Writing Life: Evolution of a Writer

I zoomed through Thomas Perry’s eight books created around the Native American heroine Jane Whitefield. Liking the author a lot, I went to a much earlier and shorter series, three books written about the Butcher Boy.

The evolution of Thomas Perry as a writer is fascinating. I can see elements of what became Jane Whitefield in the earlier books: a single, highly skilled expert who prevails over a daunting number of bad guys, someone who is very good at tracking, someone who is good at shape-shifting, or convincingly assuming different identities. There is one big difference: the Butcher Boy is a hired killer. Jane Whitefield helps people disappear when the law has failed them and their lives are in jeopardy.

Early in my career a literary agent told me that with my writing skill, I could churn out a mystery or Gothic romance a month, and make a lot of money that way — all the while taking time to write the stuff I wanted and trying to get it published for a smaller market. I chose not to follow that path, although I appreciated the advice from someone who had a lot of experience knowing what kinds of books sell.

I think at the time I was making a distinction between “serious” writers, and those who found a mass market niche and doubled down on writing for it. Looking at Thomas Perry’s earlier and later work, I’m acknowledging that he’s a serious writer too, albeit a mass market one. His books have character development and tightly woven plots. His writing has evolved with time, gotten better and better. That takes work, and focus, and commitment.

These days my writing is focused primarily on the blog, which is enough of a daily commitment for me. But I haven’t lost my interest in the writing life, in what makes a serious writer — or in what sells. I have no plans to stop writing, and I hope Thomas Perry doesn’t either.

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