February 4, 2016 | Available February 2016
Exciting! Today, Australian debut author Tim Baker is stopping by on his book blog tour to discuss dreams and the writing of his highly anticipated thriller, FEVER CITY, due for release in February.
FEVER CITY follows the desperate efforts of a disgraced ex-cop and a hitman to rescue the kidnapped son of America’s richest man. But the pair soon become ensnared by sinister forces intent on seizing power by killing President Kennedy.
Here Tim describes how a dream helped him solve a key structural problem in the text, allowing him to complete the book – and find a dream publisher for his debut novel…
Banking on a Dream
by Tim Baker
Sometimes writing a book is like mixing a new cocktail – trying to figure out which ingredients match and which ones hopelessly clash. For many years I’d been searching for a recipe for what I considered to be a particularly potent story blend: take one part kidnapping, one part JFK assassination plot and then add a strong dash of domestic noir mystery.
The individual measures all seemed to be perfect when I sipped them on their own, but when I tried to merge them all together, the cocktail just wouldn’t marry. I tried shaking; I tried stirring. I tried pouring over ice. No dice. I knew an element was missing but frustratingly I didn’t know what that elusive component was.
Then one morning around 4 o’clock, I awoke from a vivid dream, my mind humming with voices. It was one of those dreams where everything seemed to make perfect sense and where you know it’s a dream. In the dream I was an observer, not a participant in the action, watching with a certain detachment as I waited to wake up. And when I did finally wake up, the first thing I did was leap out of bed and turn on the computer.
I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it was important. I had to get all these ideas out of my head and on to paper while they were still fresh, before I lost them forever.
Fortunately I touch-type, as a pen could never have kept up with the voice inside my head. It was as though a story was being narrated to me and I was taking dictation. It happened in such a fast, ferocious spill that I wasn’t even sure what the story was about. All I knew was that it seemed coherent and felt urgent. I kept typing until long after the sun came up…
Several times before, I had woken up in the middle of the night and jotted down my dreams in a notebook. Sometimes they had made sense when I read them the following morning, more often than not they were just nonsense. This new experience felt different, but feeling didn’t necessarily make it real.
After eating a late breakfast, I mustered up the courage to read the fifteen odd pages I had typed out. The first thing I noticed was that the story was divided into three sections.
I was stunned by the first section. It introduced a character I hadn’t met before. I was surprised by the imagery and dramatic coherence. By the violence depicted in a stark desert setting. Where the hell did that come from? It was surprising, and very exciting.
The second section was an even bigger shock. It was the exact opposite of the first. It was incoherent, nonsensical and downright silly. Even the names of the characters were absurd. Then I understood. This was the typically dream part of what I had written. Like most dreams it wasn’t meant to make sense.
Finally I read the third section, and was relieved to find that it was like the first section – confident and assured.
It took me a day or two to understand the dream’s message. The first and third sections were showing me the sequence in which to tell the story. The ridiculous section in the middle had been put there deliberately as to prompt to get me to fill it with something meaningful. The kidnapping story.
Once I understood that message, the whole structure of the book fell into place – literally because I dreamt it into place. The JFK Assassination plot; the kidnapping story; and the domestic noir – an investigation into the secret life of a beloved father. It was a heady cocktail, and to my parched throat, it tasted good!
Sometimes when we’re up against the wall, a dream is all we have to keep us going. The trick is to keep them alive long enough to learn how to listen to them…
Born in Sydney, Tim Baker lived in Paris for many years before moving to the South of France with his wife, their son, and two rescue animals, a dog and a cat. He has worked on film projects in Australia, India, China, Mexico and Brazil.
FEVER CITY: A Thriller (Faber & Faber) @TimBakerWrites