I'm still on a business trip in Chicago – first time US, first time Midwest, first time Chicago, and I reckon I couldn't have made a better start inside the States. At least everybody says so. I'm right now stuck in a hotel lobby waiting for time to pass so I can grab a last meal before I put my stomach at the tender mercies of British Airways (there's a pizzaria around here that has a very interesting take on pizza – it resembles a savoury cracker more than anything else, but it's very good).
Most of the trip was devoted to business, but I did manage to get some writing research in. See, there are things in the US that we don't have in the UK. I've eaten some terrific bagels, shopped at Walgreens (I needed a couple protein bars), and yeah, Starbucks in the same around the world. I met contacts in Caribou Coffee (a shameless Starbucks clone - ad why not clone something *good*?), and went into a Barnes & Noble and a Borders (we do have Borders, but yours is nicer).
I got a feel for Chicago, I hope, or at least the business area, and downtown, and the Gold Coast. All of that is not what my company paid for (well, they did, I'll make them pay for the protein bars), but it's all research. One of my Russian characters is relocating here to live with a couple Americans, so I walked the street with “Russian eyes”, remembering Moscow and how he'd see the city. I made some photos too to jog the memory.
Needless to say, I didn't write a word, and I even “missed” the launch of my latest book, “Transit”, which I wrote with Raev Gray and was published by Dreamspinner. It's a seriously busy day when a writer is surprised by a book launch.
Things are germinating, however. The “guys in the basement”, as Stephen King calls the muses, are moving furniture. And all the lucky accidents are working in my favour, too.
I walked down Michigan Avenue at around noon, and there was a Borders. Now, writers and bookshops are like moths and flames, but I did have this feeling of “I should look for Jewish soldiers in WWII while I'm here.” Not exactly the kind of topic that is on the bestseller lists, but Borders had the perfect book.
The need to come to grips with David was overwhelming, and that was one of the things that has been worrying me a lot lately. What do I know about Jewishness in war? Well, there it was, eye-witness accounts of Jewish GIs. I believe in that kind of lucky accident. Very often, when I define a problem (“I know nothing about horsebreeding in Eastern Prussia in the 1940ies”) and then go into a random bookstore, I tend to find the exact book that answers that exact question. Just like I get quartered in the exact area where my character would end up living – out of the whole wide US of A.
Writing is very often just lucky accidents, or a series of small miracles, or a chaotic brain seeing patterns where none exist. You decide, but it works very well for me.