Posts Tagged: The Shop

Back in Michelangelo’s day, artists were apprenticed to the masters. They spent years copying the paintings of the great artists.

By doing so, they learned. They learned where to put which kind of detail, they learned color, brushstrokes, composition, perspective. They absorbed it all by doing—until it came naturally. They developed a sure hand.

The best teachers are the finest writers in your genre—the ones who resonate with you. In my case, they are bestselling thriller authors. You can learn from them for the price of a hardcover or even a paperback book. The only other thing you need is a pen.
LA requiem book notes
I would buy the hardcover books of the great authors in my genre—the four or five I could relate to, and then I would dissect their books, looking for the signposts of their craft, and marking up the pages of their print editions. I didn’t want to sound like any one of them, I just wanted to learn what they did and how they did it. What I learned was the rhythm of the type of book I most wanted to write.

A book covers a lot of ground. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, with many other points in between. You read and study enough great writers in your genre, and you start to catch on to that rhythm: what goes where, when. You absorb it so that it comes naturally. And you learn to give little gifts to your reader along the way.

My teachers have been numerous. Michael Connelly, Jeffery Deaver, Robert Crais, James W. Hall, T. Jefferson Parker, Stephen King, John Lescroart, and C.J. Box. All different from one another, but great teachers, and all bestselling thriller authors.
The Shop by J. Carson Black
My advice to you: buy the books written by the masters in your genre. Get out your pen, write in the margins (sorry, Mom!), and figure out what they’re doing and why. When I was preparing to write The Shop, I knew I really had to step up my game, and I leaned on these masters to glean what I could to hone my craft.

Teach yourself. Learn from the very best, and who knows? You could join the ranks of bestselling thriller authors.

It only costs the price of a book and a pen.

Categories: Writing

When I started my first big thriller, THE SHOP, I wanted it to be (to quote Donald Trump): HUGE. Glenn and I tossed around words, and the best word that came to mind was “Airport Fiction.” A book that grabs you and doesn’t let go.The Shop by J. Carson Black

I’d had two eye-opening experiences with those kinds of books. On a trip to Florida to see our relatives, I picked out Jeffery Deaver’s THE BLUE NOWHERE in paperback. I wanted a shiny new book to take across country.

Turned out, I literally couldn’t put it down. I read that darn thing everywhere. In line with luggage, in line for the flight, at the bar where I nibbled on my sandwich, on the flight. I barely looked up to meet with my brother-in-law and his family, as we sat at an airport bar and I just read and read and read.

Frankly, I was rude. I feel bad about it now, but it was kind of like a fever. I couldn’t stop myself. There I was, meeting my father-in-law’s wife for the first time, and before you knew it I was sitting on a chair reading THE BLUE NOWHERE while everyone around me talked.

Warning: THE BLUE NOWHERE can lead to rudeness!

Fast-forward to another airport. This time I was flying to New Zealand. There was the Incredible Spinning Rack, and a beautiful blue and red paperback caught my eye. Florida! Boats! Murder! I read the first page of MEAN HIGH TIDE by James W. Hall, and was hooked like a hapless grouper. Airport Fiction.Mean High Tide cover

This book changed the way I wanted to write fiction. It made me want to write crime fiction. It made me want to put hard characters on stage, bigger-than-life characters. It made me want to get visceral. MEAN HIGH TIDE opened up a whole new world. It led to Robert Crais and Michael Connelly, and so many great crime fiction authors. I’d written a romantic suspense—my agent thought it would sell well. Now I can fully admit I wasn’t very good at it.

Write what you LOVE. That’s the way to fly high with Airport Fiction.

Everything changed. I knew the kinds of books I wanted to write. Whether I’ve been successful or not in writing books in that vein is not for me to say.

All I can say is that those books gave me the passion to write what I love.

Categories: Books Cyril Landry