Mining Gold from Life Experience by Patricia Stoltey

Marilyn, thank you so much for inviting me to be your guest today. It’s always a pleasure to see or work with you, whether we end up chatting at a table at a mystery writers’ conference (which happened to us too long ago to mention, although I can’t remember if it was in Omaha, Nebraska or Manhattan, Kansas) or just trading post appearances on our blogs.

You mentioned that you like to learn what inspired an author’s works. It’s a fun discussion to have with published writers because the variety of story triggers is amazing. For some it might be an oddball character encountered in a coffee shop. Perhaps a dream or a nightmare. Or perhaps a remarkable incident experienced as a child.

I have had three books published so far, have one in my publisher’s submission queue waiting evaluation, and four more stories in various stages from “probably permanent shelf status” to almost ready for final editing.

Each story and its characters came from a different place and time.

The most recently published, Dead Wrong (Five Star/Cengage, November 2014) is about a woman on the run who is dead wrong about her pursuers. She thinks her abusive cop husband in trying to track her down. Instead, she’s being hunted by a couple of thugs employed by the boss of a huge check theft ring because she inadvertently ended up with the thug’s laptop case containing stolen checks he’s transporting across country to his boss for laundering.

In Dead Wrong, it’s the crime that triggered my plot. Many years ago I worked for a medium-sized company in the south that became the victim of a check theft. As part of the department that issued the check, I ended up as a witness in both civil and criminal federal trials. I learned a lot about the check theft ring and how the crooks got away with that money so fast. Those little details came in very handy in telling this story.

My first published novel, The Prairie Grass Murders, is the first of two sister and brother Sylvia and Willie cozy mysteries. This one was especially fun to write because I took the characters back to the home where they grew up in central Illinois and set most of the murders on the old farm where I grew up. Using a setting that familiar certainly makes descriptions easy to write. The hidden trap, however, is the tendency to do what I call “memory dumps.” I had to remove a lot of anecdotes from the first draft because they had everything to do with my childhood and nothing to do with the plot.

In other manuscripts, I used places I’ve visited such as the little touristy, gold mining town of Oatman, Arizona and a nearby gold mine that conducted tours. In another novel, I plucked an image of a young girl from a dream I had and placed her in a situation in 1830s frontier Illinois. My current work in process is about a female serial killer, and that idea was inspired by an agent I heard speak at a conference about five years ago.

The secret is to recognize those nuggets are everywhere. We’ve only to dig through our memories and sift through our daily lives for all the inspiration we need to write that next novel.

Bio:  Patricia Stoltey lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband and their bossy pet, Katie Cat. A late bloomer who began writing after retirement from accounting type jobs in the real world, Patricia has had two amateur sleuth mysteries and one thriller published so far. Her most recent novel, Dead Wrong, was a finalist in the thriller category for the 2015 Colorado Book Awards.
For more information about Patricia and her novels, visit her website/blog ( She can also be found on Facebook 


Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog, Marilyn.
You really made me think how I do the same thing even though I write science fiction set in the distant future, the political machinations are the same as I read about today.
Hi Susan -- Politics can provide a wealth of story ideas these days ranging from conspiracies to murder. Thanks for bringing that up--I just thought of a plot for my next novel. :D
Hi Marilyn and Patricia,

Thanks for this post, especially insight into Pat's writing process. I enjoyed The Prairie Grass Murders, so I bet Dead Wrong will also be a great read. Congratulations on your latest novel, Pat!
Hi Donna -- Thanks for stopping by. Dead Wrong is a standalone so it's a lot different from the Sylvia and Willie mysteries. Both were fun to write though.
Hi, Patricia,

I enjoyed reading your article. I agree that the world around us is full of inspiration for writing and that includes our own lives. Congrats on your three fine mystery novels.
April Moore said…
Great post, Pat! You remind us that we don't have to always look far for our next book idea and that as individuals, we might just be more interesting than we give ourselves credit for!
Dean K Miller said…
I love mining the world close by for "nuggets" in furtur works. Much of my upcoming haiku poems are based on these snippets of life.

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