So in my ‘other life’ (not that I have much of one!) I’ve been working down at the Colorado State Capitol for one of our State Senators during the legislative session – a job I decided to take on, in part, to gain a more active understanding of the American legislative/political process and, in part, as potential research (for a writer, everything is book research after all!). Of course, as soon as my writer’s mind started ticking over, I started wondering how I could use what I’ve learned in a novel someday (although, to be fair, I thought the same thing last year when I participated in the police citizen’s academy and still haven’t done it!).
For a foreigner like myself the learning curve is always steep as I didn’t grow up in America and so my understanding of state politics is limited at best (and mainly based on Australian politics…). On the plus side though, I probably bring a different perspective to it all – one that maybe I can use to my advantage in a future book (?). Unfortunately, my knowledge of political based thrillers and mysteries, however, is also very limited (mainly to those blockbuster novels you see at airports in which the machinations of DC politics and international intrigue collide and the resulting stakes are super high). But what of local politics where the stakes are much lower and the machinations are far more mundane? Is it possible to create tension and drama? Of course, the answer is yes, as a good writer can create tension and drama out of any conflict. But in terms of selling the concept of a political thriller, I’m not sure state politics is all that juicy!
When I think of these kind of thrillers and mysteries, often it’s the life of the president or his cabinet at risk, or the fate of the nation…so immediately you know that there will be high stakes and (usually) a high concept novel involved. At a state political level, often those stakes center on corruption or injustice, which obviously provides a fair amount of dramatic tension but still, the question of what makes a decent political based thriller or mystery has been nagging me…and this is where TKZers you come in! What elements do you think make a great political mystery or thriller? Have you read any great ones that focus on state or local politics (and I mean as a central part of the novel, most mysteries and thrillers necessarily involve a certain amount of politics when they have law enforcement/judicial system involved)…And then there’s the challenges of writing a political thriller or mystery. I meant no one really wants politics shoved down their throats, nor, in today’s polarized society do you want to risk alienating readers…so how do you think a writer can find the right balance when politics is a central part of the novel? Enquiring minds (well, mine at least) want to know!