I know a few writers who inherited their writing specialty. This past weekend, I attended an event featuring Anne Hillerman, eldest daughter of novelist Tony Hillerman.
Since her father’s death, she’s completed three novels continuing the series featuring Navajo police officers Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee, and Bernadette Manualito.
I’m currently editing a manuscript for Dirk Cussler. When he was a child, his father, Clive Cussler, began writing the Dirk Pitt adventure stories. Since 2004, Dirk has assumed the primarily responsibility, co-writing with his father.
But how did the first generation find their niches? The answer may offer direction to those still seeking their topics.
As described in Dirk Pitt Revealed, Clive was working a day job for an advertising agency. His wife worked the evening shift in a police headquarters. Once he put the children to bed, his time was his own. Clive decided, “it would be fun to produce a little paperback series.” He had a background in sailing and diving, so he decided his “hero’s adventures would be based on and under the water.”
While the first novel in Hillerman’s Leaphorn and Chee series was published in 1970, he moved to New Mexico and did newspaper work there beginning in 1952. But his introduction to Navajo culture came seven years earlier, soon after he was discharged from military service in World War II.
He accepted a job to drive oil-drilling equipment from Oklahoma to New Mexico. When he arrived, he came upon a Navajo ceremony on behalf of local returning war veterans. That event planted a seed … that became an 18-book series.
Sometime you find your topic, and sometimes it finds you.