by Khaled Talib
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Gun Kiss, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
A Hollywood movie star is abducted by an obsessed Mexican drug lord. Protagonist Blake Deco rescues her while acknowledging the consequences he may have to face. This is the plot of the novel. But an author needs to create a setting, too; the environment in which a story or event takes place. Setting will include specific information about time and place…
Gun Kiss is a Hollywood story set in the present time. It revolves around a protagonist who wears many hats. Blake Deco is an Iraq vet who struggles in trying to be a screenwriter. In the meantime, he runs a taco restaurant while moonlighting as an artifact recoverer. His co-protagonist, Goldie Saint Helen, is an A-list movie star who lives in Los Feliz. Here, I found myself playing Ken and Barbie. I created a 1920s Spanish-style home for her, including places she hangs outs within the area. Blake, if not on assignment, lives in Hollywood Hills, a property his TV screenwriter parents left him in their will. He’s often seen at the taco restaurant located along Sunset Boulevard; a fictional place called Mama Tacos.
Action, suspense, and glamor commingled in this book to give the reader a “fun and breezy” backdrop. Santa Monica. Sunset Boulevard. The Magic Castle. Los Feliz. Hollywood Hills. Avenue of the Stars. Beachwood Drive. The Beverly Hills Hotel. Aspen, Colorado. It’s all there… in my thriller… all part of the enjoined context so readers can visualize and experience the story.
Seasons, accentuating the changing milieu of the environment, and perhaps, to a certain extent, the mood of the characters are weaved into chapters. The actress’s Los Feliz villa is built with a solarium, giving the reader a clear view of the changing weather as the mood changes. I also highlighted the unpredictability of the temperature at times, describing it in tandem with how the characters felt.
There are also a few scenes involving moviemaking. From The Beverly Hills Hotel to Flagstaff, Arizona, I spent a lot of time researching what it takes to make a movie. I’ve done some work as a movie extra, and I know exactly how much time it involves. But what would it entail to create a temporary place of work to house the director, his crew, and equipment? Everything was considered as I described trailers, food stalls, wiring, even where the props were placed.
The restaurants and cafés in and around Southern California were carefully chosen. There were simply too many to choose from, so I stuck to a few; conjuring the atmosphere right down to the details, including what’s on the menu.
I even interviewed people for different things, including a bodyguard who’s been assigned to protect movie stars. One scene involved flying a wingsuit over the Hollywood Hills. I spoke to a wingsuit expert, Blake Robinson from SkyDive San Diego, who was kind enough to share his knowledge. It certainly helped with the scene right down to velocity and altitude.
Scenes taking place in snowy Aspen, Colorado, during Christmas winter was inspired by the real-life yearly visits made by certain movie stars. I conjured the merry atmosphere before darkening the sky with trouble. After all, this is a thriller.
And this explains why The Magic Castle was chosen as the metaphor of illusion (along with Hollywood itself as depicted by certain characters). You can wear the best shoes, but it doesn’t guarantee you won’t accidentally step on dog’s poo outside.
The same beautiful people who were enjoying a wonderful life suddenly find themselves in treacherous environment. Mexico’s exoticness becomes temporarily halted with the emergence of a Mexican cartel and the environment they live in. And with that comes a climate of fear. The glitzy side of the Hollywood people are paused by scenes in contrast when the reader is thrown to the sweaty night clubs of Tijuana and its slums. Life is harder, harsher, and depressing.
Let’s not forget my attempt to create the pseudo-El Camino atmosphere when the story evolves and proceeds into the Arizona desert. I did not create the atmosphere on purpose; it just so happened, and I went along with the ride. No harm, I thought. As a panser, I go with the flow, so it all makes sense.
However, in writing the story, I didn’t want to get lost in the various settings. California is a big place and so is Mexico. I needed to focus. Otherwise, the story would be scattered all over the place. The reader won’t feel any attachment.
One of the things I find hard to write is time. I tend to think it in my head, and I expect readers to know when the scenes take place without the need to further elaborate. A day can pass quickly and before you know it, you’re reading a scene that takes place a week later or three months down the road or more. I created a calendar in tandem to ensure I don’t get the sequence of time and place mixed up. This is the tougher than describing a house or a landscape, at least in my case, because I must synchronize everything like a conductor with his orchestra.
So, as I keep writing the pages, I must remind myself what day is today and what time it is. There is no need to go into extreme details, but I must ensure my readers don’t fall into a chasm.
I didn’t miss out on eras of historical importance and even blended real history with fiction from the time of the civil war. The beginning of the novel begins with an attempt to rob the Deringer than short Lincoln, and there are historical periods linked to scenes involving a movie script and its making, along with hidden treasure and ancestral influences, which takes place in Flagstaff, particularly the history of a native American community. It’s all there.
The reader will also notice, or should I say feel, the population of each place. Depending on the location, it may be dense or quiet, and it also depends on the time of day and how the landscape has been constructed. Everything comes to play, and the writer must be aware of everything.
I’m currently writing the first draft of a sequel: same location, different setting. What’s the current atmosphere like over here? Like a Mexican fried ice cream. I like it.
To enter to win a copy of Gun Kiss, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “gun,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 11, 2020. Only US entries and you must be at least 18 to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win-the info will be delete at the end of the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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