Please welcome our newest guest, author of Assumption of Right, by Annabel Aidan.
One of the exciting things for me, as a reader, is learning about interesting vocations or hobbies through fiction. I love it when a character has a rich life, both inner and outer, and gets excited by people, places, and work.
We spend so much time at work, between a third and a half of our lives. Some of us love our jobs. We are lucky. We are excited to go to work every day. Those who hate their jobs try to punish us for it because they don’t have the courage to make positive change. The first big Broadway show I worked was MISS SAIGON. I was there the last five years of its ten year run. When the show closed, I even missed the people I hadn’t liked all that much! To this day, my memories of the show are fond and passionate, even about the rough times. We were an endless font of creativity and support. Everyone was dedicated to each performance, but we also created work outside of the show, shared it with each other, honed it together, and turned out to support each other, whether it was someone singing original songs in a bar or running a marathon. Our lives, both inside work and out of it, were enriched by our connection to each other in that specific environment at that specific time.
The point of some novels is the lack of inner and outer life of some of its characters. the emptiness. Or that the inner/outer, work/personal equation is out of balance. In that case, I need characters around the central character to have full, rich lives, which point up the contrast even more sharply.
As a reader, I enjoy novels where the protagonist is a professional in an area where I know very little, but am interested. I have slogged through some awful writing set against the backdrop of art restoration and forgery because it fascinated me. I’ve also read some novels on the same subject that soared. I like to read about scientists and archaeologists, cabinet-makers and bookbinders. I wouldn’t pick up a novel and use it as an instruction manual, but when a character is deeply involved in something, I want to live it with the character. If I’m fascinated by the topic, and the novel holds my interest, I’m likely to not only read more of that author’s work, but read more on the topic, and approach each additional book with even greater appreciation.
I also like to read about subjects with which I am familiar, such as writing or working backstage or reading tarot cards. There’s always a chance of frustration, though. If the author tells me that the character is a writer, but I never see the character at work, I think, “Some writer!” because I know how much time and work and joy and energy it takes to be a working writer. When the author sets something backstage on Broadway, and it’s obvious that the only research the author’s done has been watching television shows and going once on a tour of a community theatre, when the author portrays all the people back there as self-centered cliches, I get frustrated. I’ve spent over twenty years of my working life backstage in the theatre, everything from community theatre to Broadway. Each type of theatre is valid, but the atmosphere and the stakes at every level are entirely different. And, when you get to the level of Broadway, few shows can have a long run if everyone behaves like a selfish jerk all the time. You spend too much time together for that type of behavior to last. If a character who reads cards gives silly, vapid readings or uses the Death card to mean literal death, I lose interest — unless the author is making a point that this reader is a charlatan. It’s along the same lines as geography for me. As someone who lived in New York City for many years, if an author sets a book in New York without walking the streets, and has a character in Harlem at one point, then turns a corner and is in Greenwich Village without using teleportation, my trust is broken. If I can’t trust an author on something as basic as getting the streets of New York correct, how can I put any emotional trust in the story?
I want to know the sights, the sounds, the smells, the tastes, the textures of the environment and the lives of these characters. I want to feel that I am within the context of the book, living it, not a voyeur. That’s what I want to do as a reader, and what I try to do as a writer.
When I decided to write ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, I wanted to dip my toe into romantic suspense. Since it was a new genre for me, I wanted to set it somewhere I knew intimately — backstage on a Broadway show. But what would create suspense and allow for love to grow? A VIP under Secret Service protection. I combined my own experiences (I’ve worked when Secret Service were backstage while a VIP was out front), did research on the elements I didn’t know, raised the stakes, and cut out the boring bits. As dedicated as both my primary protagonists are to their work, they also have rich lives outside of work. Hopefully, someone who’s never been backstage during a Broadway production will get a good sense of the hard work, camaraderie, joy, and wonder of it, the same way I get a sense of the passion and attention to detail that go into conserving a master painting.
Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer who publishes under a half a dozen names in fiction and non-fiction. Her latest release, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, is available in both print and digital editions from Champagne Books (www.champagnebooks.com). Keep up with her on her web page: http://www.devonellingtonwork.com/annabelaidan.html.