We’re in a library in a rather posh section of Connecticut. The occasion is part of an ongoing series called “Meet the Writer” underwritten by a local bank. The interviewer, who hosts his own radio show, is quizzing a young woman whose latest novel has been released by a major house. She’s affable about it all and answers that this time she found herself more and more interested in other characters (many based on real people back in the day). Before long she wanted to trace their journeys and see what impact they might have had on each other. How hailing from a small town near Atlanta and exploring an offbeat lifestyle in New York at more or less the same time might coalesce and/or conflict.
Later on, during the discussion period, I wanted to say that alternating scenes is nothing new. It goes back over a century ago thanks to D.W. Griffith. That’s where the old saw “Meanwhile back at the ranch” was born. That’s what kept rapt moviegoers in their seats, knowing what our hero didn’t know (or the villain for that matter), wondering what was going to happen next. The technique has long been adapted by novelists.
I also wanted to say that as a crime writer, I know full well that the other characters aren’t just sitting still. Once things are set in motion, every action is going to cause repercussions. It seems, every attempt to close the gap causes greater complications. As if everyone is on some collision course and it’s no longer she did this; and then she did this; and then she did that. All by itself, everyone is coming at this with a different, heightened agenda.
And even if I’m reading a novel with a limited view, I begin to wonder what’s happening out there. What’s going on; what are the others up to; what’s their next move?
But I didn’t say anything, even though hardly anyone had something to offer. If I had spoken up, it might have led to something iffy, perhaps even unpleasant. It could have affected the wine and cheese gathering. The host might’ve gotten miffed, there would be tension in the air and who knows what would’ve happened next?