Bloomfield library presents evening with New Mexico mystery writer
FARMINGTON — When David and Aimée Thurlo sat down to write a book together, they had a well-honed system that allowed them to be very productive, usually generating two books a year.
One member of the husband-and-wife team would produce a first draft of the book, with the other following close behind with a rewrite. They would go through numerous drafts before reaching a finished product, with the various drafts featuring notes scribbled in the margins about how this character needed to be toughened up or how that action sequence needed to be filled out. It was a highly efficient system that played to their strengths and obscured their weaknesses as writers — Aimée was much better at character development, David Thurlo said, while he was more skilled at describing settings and action.
That partnership came to an end last year when an illness claimed Aimée's life. But it didn't stop them from producing one more book together, "Looking Through Darkness," (Forge Hardcover, $24) which continues their Trading Post romantic suspense series.
Most of "Looking Through Darkness" is set in San Juan County, in a fictional trading post just east of the Navajo Nation border. David Thurlo will make an appearance this weekend at the Bloomfield Public Library to talk about and sign copies of the book.
Reached by telephone in his Corrales home last week, Thurlo said the Trading Post series has offered him a chance to live by an old axiom — "Write about what you know."
"The Four Corners has always intrigued me," said Thurlo, who grew up in Shiprock, where his father worked for the U.S. Bureau of Mines at the Navajo Helium Plant, and graduated from Shiprock High School. He said he had friends who lived next to Hogback mountain, and he used the memory of visits to their home when conjuring up an image of the fictional Trading Post.
"It's a nice setting," he said. "I can imagine sitting out on the porch of the Trading Post and seeing Hogback, and off in the distance is Shiprock."
Thurlo said it's been a year and a half since he visited the Four Corners, but he remains close to many friends from his high school days and is looking forward to his appearance in Bloomfield. He said the distinctive, stark terrain of the area plays such a prominent role in the Trading Post series, it's almost a character in its own right.
"Environment plays a big role in our stories," he said, citing the Trading Post series as perhaps the best example of that. Thurlo said when he and his wife started the series, they were asked to craft stories that revolved around a setting and the people who lived and worked there, as opposed to focusing on a main protagonist and his or her point of view.
"We wanted to have several interesting characters who worked there or did business close by," Thurlo said. "Each character would have their own experiences. So we learned to write from different points of view. There were lots of opportunities for stories."
The fictional trading post in the series is a composite "character" and is not based on a real-life entity, he said, though he pointed out there are a couple of actual trading posts within sight of Hogback.
"Looking Through Darkness" is the second book in the Trading Post series, which is just one of five series the Thurlos have turned out. There's the Sister Agatha series featuring a mystery-solving nun, the Lee Nez series built around the partnership between a Navajo vampire and an FBI agent, the Ella Clah series focusing on the exploits of a special investigator for the Navajo Police Department and the Charlie Henry series, which centers on a Navajo military Special Operations vet who now owns an Albuquerque pawn shop with an Army buddy.
It is the latter that Thurlo has turned to since his wife's death, as he submitted the manuscript for the third novel in that series on July 20. He said he worked on the book for five months and hopes to write more of them in the future, though he won't make any decisions about his long-term direction until sitting down with his editors and finding out what they want.
But Thurlo said the Charlie Henry series suits him well because the two main protagonists are males, so he doesn't have to write from a female point of view — a task he usually left to his wife in the books they crafted.
"We learned, after writing several books, who did what best," he said. "I learned so much from her skills ... In a sense, I'm not working on them alone."
IF YOU GO