Tag Archives: Stephen King

On Writing Well

I’m excited to announce the release of my second novel, The Ghost of Heffron College, a supernatural mystery set at a small liberal arts college somewhere in the upper Midwest. I am a little anxious about reviews, though, because my first novel, Asperger Sunset, featured a character with autism, and this book does not.


Will people be angry there isn’t an autistic character? A lot of people follow me because I post information and articles about autism, and Asperger Sunset was unique, especially when it was published, because so little fiction has been written around autistic characters. That’s changing, with the Rosie books and TVs “The Good Doctor,” and that’s terrific – but my new book isn’t about autism.

And yet … one of the things Asperger Sunset did was speak in a clear, concise voice. No small talk, no read-between-the-lines events, nothing that would make it difficult for a person with autism to read and (I hope) enjoy the story.

Ghost of Heffron College is similar. My goal as a writer IS to be clear and concise. My characters rarely engage in small talk, and the plot trucks along pretty quickly.

Writers are often asked about the authors they look up to, the ones who inspire them. I write mainstream mystery, but my favorite writers are those who have a straightforward style, not necessarily in my genre. For example, Stephen King corners the market with his effortless style. I read Christine before I was even old enough to see the R-rated movie, and you knew exactly what was going on. The car loved her owner and was going to kill anyone who came between them.

I’m fond of Dennis Lehane, who can get verbose with his description at times, but the plot always moves forward and he keeps you guessing, not because the characters are being coy but because there are strong arguments to be made for either side of their decisions.

Randy Wayne White started out writing men’s fiction, what he called “duck and f**k” novels – lots of action and plot twists. His Doc Ford novels settle down a bit, letting him fill the story with setting and character, all with clear purpose.

There are best selling authors I dread reading because their books are full of overdramatized situations signifying nothing. Relationships, trying to figure out what the other character means when they won’t come out and say it, that’s not fun for me to read, so I don’t write that way.

It’s a myth that people with autism don’t like to read. Plenty of people with autism enjoy reading – especially girls, who are woefully undiagnosed. They just  don’t want to play the same stupid social games when they are reading that they have to navigate in day-to-day life.

So. Even though Ghost of Heffron College does not feature a character with autism, it does have the same author’s voice as Asperger Sunset. My voice. No social games, no weird reader manipulation, just a fun, straightforward mystery with a few twists and turns, and things that go bump in the night.

What more could you ask for?

The Ghost of Heffron College is available as a paperback or Kindle here.

Tell Me a Story – And Keep It Simple, Stupid

“Which writers have influenced your work?”

Wow, that’s a tough question. I can tell you who my favorite writers are, but it seems so pretentious to say they influenced Asperger Sunset. Besides, I write what I can’t find to read. When I realized there was little in the way of fiction featuring characters with Asperger’s Syndrome, I thought it would be fun to write something, so I did.

That said, I had to learn the craft somewhere. I’ve always been a reader, willing to pick up a story in any genre. As a writer, I am aware of style and technique as I read, but I can’t just point and say “Stephen King is one of my greatest influences.” Or can I?

A writer didn’t inspire my first story, though, it was a filmmaker. When I was 13 years old, the summer event movie had just been born. In recent years, we’d had Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. In the summer of 1980 we headed to the theater, eager to see The Empire Strikes Back. It was amazing! Fantastic! Even better than Star Wars! And then – it ended! Before it was done telling the story! The rebels had retreated, one of the heroes was on ice (well, carbonite), the bad guy was still in control, and we had to wait THREE MORE YEARS to find out how the story ended.

Three years? I couldn’t wait three years. That was forever! So what did I do? I went home and wrote the ending. I even typed it, single-spaced, on little half-sheets of paper so it looked like a book. Oh, it was awful fan-fiction, but playing in that universe, commanding those characters, creating situations for them, telling their stories – that was intoxicating! I was hooked.

As I continued to write, I discovered the style I wanted to develop had to be clean. In the mid-80s, I discovered Stephen King and was a fan of novels like Misery and The Dark Half. His prose was easy to read. No excessive description, no long dissertations on the meaning of life, just a set of characters in a twisted situation trying to find their way out.

Elmore Leonard, who died recently, has been famously quoted as saying “I try to leave out the parts readers tend to skip.” His readers didn’t want excessive description, they wanted to know what was going to happen next.

When I write, I try to tell the story through the words and actions of my characters, and apply KISS (keep it simple, stupid) whenever possible. And, unlike The Empire Strikes Back, I promise to wrap up all the major storylines. A few minor ones, however, may be left undone… and if someone, somewhere, wants to take a shot at finishing them, they could discover the gateway to an amazing hobby!

Asperger Sunset is available in paperback or Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/Asperger-Sunset-Carol-Shay-Hornung/dp/1482735776/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1378683113&sr=8-1&keywords=asperger+sunset