From a Q & A with Keith McCafferty about his new novel, The Royal Wulff Murders:
This is your first novel. In what ways did your editorial work for Field & Stream help prepare you to write it?Visit Keith McCafferty's website and Facebook page.
As a reporter, columnist and essayist, I learned long ago to be professional — meet deadlines, write to point and write to length. As a novelist these traits are double-edged. If my editor suggests that the book will benefit from minor restructuring, a change in tone regarding a character, and cutting 9,000 words to bring the manuscript in at a reasonable length, my background gives me the discipline to do the revisions and bring them in on time. On the other hand, I’m an instinctual writer who tends to explore. I have a general outline in mind, write the first sentence, the first sentence leads to the second and so on; I never had the patience to outline in minute detail, nor the discipline to follow the outline if I did. In magazine work, that’s okay. Whenever I wrote myself into a corner, I just backed up and wrote myself out of it. But it’s one thing to find yourself in a blind alley in a 2,500 word essay; it’s quite another to get lost in a book of 100,000 words. E.L. Doctorow famously said that writing a novel is like driving at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. I agree, but the danger, at least for me, is that I’ll exhaust the reader’s patience enroute. So one thing I’ve had to learn is that it’s not enough to begin with a vague idea. I need to have a sense of the novel and a little more structure than I’m used to before proceeding. I still allow myself the license to follow where the characters take me, but they are telling their story within a framework. If I do my job the reader can’t see the reins on the horse, but having them in hand is the difference between storytelling and just a lot of talking.
2. How much of the plot of The Royal Wulff Murders is based in fact. What’s happening with whirling disease in Montana right now?
When I moved to Montana, the upper Madison River was one of the world’s greatest trout streams, so good that my friend built his house there just for the fishing. No sooner had the walls gone up than...[read on]