Friday, August 21, 2009

Jeff Abbott's Open Doors

With the release of his new thriller TRUST ME, I invited Jeff to stop by and visit. Bless his heart first for agreeing to visit and second for his topic. I always give free reign to guest bloggers and Jeff chose to write about his six-word (or rather five-word - thanks to good editing) memoir. I swear, it was all his idea! No money exchanged hands! In all seriousness, let me quit blabbing and hand those free reigns over to the man who gets paid to write. Friends, please welcome award-winning crime fiction writer, Jeff Abbott!

Writing Opens a Thousand Doors by Jeff Abbott

That was my six-word (actually five) memoir for Jen’s blog, and I thought today I’d expand on what I meant about my thousand doors.

When I started writing, a well-intentioned friend said, “You’re spending all this time alone. You’re shut up in that room by yourself. You’re not living life.”

He could not have been more wrong. Writing forces you to look at life through new glasses: not merely as a flow of events that is happening to you and around you, but as part of a pattern. All fiction—whether a thriller, a mainstream novel, a romance, or a mystery—is sorting life into a pattern that holds meaning and gives a sense of heightened drama.

So, the first door writing opened for me made me a sorter of life. (I should be a magical hat.) I began to look at every aspect of life as a part in a bigger drama. What did my choices really mean for me and the people I care about? How did I spend my time meaningfully—was I taking steps toward a better command of craft or was I wasting time? With my friends and family, did I minimize conflict or did I needlessly amp it up? I felt like a reality show contestant who becomes hyper-aware of the cameras (even if the lenses were of my own making.) At the same time, I think I became quieter and more reflective. I simply thought more: about people, about pain and pleasure, about the values that are worth fighting for in a life. My notebook began to explode with ideas, phrases, thoughts about people I wanted to include in my stories and my books.

Remember that my goal was to write commercial crime fiction, not the next War and Peace. But I believe all fiction, at some level, concerns the human condition. I started to process all the raw fuel of life.

The second door was discipline. As I got more serious about my writing, I had to fit writing in as a greater priority. I could give up all the rest of my life (I had already given up weekends, and I was a guy in my 20s living in one of the most fun and social cities in America) but I decided to sacrifice sleep instead. I got up at 4 AM and wrote for three hours every morning before going to work. That way, the most important task of the day was already done. I didn’t have to work when I got home, tired and stressed and frazzled from slaying the day’s dragons. I got more disciplined about other demands in my life (um, except for grocery shopping). I kept thinking: I don’t have an endless succession of tomorrows for writing. I need to do it today. Now. And so I ordered my life as such.

The final door was acceptance. I could write thousands of pages that might never find a reader. And I didn’t care. This will sound strange or even contradictory, but the need to write was like a calm fire. The obsession was there, I had to write, but the need wasn’t insane or destructive. Writing was positive, even if the words were junk and I tossed them at the end of the session. I would keep writing even if no one ever read my words. It was a jarring realization, that it was okay to write solely for myself.
I sold my first novel before I was thirty. That has brought me a great and rewarding stream of professional opportunities (and a few disappointing setbacks), it has brought me relationships to last a lifetime, it has brought me the great privilege of being allowed to entertain others—to help them forget a lousy day at work, or the pain of hospitalization, or to make a dull flight pass faster.

Every day, ever since, has been a new door to open.

Thank you so much, Jeff. I hope that when you are in your times of reflection and thinking about people you realize that you open doors for us, your fans, with your writing. We are very grateful that you have made sacrifices and worked hard to walk through those doors writing has opened for you.

Jeff's new book is called TRUST ME. It centers around Luke Dantry who works tracking extremists online. Dantry believes the majority of the people he encounters online are simply all talk. That is until the day he is kidnapped and left for dead. TRUST ME was released in hardcover (ISBN: 978-0-525-95121-6) by Dutton this summer, and you can read more about it on Jeff's website here or in this review I found very helpful.

Happy Friday everyone and Happy Reading!


rhapsodyinbooks August 21, 2009 at 8:02 AM  

This is one impressively disciplined guy! Thanks for the interview!

Corey Wilde August 21, 2009 at 8:53 AM  

Jen, that may be the best guest blog EVER.

le0pard13 August 21, 2009 at 9:51 AM  

Great post. Thanks Jeff and Jen.

♥Jen♥ August 21, 2009 at 12:35 PM  

Yes Corey! I really like this post, too. I was so tickled when he tied it into his 6-word memoir submission. Jeff really went the extra mile to make it personalized.

Terresa August 23, 2009 at 2:50 AM  

Love this post. Well put. I like how he describes writing as a "calm fire." That phrase is going to stay with me...

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