Road Rules – The Origin

Road Rules by Jim Winter

I’ve probably told this story so many times before, but since I do a bad job monitoring my web sites, it keeps disappearing. So, here now, is the tale of how I came up with Road Rules.

Once upon a time, I signed a deal with a small press on the fringes of the Baltimore area. They took Northcoast Shakedown as part of a three-book package. Well, an agent also liked Northcoast, but since I already inked the contract, the pooch was well and truly screwed.

I came up with the idea for a different book – a road trip caper involving some sort of theft. I parted ways with the agent (probably my second stupid idea in this process) but kept working on the story. It involved a stolen Cadillac deVille, one of those boats Detroit built back in the early sixties. You had the Coup deVille, the Lincoln Continental, and the Chrysler Imperial. But a stolen collectible car wasn’t good enough to cause all the chaos that would follow this thing from Cleveland to Miami. It needed something to attract people with guns.

Having grown up in Cleveland, which has a large Polish community and a large Catholic community, I hit on the idea of a holy relic. The bones of saints would work, and rather than stomp all over someone’s traditions (I write scifi for that, mate!), I made one up. So why was this a problem? Well, I worked for an insurance company, which shows up quite a bit in the Nick Kepler books. And the one near where I grew up offered a great model for the fictional one. (I did not want to use Nick Kepler’s main client for this.) So one of my unwitting protagonists became an underwriter. The lady I was married to at the time had a lecherous coworker who hit on her, then had a meltdown when called out on it. He may or may not have become the model for the main villain, but he didn’t exactly make it hard to come up with one.

By the time all the pieces fell into place, Hard Case Crime was a thing. I knew several of the authors. At Bouchercon in Madison, I approached Hard Case founder Charles Ardai and did an elevator pitch. I then said, “This is where you talk me out of doing NaNoWriMo.” Instead, he dared me. “I can’t promise I’ll buy the book, but I want to read it.” (Didn’t buy it, but he did love it.)

So come November 1, 2006, I did the unthinkable. I sat down to write a book in 30 days. I wrote it in 13.

55,000 words in 13 days. My head hurts thinking about doing that again. I don’t think it’s possible.

I had a blast with the book, and the version available now is actually not all that different from the original. My betas thought the scenes added in later didn’t fit, and almost all the ones from the original should have stayed. Wow.

Another agent shopped this around, and I eventually punted and self-pubbed it. Now it’s back. The road trip to hell, ending with a showdown in the Garden of Good and Evil.