This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest bloggers Don Farmer and Chris Curle. They are former broadcast news reporters who have co-written two page-turning mystery novels: Deadly News and Fatal Ambition. Farmer and Curle were our featured writers on January 5, 2016.
Readers and colleagues often ask me why I wanted to write novels after a decades-long career in broadcast and print journalism in the era before the current days of “fake news.” That’s easy; after a life of factual reporting, I wanted to tell a fictional story, to make up stuff! So, I wrote my first novel, Deadly News, in 2013.
Many elements of the story are based on the real life and professional experiences my wife, Chris Curle and I have had, the chapters that involved the killing of black bears for their organs and paws, for example. Those animal parts are prized in Asia as having sexual and medicinal benefits. False, of course. Chris I and I have done many reports and documentaries on the despicable illegal wildlife trade, from the horns and tusks of rhinos and elephants to black bear parts, even orchids in the Florida Everglades. We know a good deal about the zoos in Atlanta and in Naples, stemming from our general interested in animals and our volunteer work with Zoo Atlanta, where some of the plot of Fatal Ambition takes place.
The character of the female African American doctor in the book is based on the thoracic surgeon who operated on Chris for her esophageal cancer in 2014. She is a lifesaver in the book, just as she was, and is, in real life.
Because of Chris’s recovery from cancer surgery, our writing process was unusual and rather impromptu. I would give her a chapter or some pages and she would edit, comment or question.
That’s the opposite approach of many successful authors who often have elaborate storyboards and outlines, even biographies for main characters. An outline is probably a good idea, but I just approached the computer as if it was a Ouija Board. I did have characters and situations in mind, though.
We had been out of TV news for a few years when we wrote Fatal Ambition, so we had to do a bit of checking around to make sure that the latest communication technology was reflected accurately. Our son is the lead anchorman at TV station in Atlanta and he was a big help bringing us up to speed. Constant advancements in technology and miniaturization make covering and reporting the news easier and immediate from just about anywhere. Satellite technology makes live reporting in broadcast news the norm. You can even do a “live shot” with FaceTime using your smart phone.
The book has serious as well as humorous elements. There are a lot of laughs among the homicides. I enjoy poking fun at some of the foibles of TV news.
Chris did most of the research for the book. We always joked that news people are a mile wide and an inch deep. And, in news, as in every vocation I suppose, you don’t have to know something; you just have to know how to find out about it.
Writing fiction, fabricating a story came easier to me than I thought it would. But there has been a learning curve. Writing dialogue is challenging for me. But it is key to enliven the characters and to advance the story.
Will I write a third novel? It’s possible. Readers of my first two, Deadly News and Fatal Ambition, will notice that there are more key female characters than male. I really like to write women characters. In many action novels, women are secondary or supporting. In my stories, women are primary and push the plot.
So, stay tuned!
For more information or to purchase books, visit www.DonFarmer.com .