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Why I Wrote ‘Adventures on the Amur’: The Creative Process

Penguins with the Adventures on the Amur

When I started writing to make a living, I ran across a post that said authors need to write between 15 and 20 books to be able to make a living from their writing. The idea is that people buy a new release, like it, and then buy the other books in the author’s backlog. One crucial piece of information that I missed was that these books should be interlocking trilogies, so three focus on main characters and the other six focus on side characters. No matter, I thought about the type of book that I enjoyed the idea of, and the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series (affiliate links) came to mind. Then I crafted “the Adventures on the Amur.”

Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys

There are over 60 books in each of the older series. I figured if Carolyn Keene and Franklin Dixon could write that many books, I could, too. About have way through the first story, I learned that these were the pen names of several authors. It wasn’t just one person. Still, I persevered.

Living on the Amur

Living in Blagoveshchensk had giving me some mysteries of my own to solve. For instance, China handed Russia access to the Amur River and a free passage to the Pacific for a reason I have yet to discover. When I asked people, no one could tell me why. Logically, China should have kept its regional rival from accessing the river and gaining more power. To add to the mystery, many considered Nikolai Nikolaevich Muravyov-Amursky, who negotiated the treaty, too young for the position he held. Some ministers in Moscow were afraid the negotiation would lead to war with China. So, how did he do it? Finding no answer that I could understand, I wrote the first in the Adventures on the Amur: “The Treasure of Nikolai Nikolaevich.”

See a Penny

In the U.S., we say “See a penny, pick it up, and all the day, you’ll have good luck.” In Russia, don’t pick up coins from the ground unless you dropped them. My wife was mortified every time I bent down to pick up some kopecks or rubles. Why would I do such a thing? I couldn’t understand what the problem was, so I asked around. Apparently, coins are a good way to pass illnesses. Someone could spit on the coin, say “give my illness to the one who picks this up,” and throw it on the ground. When a person picks up the coin, he or she gets the illness, and the original coin owner gets cured. Still, my imagination had already pounced on an idea, and “The Curse of the Golden Kopeck” was born.

Other Possible Titles

I have several ideas for other stories, but there are a couple of things holding me back. The most important one is that I haven’t been able to get the stories and characters to fit together. Some of the story ideas don’t make sense for Steve to be in, but if these books are exploration of Russian culture on the Amur, Steve as the American has to be there to question why the Russians in the story would be doing something. If the story only has Russian characters, some of the cultural items would never be discussed because they are so deeply ingrained in the way of life. In other stories, I can’t find a justification for the museum staff to get involved.

I thought about a Good-Bad-and-Ugly idea, but I can’t figure out why Irina or Steve would be a part of it. The one story that I’m most intrigued by doesn’t have an antagonist. I know everything I want to have happen, except for who or what would be the main villain. It’s right there at the edge of my vision, I reach for it, and it’s gone.

Getting Support

I have these titles in the Adventures on the Amur series saved and gestating in the back of my mind, but they probably won’t find their way out until they become too large for my head to handle or I get some sort of feedback about the books that came before them. Selling a lot of the first two in the series would help bring out a third. If this is something you think is worthwhile, you can purchase the books at Amazon or on this website. You can also join our Patreon to help with my writing and my wife’s penguins. An author is only able to write as much as his or her audience supports his or her work. If you want to read more about why I wrote the books I have, check out this article on “My Life in the Projects.”

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