This review continues from Behind the Scenes – Part I.
Dean Wesley Smith wrote Idanha Hotel, a short 3,950-word story, in July 2015. In March 2016, Mr. Smith used it as a jumping off point for his 9th novel The Idanha Hotel in the Thunder Mountain series. He wrote this book in seven days and charted his plan and progress in Writing a Novel in Seven Days: A Hands-On Example in which the readers learn he wrote without an outline, dropped the short story characters, and essentially wrote cold, excluding the fact that he knew his created world given this is a story within a series.
His short writing guide offers good content and a healthy doses of encouragement, but I wondered – was the finished product good or just done?
The story centers on a young widowed baker, Megan Taber, living in 1902 in Boise, Idaho and Carol Kogan, a 2019 time-traveling medical doctor and historian, also currently living in 1902 to conduct in person research. Megan’s baking entices Carol to eat breakfast at the Idanha Hotel each morning. In May, Megan and Carol meet, however during their first conversation Megan collapses: sudden cardiac arrest. Carol renders assistance and is soon caught in a web of tangled emotions, timelines and technological advances as she seeks to save Megan from her May 1902 death.
Mr. Smith mentioned books in this series take approximately three weeks to write. Within this challenge he shaved his writing time by 66.6%! The story is interesting, the characters believable, the plot provided twists and turns, and, in sum, was a fun, quick read. Some of the time travel facts were confusing but that is true of all time travel stories, as the author suspends reality. The challenges and obstacles Carol and Megan faced maintained suspense; this was also egged on by the inside knowledge that he didn’t know the conclusion either. As an informed reader, I kept wondering, did he just get stuck in an inescapable rat’s nest with no way out or is he having fun writing himself into a corner? He mentioned at the end of the 5th (27,950 words) and 6th (36,000 words) days that the conclusion remained unknown, even though he might have caught a glimpse. Wow! He was 83% done with the novel. The well-crafted conclusion (sorry, no spoilers) wrapped up loose ends and changed tragedy into comedy.
It’s impressive work and I appreciate the behind-the-scenes view of his creative process even more after reading the novel.