“How I Wrote The Smell of Gas” by Erin O’Riordan


The Smell of Gas is a crime thriller released April 23, 2011 by Melange Books. The title is meant to evoke fumes of gasoline. It wasn’t my debut novel, but it was the first one I wrote. This is the story of how it came to be.

Although I earn a living as a writer now, I didn’t study English in college. I studied Psychology, and after I graduated I worked in a mental health hospital. In July 2005, I was feeling stressed out at my job. I took a two-week vacation. My husband, who goes by the pen name of Tit Elingtin, was installing a vinyl floor at the time. I agreed to help him finish the vinyl job while I was on vacation so we could have some time off together. After that, I decided I would quit my job and come to work for my husband at his remodeling job.

In February 2006, we were finishing a lengthy remodeling job. I was too inexperienced to be much help with the later stages, when things had to be exact. My husband told me to stay home for a week, and he encouraged me to write a book while I was there. I’d been talking about doing it for years, but I’d never seriously started. Mr. Elingtin had an idea about a large cast of characters and a book that used them all in one scene and various groupings of them in all the other scenes. He wrote a basic outline–one of the reasons he’s credited as my co-author.

I filled in the outline with characters and situations culled, in part, from short stories I’d written. These stories had never seen the light of day; I was anxious about letting other people see my writing. I found a way to make these scenes intersect, and in seven days I had written an 80-page novella. Being about to print it out was one of the proudest moments of my life.

Then I had to learn how to accept my husband’s criticisms. The funny part about this is, he doesn’t read. Reading puts him to sleep, so I had to read the whole thing, out loud, to him. At first I would get upset every time he stopped me with a note. I had to learn to get over it. One complete revision later, I let a graduate student at a local college critique it. She liked it, so I queried it for publication. It was rejected again and again.

I had gotten over some of my shyness about letting people see my work, and my first short story was published in January 2007. Between 2007 and 2008, I started the Pagan Spirits series of romance novels with a touch of paranormal magic. Part one, Beltane, was published by Eternal Press, and I started to learn more about writing. Mr. Elingtin and I revised The Smell of Gas at least 6 times. It grew to its present, full-novel-length size.

Since my husband and I discovered I could write from an outline he provided, we’ve written a second crime thriller together. Our second novel together, called Eminent Domain, will be self-published through Amazon.com soon. It’s a much-exaggerated tale based on our real-life situation with our home town threatening to take our house, tear it down and replace it with a fancy sidewalk.

The Smell of Gas Official Book Blurb: Love pulp fiction? Just try putting down The Smell of Gas. TSOG is full of saints and sinners you’ll love to hate. There’s Brigid, the high school basketball player and secret heroin addict. Fred, a Catholic lesbian teen, loves Brigid, but doesn’t know about her affair with Edward, a married Evangelical preacher. Sex, ethics, religions and mythologies clash as you dig deeper into their connection to the death of a young couple.

You can find Erin’s book on Melange Books.

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