Lady in Flames: a story within a story

By Ian Lewis

Lady in Flames was released by Untreed Reads in August of 2012. It is the follow-up to The Camaro Murders, also available with Untreed Reads.   

I plotted out “Lady in Flames” in one evening. This was a rarity for sure, as I typically allow for a generous amount of organic development of any story. Almost everything I write begins with an abstract concept–some fragment of a dream, the mood/vibe of a particular album or song, or in the case of “Lady in Flames,” the title itself. At most I have an idea for a character or the fleeting moments of a scene. The rest of the plot is built around that idea at a very high level until I have a semblance of what will happen. Only then do I attempt to outline the story, though such an outline is very much summary in nature.

At any rate, I was pleased that I had such a clear direction of where I wanted to go with the next story for The Driver, the otherworldly character who was introduced in “The Camaro Murders.” Seeing as “The Camaro Murders” was somewhat of an experiment, I felt compelled to try something unorthodox with the format of this new story as well. In this case, however, I did not wish to tinker with chronology as a whodunit device like “The Camaro Murders”; I was only looking at a two-day story-arc. Plus, I had a desire to force more (but not all) of the story to be told through external observations of the first person narratives rather than telling it through inner monologues. So the new experiment became a ‘story within a story.’

My goal was to steadily build tension as the events in Halgraeve came to a head. The reader gets a sense that bad things are going to happen but that they are not quite at the tipping point yet. Just when he or she really starts to feel invested, The Driver begins his story about the Night Drivers. The reason for telling the story is integral to the plot, but the story itself is not. Regardless, The Driver sets a hook for the reader but does not get a chance to finish his tale before the narrative whisks back to Halgraeve–the outer story.

The reader is left wanting to know how the Night Drivers’ story ends, but they must keep reading to do so. When the reader returns to the Night Drivers’ story one chapter later, he or she hopefully gets the climax and payoff they want…and then they turn the page to find that events in Halgraeve have spiraled out of control. So now they are riding back up the roller coaster.

It is this up and down play with intensity that is meant to keep the reader floored throughout the book. I want the reader to be so drawn into the inner story that he or she almost forgets about Halgraeve, rides the wave of climax and comes to something that resembles calm before being reminded that they need to strap in and hold on one more time. Whether I succeed or fail in this is up to the reader, and I imagine there will be debate on whether the Night Drivers’ tale is meant to serve as an origin story for The Driver. I will only say that I have never desired to explore The Driver’s past, nor do I feel as though I’ve done so here. You as the reader, of course, are entitled to your own opinion. Either way, my guess is you’ll never look at mid-eighties Camaros the same way again–especially black ones. I know I don’t.

  • Visit author Ian Lewis at his website here.
  • You can get your copy of Lady in Flames here.
  • You can get your copy of The Camaro Murders here.

The Camaro Murders eBook Trailer:


Thank you to author Ian Lewis for a great guest blog. I have to add that Lady in Flames was a good book to read, the stories that the characters have to tell, really capture you in them that makes you analyze every single one once you’re done reading and then the outcome catches you by surprise.