November 22, 2017

Where Stories Come From: COVER OF NIGHT (AKA THE SINNER)

(Revised 03/04/2024)

Sometimes, writing can be therapeutic. And AKA The Sinner: Cover Of Night, which serves as the debut of Nathaniel Brigand in Pro Se Productions' Thriller of the Week series, is a great example.

Events and themes were percolating in my head: recent arguments in "support" of white supremacy groups in Charlottesville, a hashtag reacting to a news item about casting Asian actors, and some nostalgia for my "good old days..."

...and then Tommy had proposed a new series of novellas: a "Thriller of the Week" series of Kindle-only novellas based on the old NBC Mystery Movie series...and I had a way to channel some of these issues into my writing.

At this time, the #ExpressiveAsians hashtag popped up on my Twitter feed thanks to two of my friends' efforts. (They know who they are, and I don't need to call them out). When thinking of an entry-point character, I realized that I could write about the impact of racism without falling into the usual tropes by making her a third-generation Japanese-American female. (Of course, I ended up falling into a trap that a fellow writer to lived in Japan once made about limiting my stories to three areas of interest). If I needed background info, I knew many lawyers, and one of my female friends trained as a boxer. Rather than use AKA The Sinner's suggested setting, I used Rogers Park on Chicago's Northside since I knew the area, and I prefer writing fish-out-of-water stories.
Photo by Gordon Dymowski

And if you were to look at my search history for research...hoo, boy. Reading first-person accounts of families dealing with the implications of growing up in American internment camps during World War Two; female heads of white supremacist groups...and I even did fieldwork. One scene took place in the same meeting room where the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup holds its Third Coast Comics meetups. And yes, Terry gave me a strange look....but hey, I do the damn research).

Cover of Night was also a story that went through several changes from the initial outline to the final draft. Unable to formulate a compelling (non-cliche) antagonist, I realized that the "big bad" wasn't a was a woman. One particular scene in chapter five went through several rewrites. And the reason for all this...

I wanted to get it right. Yes, I'm one of many authors who believe that representation matters, and my past writing (especially female characters) has been weak. Or worse, that I've had the "token" woman. Granted, it was a short story with a shorter turnaround time, but I had to back my advocacy with action.

Did I get it right? Probably not. But what matters is that I made the effort. No "just-use-generic-insert-types-here" strategies that other writers have advocated. Writing diverse characters means putting in the effort and making the characters real enough. If I want more than the usual pulp-reading crowd to read my work, I have to make the effort to attract them.

But all in all, AKA The Sinner: Cover of Night should read like a heady mix of Law & Order and Leslie Charteris' The Saint. (And yes, I am planning on checking those books out, why do you ask?) But it's not just a great read (although it's Kindle-only, you can use Amazon's online Kindle reader) at a great's also, in a small way, a huge accomplishment on my part.

And you can find it - with other written works - via my Amazon author page. 

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