HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS BOOK
by Mike Dennis
THE GHOSTS OF HAVANA
I've said before that I can't make up stories, despite having written four published novels, numerous short stories, and a few more novels that will, thankfully, never see the light of day. What I do is start with some flimsy thread, like a central character, or a setting, or even a couple of lines from a song. From that, the central character develops a little, then takes me wherever he wants to go. I only tag along to chronicle the journey.
The Ghosts Of Havana was particularly a difficult experience. All I had was an opening line, which I lifted from one of my bottom-drawer novels. I liked it, and because it conveyed a certain tension right away, I ran with it, thinking it could eventually become a coherent novel.
About a hundred pages in, however, the ice curtain fell. The whole book froze in place, and I couldn't go anywhere with it. The story came grinding to a halt and the characters, who normally tell me what to do, took an extended vacation.
See, this is what happens when I'm forced to make up a story. Day after day, I returned to the computer and day after day, the word count was the same: zero. I liked what there was of the story so far, but I needed help and plenty of it.
Well, since I had ripped off the opening line from an earlier novel, I started rummaging around in that drawer among other discarded novels for an idea, a notion, anything.
It wasn't long before I found my salvation.
About fifteen years ago, I'd started a novel about a man who grew up with a terrible family secret, one his mother only told him about very generally, with no details at all. The secret was contained in a mysterious box his mother had squirreled away, and when she died, he learned of its contents. Right about that time, he realized people were trying to kill him. That's about as far as I'd gotten with that book when I permanently set it aside.
But wait! The idea of a lethal family secret hidden away in a box … could it possibly fit into my current novel, the one that would become The Ghosts Of Havana? I made a couple of minor changes and grafted that idea onto the novel for a perfect fit. From there, I sailed to the ending.
Another novel completed where I didn't have to make up the story.