A mysterious man who lives in a cave above the small town. A farmer whose dogs dig up bones he believes are human. They aren’t, but what if they were? A prominent member of the town with a huge opinion of himself plus a temper. Twin tornadoes that hammered the place twenty-five years earlier. Could these things be put together to create a mystery novel?
As I began to envision the crime for my novel originally titled Dry Bones, I was inspired by several stories I’d written none of which sprung from a major crime. Writing feature stories and a historical column for a small town paper, I seldom ran into murder most foul, but I did run into likeable and unlikeable characters I could use.
Was the cave man crazy, dangerous, or just weird? Would he be able to kill? What had happened to the city council member’s first husband? After he left she married my prominent resident who certainly had the temper needed to commit such a deed. He had stormed the newspaper office more than once over a story I or someone else had written.
My real editor became the editor of my story, a man I had grown very fond of. He passed away before I could write the book and I used his name. That would be fine with him.
Who I had to come up with next was a tough heroine, someone who worked at a job I was mighty familiar with. One who could withstand all the troubles I would put her through. The solution was Jessica West. She writes for a small, rural newspaper. Easy for me to portray.
Poor Jess, she ruined her big career out in California and returned home to be hired by a new owner of the paper. He wanted a good writer who was familiar with the people and places and she fit the bill. She’s hiding from something. Is she me? Yes, in ways, only much younger.
Now I needed a hero. I like men who are driven by some sort of tragedy. Angst. We live only 30 miles or so from Oklahoma and the American Indian reservations there. My Dad was part Cherokee from Texas. So, I decided I wanted a Cherokee lawman from Texas.
Dallas Starr is a burned out narc who came to Grace County in search of peace. I’d worked with a few Cherokees and interviewed some when I attended a pow wow they had held, so this seemed a good choice. I gave him some special abilities. He reads crime scenes by communing with the people involved in the violence, both the dead and the living. I love this touch, but it came from my warped brain, not anyone I ever knew.
At the time I was rather fond of our sheriff and he’d shown me the ins and outs of the job several times, so my sheriff became a model of him. One last thing. I decided to invent a town and county that didn’t exist to avoid getting in trouble with some of the residents.
The first draft wandered all over the place, had way too many characters doing horrid things. I’d never written a mystery. I must have rewritten that draft five, six or seven times, tossing out many of the people and their subplots to concentrate on a handful. Eventually I placed the murder during the storms and made the murder a cold case.
I am probably the messiest mystery writer you’ll ever meet. I don’t write down clues or red herrings, nor do I plot ahead of time. This story was written in the same manner that I write my historical romances. By the seat of my pants. So there was a lot of rewriting, mad note making, muttering under my breath. Writers understand the hair pulling that goes on during the creative process.
I finally came out with a story I thought might work, set in fictional Grace County, Arkansas, modeled after a place with which I am familiar, filled with characters I know only too well, and with a title I stole from Edgar Allan Poe who wrote The Purloined Letter. Thus the series is called A Twist of Poe. The book received a blurb from Christopher Poe, good reviews, and with its fabulous cover, sells well when I go out and about with it and my other books. The second in the series, The Telltale Stone, featuring Jess and Dallas and many other down-home folks, is in the editing process at the moment. I’m pleased to say it took a lot less time and hair pulling to write.
Bio: Mysteries aren’t the only genre Velda writes. She has a western historical romance series going, just had a mainstream published, has a horror coming out next year as well as a paranormal which came out last year. Nonfiction was her love for a while, but feeling she’s written just about every local story possible, has turned to fiction once again.
Six of her first historical romances were published by Penguin/Topaz and they are available on Kindle. She is not only a writer but holds two writing workshops each year plus speaking at regional conferences and co-chairing a large critique group that has been around since 1985. She has 25 novels and books available, has written magazine and newspaper articles for 20 years and hopes to keep up this entire collage of works for years to come.
Velda is a native of Arkansas and lives with her husband in the Ozarks adjacent to the Ozark National Forest. They have two children, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren.\