The End to the Beginning

The genesis of Silent Thunder was the question “Where is she now?” From there the rest of the book flowed. Where is she? Who is she? What is she doing and why is she doing it? At one point I envisioned a number of books of different genres all starting with the phrase “Where is she now?”

Who, what, were, when and how – yes, I started my writing career as a journalist. I once heard every journalist thinks they have a good book in them – and that’s where it should stay. Before I thought, “Ouch!”, but now I think it may be because answering the 5 Ws so ingrained in our writing DNA does not always result in the best book.

Today I rewrote the beginning to Silent Thunder and I am a little heart sick about it. I never flinched at the thought of having to kill-off characters. After all, I am writing about espionage and bad guys. I never thought I would have to kill phrases I loved. I rewrite and edit all the time without feeling as if one of my babies were taken away, but that is just how I feel today. The most ridiculous part of it is the phrase is still there, it’s just not the start of the book. Really it’s not changing the words, but changing the beginning that saddens me.

What lifts my spirits is the revised start is much stronger and clearer. I’m learning to craft my writing rather than just write down words. It helps that I have written the entire story and I know were things are going. A more experienced novelist may be able to figure it all out before writing, but I’m kind of bungling along this first time.

I started writing Silent Thunder while working as a reporter and photographer on a biweekly newspaper called the Rexburg Standard Journal. I had worked there for a few years and my writing started to get stale and boring. I started the book as a creative writing exercise to help punch up my work writing, which it did. Silent Thunder was not the first storyline I attempted, but it was the first one to last through 10 or 20 pages.

Not long after I started writing it, I came up with some goals. Remember, I didn’t think of this as a book, but a writing project. I was just having fun writing off the leash of the newspaper. I love reading spy novels, so that was my inspiration. I always read about the author and the information on the book jackets (something I miss with e-books.) I noticed they usually talked about how the author went to great lengths to accurately and thoroughly research the book. I called huey on this. I challenged myself to write this book based on headlines without any research other than fictionalizing the events in the news. This didn’t work out so well, and I have developed a new respect for the research that goes into book writing. Thanks in great part to Google I didn’t have to travel the world and I spent many hours fascinated by learning.

Another goal I made was to have a two strong lead characters – one male, one female. So many of the books I read had one strong and one weak character. I could see no reason why the main female and male characters could not both be strong and capable. I did better with this goal. Lisa Cunningham and Chance Remington are both strong, likable characters in their own right and together they make the perfect team, even if it took them a few chapters to understand that.

I also wanted to write about Idaho, not as a travel guide, but as my heartbeat. I wanted to relay how the state is divided into three parts and how the geography and climate changes constantly. Like the blind men trying to describe an elephant, many people know a part of the state, but few visitors have the whole picture. Originally, I wanted Lisa and Chance to travel every corner of the state, but just getting them from west to east took up so much of the book, they ended up just discussing the north part of the state.

Along with the beauty, I also wanted to bring the hard truth of the dangers. Especially now as more tourists invade in ignorance, it is important for people to know they take their lives in their hands when they come here. As a reporter I covered schools and was talking with a secretary waiting for a meeting to get started when I learned her husband was still out on a search and rescue call. It was nighttime and it was winter. The call for help came after two brothers and a son failed to return from a snowmobile trip in northern Fremont County, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. Everyone made it home safely. The search crew found them, but it was so late they ended up staying the night. What made me mad was the out-of-state visitors had rented sleds without proper clothing or any inkling of where they were going. They were wearing old moon boots and did not have the coats to keep them warm. It showed no respect for the elements.

The danger is not all about the weather either. Craters of the Moon is an extreme example, but the characters in Silent Thunder stop there to illustrate the danger. Visitors go traipsing across the lava beds without taking precautions or proper supplies. I know because I pass their empty cars parked on the side of the highway. I can’t see them when I drive by and that’s just my point. The landscape looks relatively flat, but it isn’t. A misstep, a twisted ankle, or worse a broken leg, and you can be feet away from the highway and yet unseen, unheard and unable to move. Lives can be endangered when people are stuck without out a brace or a bandage, a hat, food and possibly without a phone or water.

This is not your neighborhood. This is Idaho.

I think I nailed that goal!

Enjoy the read, TC Robinson

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