Curious About George

by James Hearne

Horizon Reporter

Elizabeth George had somewhat contrary advice for aspiring fiction writers that she told to a group of her fans at a recent book signing at the Leopold Hotel in downtown Bellingham: “Write what you don’t know.”  Doing this, she said, allows you to approach the topic from the outside looking in, and examine it with fresh curiosity.

She should know. She doesn’t have a blemish on her criminal record, yet she is one of the most prolific crime novelist writing today, as well as a New York Times bestselling author. Her Inspector Lynley series of crime fiction has been turned into a hit television series by the BBC.

George also the featured author of this year’s Whatcom Reads. The program mainly focuses on Pacific Northwest authors, and has been going on for four years, said library director Linda Lambert. Past authors have included Sherman Alexie and Jim Lynch.

George’s newest book is “Reliving the Lie.”

Born in Warren, Ohio, George was always interested in the art of writing. According to the biography on her website, she started as a high school English teacher. After 13 years of teaching, she sold the third novel that she wrote, “A Great Deliverance.”

At a recent book signing put on by Village Books, George, said she did not have an easy time getting attention for her writing. In fact, she couldn’t sell her first two novels to publishers. As it turned out, the third time was the charm. “As I was doing the third one, I knew I had it,” she said.

The protagonist of that novel was Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley, who would become the central figure for most of her work.

George writes British characters and British locales. She likes using real English locales, for the authenticity. On the FAQ, on her website, she explains that she enjoys writing about England. She travels there frequently, and has done so since the 1970s.

Why does she write crime novels? She says she likes the simplicity of the structure, which allows her to freely explore a range of different topics.

“The investigation is like a skeleton, on which I can hang anything I want,” she said. Character and story development can be based around the investigation, she added.

George is not shy about her writing style. She does something that she refers to as “prescribing the reader,” in which she invites the reader to feel a particular emotion, by the way she describes a character, scene, or a word choice.

In an interview that she gave to, George said that she has developed a way of stimulating her creativity. “I have kept a Journal of a Novel for every book I write,” she said. “I do this in advance of my writing each day.”

Elizabeth George will be speaking at Whatcom on February 23, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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