15 September 2023

As You First Hope

Again, another inspiration from a SleuthSayer's column – Chris Knopf's What could go wrong? (28 August 2023).

Chris said, "A better way to describe my projects is a series of screwups and miscalculations, strung together by intermittent moments of good luck, and relentless revision."

About the same for me. And I am drawn to a writer I've always admired and what she said:

"Nothing you write, if you hope to be any good, will ever come out as you first hoped."

                                                                                                            – Lilliam Hellman

Lillian Hellman, 1939

Born in New Orleans, Lillian Hellman is a revered playwright, fiction writer, screenwriter and memoirist, best known for The Little Foxes, Watch on the Rhine, Toys in the Attic, The Children's Hour, The Autumn Garden and her long relationship with mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, as well as her political activism. Like Hammett, she was blacklisted during the communist witch hunt of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

This New Orleans writer, like many of my writer friends, acknowledges Hellman's statement is spot on.

While most of my story stories stick to an outline (often little more than a sketchy idea), my novels have never. Even my early books, which I composed after putting together detailed outlines, did not end up the way they were intended.

These days, I don't use an outline with my novels. I create the characters, figure what time period and setting, come up with a starting point and what I think will be the end scenes and let the characters find their way to the end. I follow along and write what they say and do. There are surprises along the way, and new characters change from bad guys to good guys.

Smooth, my latest novel published on September 5th, is a good example. New Orleans Private Eye Lucien Caye is up front with wife AlizeƩ, daughter Jeannie and the usual supporting cast of NOPD detectives and neighbors in the lower French Quarter. I laid out the cases he works in the book and watched him work.

Yes, his character evolves as the series moves forward. Songwriter AlizeĆ© also works as a lingerie model and part-time private eye with Lucien. The book gives a view of this private eye's homelife as much as his gumshoe work. It's a kick to write and ends up close to where it was intended, but it did not come out as I first imagined.

That's all for now.



  1. That's a handsome cover! Best of luck with Smooth!

  2. Nice cover. And a great photo of Lillian Hellman. And oh, how right she was!

  3. Good cover! And gotta love Dashiell Hammett.


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