote it in third.

Talk about writing what you DON’T know.

I’ll admit, for the first half of this book I struggled. Not only did I have to come up with a good and believable plot (about ghosts, no less), but the book required a lot of time-intensive research. I now know more about the various theories on ghosts than I ever wanted to know. But don’t worry, I have no plans for showing up on future episodes of Ghost Hunters or even Ghost Whisperer.

On top of that, I had to put myself into the head of a woman who’s nothing like me. She shops Saks. I shop Target. She’s naturally thin. I’m naturally fluffy. She doesn’t swear. I – well, you get the picture. Let’s just say, I probably have more in common with the 100-year-old ghost. It wasn't easy, not by a long shot. Many a day I sat at my computer wondering what in the hell I’d gotten myself into, and how was I ever going to come up with two more books for the series.

Okay, so that was the first half of the manuscript. Now I’m nearing the finish line, and writing about Emma Whitecastle and the ghost called Granny Apples has become as natural as craving a pint of Cherry Garcia. More importantly, I’m having a blast doing it, and can’t wait to start the second book in the series, The Ghost of the Tacky Trophy Wife.

So the next time you’re tempted to get your butt out of your particular comfort zone, just do it! You’ll be glad you did. It means seeing writing in a whole new light with endless possibilities. Like winning the Golden Ticket to the Willy Wonka factory (the Gene Wilder one, not the creepy Johnny Depp one). In fact, as soon as The Ghost of Granny Apples is off to my publisher, I’m going to totally tear apart, then reconstruct, the non-mystery novel I’ve been working on for several years. And wait until I get my hands on the next Odelia Grey manuscript. Look out!

Somebody stop me before I hurt myself.


Kathryn Lilley said...

You go, girl! Here's to getting outside our comfort zones. With that in mind, in my next series I'll have to write a protagonist who's a numbers wizard--I have a severe math block. And congrats to you on The Ghost of Granny Apples!

Mark Combes said...

My current work centers around a meth addicted cop killer. Nothing in my life to fall back on there...

But I like to write about what I don't know - or at least make up characters that aren't like me. Or are they? Just a little bit....

Harley Jane said...

Go, Sue Ann, go!
I cannot wait to read Granny Apples.

paul lamb said...

mmmmm, Cherry Garcia!

This sounds a bit like the Aunt Dimity novels by Nancy Atherton.

G.M. Malliet said...

It really sounds like fun, Sue Ann. Best of luck!

Felicia Donovan said...

Gee, I'm with Kathryn Lilley. A numbers wizard would definitely be out of my comfort zone. A numbers wizard who liked to cook and didn't know a stitch about police work - now that would be a stretch. Slap with a spreadsheet and a spatula!

I, for one, hope you do get on GhostHunters. It's one of my favorite shows!

Either way, you'll do great, Sue Ann.

Nina Wright said...

Nobody can stop you, Sue Ann! You've climbed on that rollercoaster, and you're going to enjoy every single dip and twist.

I know all about leaving the Comfort Zone. In fact I'm writing this in the midst of my move from Ohio to Texas!

I'm a big advocate of Chaos Theory for Adults: Make the leap, invite the discomfort and confusion, and whatever yo do, don't look back! Even when things don't work out exactly as planned, they do work out. Life brings changes, anyway, so why not initiate some of the big changes ourselves?!

To quote Auntie Mame, "Life is a banquet, but most poor suckers are starving to death."

Not us, Sue Ann. Not ever.

jbstanley said...

You are so right, Sue Ann. The only way to avoid becoming stale is to scare the shit out of yourself by taking a major risk.

I know a few readers who are simply clamoring for your new series to make its debut.

Granny is gonna kick ass!

Chatty said...

Oh, excellent - another series to look forward to! I love ghostly stuff - as long as it's fun. I'm betting this will be fun! Thanks for stepping out of your comfort zone.
Also, so glad you weighed in on Willy Wonka. Gene Wilder was wonderful. Johnny Depp (although I like him sometimes) was creepy to the max.
I've been having fun reading your blog today - hence the comments at your blog and this one. It is my belief that nobody can get too many comments - I love to get them, so I figure other bloggers like it too - even famous authors!
But, I need to STOP now, and do some work. Or at least make dinner!