Last year, 2016, at the end of June, I began writing a new novel. I had already tried out a few opening chapters, none of which seemed to work. One chapter in particular starts in media res with a cat burglar breaking into a rich person’s home and robbing him of a valuable painting. He gets past the alarm system in an ingenious way, steals the painting and then… well, and then nothing. It was one of a clutch of opening chapters I had tried in an attempt to fertilize the fallow ground of my imagination to produce something that could possibly last for a whole book. Nothing seemed to work.
I quite often do that, write out an opening chapter (somewhere in the region of 2k-3k words) to see if it works and whether there is enough material/interest/potential to carry through to a whole book-length manuscript. Usually I end up disappointed – except to say that quite often there is enough spark in these ideas for a short story (but nowadays who writes publishable short stories – and who, for that matter, reads them?)
The only one that caught my interest was the cat burglar idea. It’s just that I couldn’t see how I could generate enough surrounding back-story to pursue the cat burglar for 70-90k words, the usual minimum length of a novel in my genre. Then one evening I was sitting discussing various writing ideas with my long-suffering wife, who, like me, is an English major and, unlike me, is an expert in the critique of the novel. Out of the blue, she said: why don’t you write a novel about a priest who has some moral dilemma. And that set me thinking, for some obscure reason, about the cat burglar. What if the cat burglar was a priest? What if he had some really good reason for burglarizing people’s homes? Could there be such a reason? I thought about it for a while and came up with a very good reason why he would want to do such a thing. (I’m sure if you think about it hard enough the answer will come to you, but if not you’ll have to wait for the book to come out.) I gave it the working title of ‘Vigilante Priest.’