The idea for "Three" came to me while boarding a plane back from a crime fiction festival I attended in Lyon, France.
It presented itself - how and why I will never know, this being the most mysterious part of writing – not as a story but as a pure structure: a book in three parts, with three different reading-processes, about three women meeting the same man. Who the three women are and why they are meeting the man I didn't know yet – but when I got off the plane in Tel Aviv, I had no doubts that it would be my next book.
There was only one problem with my idea: it didn't include the detective who appeared in my first three novels, Inspector Avraham Avraham. For the time being, I kept the idea for "Three" a secret from him.
In retrospect, I think I have identified a few of the reasons why I needed a break from Avraham.
After writing three more-or-less classically-structured detective novels, I felt I needed an adventure. And I believe that for a writer, an adventure is almost always an adventure in literary form, or a literary experiment. I wanted to write a novel with a structure that was new to me, and its writing experience - unexpected.
Moreover, experiencing a few sad departures of close family members and friends in recent years, I wanted to write a book that would recreate the true shock of violence and death that one feels in real life.
In a classic detective novel, the readers (and the writer too) are somewhat protected from the shock of death by structure itself: you know, when you open the book, that you'll find a corpse on page 15 or 20 and so you're ready; and seeing it through the detective's eyes helps with distancing or ‘regulating’ death.
"Three" had to be something else. It needed to strike the readers with the real grief caused by violence, and to achieve that I needed to turn the classic structure upside-down, to tell the story from the victim's perspective alone, and also to make the readers lose some of the protagonists in the middle of the book, like we sometimes lose our beloved in the midst of life's journey. In order to that I needed to part with my detective.
Starting "Three", I felt all was going well.
Writing the first part, I was becoming more and more attached to its protagonist, Orna; I enjoyed the new pace I found for the book, a pace that wasn't Avraham's almost-famous – or infamous – sluggishness. When I had doubts – Am I really not writing a detective novel?! - I calmed myself down by defining "Three" as a crime novel in which it isn't clear if a crime will happen or not, or a detective novel in which the detective might never appear.
Written under the influence of a shift in my reading-diet in recent years – less realistic-psychological detective novels (Simenon, Sjowall\Wahloo, Mankell) and more novels that use the mystery or the detective story as a starting-point for an adventure in form or in storytelling (From Patricia Highsmith and Friedrich Durrenmatt to Ian MacEwan, Julian Barnes and Ricardo Piglia) – I told myself, and Avraham, that a detective is simply not always needed.
And then I got stuck.
Writing Part 1 and Part 2 was such a pleasure that I overlooked something: there's a killer on the loose and somebody has to catch them. But since I left Avraham out of my office, who the hell will do that?
For more than two months I didn’t write a single word. My new adventure had derailed completely. I heard knocking on my office doors and I knew who that person was, outside.
It was Inspector Avraham and he wasn't just offering his services but also telling me in his newly-gained confidence (after all, there's a TV series and a movie now, based upon him): "Let me in. You'll never catch the killer without me. In fact, you've never written a novel without me and you won't finish that one, if you don't let me in".
The truth is that I was tempted. Isn't a detective always right?
But I didn't want to give up my literary adventure so quickly and I honestly believed in my three female protagonists – Orna, Emilia and Ella. I knew they could carry the novel by themselves. I knew they could catch the killer without Avraham too.
When the book was out - and found more readers than all of the Avraham novels I wrote before – the knocking on my office door stopped. Was Avraham somewhat embarrassed about his vanity? It was only then, of course, that I could open the door to him again and invite him in – to work together on his new investigation.
Three by D. A Mishani (Published by Quercus Books) Out Now
Three tells the stories of three women: Orna, a divorced single-mother looking for a new relationship; Emilia, a Latvian immigrant on a spiritual search; and Ella, married and mother of three, returning to University to write her thesis. All of them will meet the same man. His name is Gil. He won't tell them the whole truth about himself - but they don't tell him everything either.