I met with Dan Smetanka last night in LA, a brilliant editor who worked with me (along with my other editors) on Mistress of the Sun.

Dan is the type of editor who reaches into your bowels and yanks out your stuff. Sorry to be so graphic, but he’s not a polish type of guy (although he does that, too). He’s the big picture, the gritty picture, a guts-of-the-matter guy. Working with him has been like working with a master.

We talked about The Next Novel. I confessed I was at a loss. For both Mistress of the Sun and Josephine B., I felt I’d been hit by lightning: the message was clear. Now, I have interests, certainly, but I haven’t exactly been zapped. He advised me to give myself time, to rest, dream, hold up that lightening rod. Yes.

So this morning, Caroline Leavitte‘s blog post on her own Next Book spoke to me clearly: What’s that novel about again? She writes:

It’s hard to know what your new novel is about until after you’ve finished it, at least it is for me.


I feel like I’m treading water and there are sharks all around. And they’re hungry.

It’s possible to just wade in, but Mistress took eight years, and this time I’d like more of an idea of what the novel is about before I begin writing it. In the meantime, I’m treading water, holding up that lightening rod with a wary eye on the circling sharks.