Friday, October 19, 2012

Genesis of a Novel: A Dirty Old Man

Readers sometimes ask where I get ideas for my novels. I'd like to say that there's some sophisticated process of pondering, gestation, and - some time later - voilĂ , a novel is born.

Alas, no. Ideas for my books come from seemingly random events that my little brain manipulates and interprets into evil motives and actions. Take, for example, the spark for THE DEVIL OF LIGHT. It ignited shortly after I was groped by a horny octogenarian.

Yes, you read that right. A dude in his 80s fondled me. Not what I expected from a respected member of our East Texas community. But excellent fodder for a crime novelist's brain...

In fairness, I guess the spark didn't fully flare until he groped me the second time and I realized that the old fart hadn't just lost his balance and grabbed my right breast and left ass-cheek to stabilize himself.

[How did this dirty old man even have the opportunity to grab said breast and cheek? During one of those polite 'hello' and 'good-bye' hugs that characterize greetings in Texas, and perhaps in other parts of the South. Simple as that.]

In truth, the idea for THE DEVIL OF LIGHT crystallized into a flammable substance as I listened, between gropings, to this old man describe the joy he experienced as a young buck, when he chased blacks and Hispanics ('nigras' and 'spics' - his words) through the East Texas woods. This would've been in the 1930s or so, when he was in his teens or twenties. Such was his glee in describing the chase that I didn't dare ask what happened when he caught these people. The chase was chilling enough.

But full-blown ignition occurred after Groping #2, when I realized that the old man believed that playing grab-ass with women he barely knows and chasing scared people through the river bottoms was perfectly acceptable behavior.

No. More than acceptable. It was his right.

And then it hit me that he probably wasn't alone in this belief. The dirty old man was merely acting on what many people believe to be true: that certain folks are "less than" and therefore, undeniably gropeable. The definition of those who are "less than" in THE DEVIL OF LIGHT is simple: anyone who is not white, wealthy, male, and / or holding certain positions of power in the community.

My little brain went into full-blown event manipulation mode, and the idea behind THE DEVIL OF LIGHT, the old man, and The Church of the True Believer was born. Detective Cass Elliot had been knocking around in my conscious and subconscious for a while, waiting for a meaty mystery to dig into. Cass is a wounded woman for whom justice is not just a concept - it's a physical necessity. The cruelty and arrogance of the old man, his Church, and his sadistic killer were just her ticket into existence on the page.

On its surface, the novel is about the hunt for a multiple murderer. But beneath that thin veneer THE DEVIL OF LIGHT explores what might happen when the gropers of this world unite and decide to 'control', to 'mold' their communities into a preferred state of status quo. Where those "less than" are forced into their place and kept there through a mix of blackmail, violence, and bastardized religion. It's about corruption for the sake of a tiny bit of power in a narrow slice of the world. The story is brutal at times. Violent. Gritty.

And powerful, given the reviews the book has received to date.

And maybe, just maybe, THE DEVIL OF LIGHT is my way of poking a metaphorical finger in the octogenarian's eye. My initial reaction to his gnarly fingers squeezing my body was to bop him in the nose. A bit of broken cartilage, some blood, perhaps a fall and a fractured bone. But that would've ended badly for all of us. Me, especially.

A novel is a much safer outlet. Delightfully satisfying to write and hopefully, an enjoyable break from reality for my readers. 

And there you have it, the Genesis of THE DEVIL OF LIGHT - a dirty old man with wandering hands and a sense of entitlement, and my little brain seeing opportunities for evil everywhere...

photo credit: Tiago Daniel via photopin cc
photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc
photo credit: Shavar Ross via photopin cc
photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc


  1. Bravo! Wonderful post. Meet the real devil of light!

    Alle Wells

    1. Thank you, Alle. He is quite the creep. Still alive and probably squeezing, although he must be getting near 90 by now. Thank you for stopping by...

  2. We never know where the next inspiration will be. We just have to be ready when it comes along. And, as you say so well, it may be a long time before we wake up and realize that the inspiration has been bouncing around in our brains for a long time, trying to get out.

    1. Too true, Caleb. We just have to learn to enjoy the idea gestation process and let it run its course.

  3. What interesting inspiration, Gae-Lynn. It sure comes in all shapes and sizes. Doesn't it?

  4. I cannot understand why I don't have you on my blog list, Gae-Lynn. A serious omission! I can only claim insanity and dereliction of duty.
    This was a fascinating post for me, having so recently read the book. I love your style and it is great fun finding out where the germ of the idea began. Looking forward immensely to the second novel.

    1. So glad you took the time to stop by and comment, Stuart! Hope all is well with you and yours - see you in the Twitterverse.

  5. Thanks Gae-Lynn...I love your writing style and books :)