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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Tour Black WIngs Guest Post by Kathleen Toomey Jabs

Writing a mystery is like living with a jigsaw puzzle pieces scattered in your brain. During the years I was writing Black Wings, I felt like I was half-living in a dream state. Once I awoke with a vision of a wall inside a crypt—I could almost feel the hoary air in my face as I envisioned Bridget walking into a crypt at the Naval Academy. How did that wall come into play? How exactly did Bridget find it? I didn’t know the answers, but I had one piece of the puzzle. Now that I knew Bridget had found the wall, I had other questions: who put the names on the Wall? Why? Did the Wall have anything to do with Audrey’s death?

I didn’t outline Black Wings. I had a strong sense of the characters and setting as well as some incidents, but I wasn’t sure how they all related. I knew I needed suspense. I also needed some foils and “red herring” suspects. It wouldn’t be much of a mystery if the reader knew from the start what had happened or who was involved. But, as a writer, I couldn’t know either. Living with all that uncertainty took some getting used to. I had to fight the urge to start jamming puzzle pieces together. Instead, I had to assemble my characters, create scenes, let them interact then figure out a way to interlock the pieces into a coherent whole.

In much the same way that Bridget Donovan, the main character, goes through the novel searching for answers, I lived my life in those early drafts on a seemingly permanent quest. I had a strong sense of serendipity and interconnectedness. My life and my work were constantly feeding each other. Some days I read something and wondered why or how I had found it, but instinctively I knew I needed that information for Black Wings. It was like being wonderstruck and a little bit dreamy. I loved it.

At other times, I fought against feeling overwhelmed. I would look at Black Wings and think of all the questions I needed to answer, the issues I needed to resolve – not just for me but for the readers! I had to remind myself: one scene at a time.

Another aspect to writing a mystery is that you’re spending your day in a world that’s pretty dark—usually, a murder has taken place. I spent a lot of time writing emotionally wraught scenes. The characters were facing harassment, disappointment, loss of friendship and death—sometimes extended stays in that world were draining. I worried Black Wings was too dark. I found I had to give Bridget some characters who were fun in order to keep my sanity.

One last feature of writing a mystery that I didn’t expect was my sheer sadness when I discovered which character had been involved in Audrey’s death. It wasn’t who I expected or even wanted it to be. I really liked the character who committed the crime. I won’t say who it was, but I still feel regret.

Now that Black Wings is completed, I still think of Bridget and Audrey as real people. They occupied such a space in my life (and my head!) for so many years that I miss them. By the end of the novel, I was used to hearing them talking in my head. Often with the dialogue it felt like I was transcribing conversations.

I’m starting to hear snippets of Bridget’s conversations again. I’ve started to take notes. Now I need to let go and embrace the new pieces of a scattered puzzle so I can start putting them back together.

Black Wings Summary
LT Bridget Donovan suspects the worst when her former Naval Academy roommate, Audrey Richards, perishes in a botched take-off from an aircraft carrier. The Navy says it's an accident, but facts don't add up. Could it be suicide, or murder? Donovan's unofficial investigation into what really happened, both during their past Academy days and in Richards' final hours, forces her to examine the concepts of honor, justice and the role of loyalty in pursuit of those ideals.

Kathleen Toomey Jabs'
Kathleen Toomey Jabs is a 1988 graduate of the United States Naval Academy. She served on active duty for six years and is currently a Captain in the Navy Reserve. She holds an MA from the University of New Hampshire and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. Her stories have been published in a number of literary journals and received several prizes, including selection in the National Public Radio Selected Shorts program. She lives with her husband and two children in Virginia.

Price: $19.95 paperback, $9.99 ebook

ISBN: 9780984141272
Pages: 314
Release: December 2011

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1 comment:

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