01 August 2016

The Four Seasons


By Susan Rogers Cooper

Okay, so the title is a misnomer. Since I live in Central Texas, we only have two seasons: summer and winter. Winter is generally mid-December to mid-February. Everything else is summer. We consider our winters to be cold, which, of course, is a relative term. Sixty degrees is cool, fifty-four degrees is cold, and anything lower than that is, excuse the expression, freezing your butt off. I know, I know, those of you who live above the Mason-Dixon line are sneering as you read this. Fine. But before you become too snarky, come spend an August with me, then we'll talk.

The point of this is that this whole two-season thing can reek havoc on the creative process, especially when one is writing about something that happens in January while writing in July. It's sorta cold in January in Austin, which one can easily forget while sweating away in July. Which is why, two hundred and some odd pages into the newest E.J. Pugh mystery, I've had to remind myself that, oops, where are the jackets?

The story takes place at the University of Texas when E.J.'s son, Graham Pugh, comes back to school after the winter break. Yes, that would be January. Then he's accused of the murder of his obnoxious roommate. Just because he'd been thinking about doing it, doesn't mean he actually did it. So of course E.J. has to come to Austin to ferret out the true culprit and free her eldest child. And she should probably bring a coat. Just saying. And just because I'm writing in July when it's quiet plausible to forget about that wet stuff that falls from the sky, doesn't mean it's not available in, excuse the expression, winter. So maybe a raincoat. Okay, just an umbrella. Never rain boots. No one over the age of six does rain boots here. Maybe some ice? We had ice in 2006. It was scary. But I just had an ice storm in my last Milt Kovak book (which was more believable because he lives way up north in Oklahoma).

As I sit here writing this and staring out my window at the relentlessly perky sun, I'm reminded of something my late friend, the writer Nancy Bell, once said to me in a depressed voice: “It's another goddammed beautiful day in Austin.”

So, it's off to the writing mines for me to add the winter stuff: jackets, coats, a nice scarf, a little rain, you know, weather. We don't have weather in the summer months. Just that relentlessly perky sun. I need to go turn the air conditioning down.

4 comments:

Paul D. Marks said...

Susan, sometimes it's hard to remember all the things we need to do to get the details right especially, as you say when you're writing something set in winter in the middle of July.

Art Taylor said...

Ha! For some reason, I was reminded of Mario Vargas Llosa's novel Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter where the scriptwriter of the title dresses up as his characters as he writes about them... and I suddenly had the image of you putting on sweaters and jackets to get into the spirit of the season (the other season, I mean, of course). Good luck pushing ahead with all this!

Elizabeth said...

In Buffalo, if it's above 65 degrees, the natives think it's too hot to go anywhere or do anything.

Anonymous said...

I remember as a teen doing summer coursework at a Pennsylvania college. I was from the desert. We headed out one morning and the bank thermometer said it was 69 degrees. I about had a hysterical attack and none of the other teens on the bus could understand why. I kept saying, "But it's 69 degrees! And it's JULY!!" They were like, "whatever. that desert kid is weird." Of course, to me winters on the desert still felt cold. I sure as heck wanted a sweater that July morning, I can tell you that!