When I was in New York last summer for Thrillerfest 2008 and had the opportunity to pitch my novel(s) to dozens of literary agents, one of them asked me, when it became clear he wasn't interested in the manuscript we were discussing, what I do for a living in the real world.
I told him I was an air traffic controller and he said something like, "Why don't you write an air traffic control thriller?"
It wasn't like the thought had never occurred to me. I realize that I have what a lot of people would consider to be a pretty cool job; a job which most people don't really understand.
The problem was that I have been doing this pretty cool job for almost 27 years and it really isn't all that interesting to me any more. Sure, it has its moments, when it gets tense and exciting and dramatic, but for the most part it is like any other job - kind of tedious. So I wanted to write books about other things, things which I personally find interesting.
Which I did. And so far, agents and/or publishers have not exactly been knocking down my door for those two manuscripts, not that I'm giving upon them, don't get me wrong. I still think they would both make very good books.
But in publishing, they really like an author, especially a new author, to have some sort of hook; to be an expert in the subject he or she is writing about. I thought about it and decided, sure, I can write an air traffic control thriller, why not?
Plenty of thrillers have been written from a pilot's perspective - hell, if anyone had written about a pilot landing his crippled, fully-loaded jet in the Hudson, saving everyone on board, publishers would probably have shied away from it, calling it unrealistic - but there aren't many books written from a controller's perspective, at least not that I'm aware of.
Anyway, I concocted what I believe to be a pretty tight, realistic plot, and wrote what I believe to be a pretty tight, hopefully exciting manuscript. I'm just about done with my first round of editing and rewriting and the end is in sight. I still have more work to do on it but I'm beginning to get that nervous, excited feeling in the pit of my stomach that comes when I'm ready to start sending queries out to agents.
I'm not sure why I'm telling you this, other than that you clicked on my blog and so, in a way, you asked for it. Wish me luck if you're so inclined; I have high hopes for this one.