Rachelle Gardner, a literary agent I follow on Twitter, recently made the following statement:
A lot of writers are setting stories in the past to avoid dealing with internet, Facebook, text msging, etc. Not good!
I laughed when I read this. Not because I shy away from technology in Baby Grand. In fact, quite the opposite. I’ve incorporated both text messaging and social networking, such as Facebook, in my story, and enjoy doing so. But since I’ve been writing Baby Grand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve kicked myself, wondering, Why did your novel have to be contemporary? Why couldn’t you write some damn science fiction or Victorian romance instead?
The reason is that because my novel is set in contemporary times, current events can impact it. Often I feel I’m at the whim or mercy of those current events, which help form the framework of my fictional story. For example, there is this underlying worry that I had while writing Baby Grand that Facebook will disappear from the planet and I will have to rework the role that social networking plays in my book. I remember when Mark Zuckerberg was named Time’s Man of the Year, a wave of relief washed over me as I thought: Whew! A company couldn’t crumble under the Man of the Year, can it? CAN IT?!
I even discussed it with my agent. “What if Facebook implodes?” I asked her, panic-stricken.
Calm and cool, she said, “Then there will be another social networking site to take its place. Don’t worry. Things like this are a common worry for first-time authors.”
I thought, Oh, okay, good. She’s not worried. Then I won’t be. Yay.
Still, I am compelled to stay on top of current events, since I think it’s important to understand what’s going on in the news so I can know whether to ignore it or acknowledge it in the book. Remember the recent ban on drop-side cribs? That impacted Baby Grand in a tiny way and will be something I address in this go-round of revisions. Luckily, that was just an easy fix.
However, on Wednesday of this week, I read an AOL story about a U.S. manufacturer ending production of one of the main ingredients used in lethal injections. Under normal circumstances, I would probably have skimmed the story and that would have been it, but the death penalty is featured prominently in Baby Grand. I almost fell over when the writer spoke of the impact this could have on the death penalty in the U.S. and whether or not lethal injections would continue, since the Italian plant that the company wanted to switch production to is being pressured by the government not to sell the drug to the U.S. if it is to be used in executions.
Political views on capital punishment aside, this has a big impact on how my story is told. This means that I will have to stay tuned and make adjustments, alternate arrangements, additions, etc., which I don’t mind doing (in fact, there’s a part of me that loves doing, because it’s challenging), but, damn, this is stressful. Queen Victoria is looking better as a protagonist all the time. (Did she have a stutter?)
Alas, I have no plans to write any Victorian romance or science fiction. Maybe one day. (Never say never.) But right now, I’m a contemporary girl. A thriller girl. And, apparently, a literary masochist.