What Sue Grafton Taught Me

We lost one of the most popular mystery writers recently, Sue Grafton, the author of the alphabet series. Her daughter put the end of her series this way, "The alphabet ends with Y."

I was fortunate to have met Sue several times over the years at various conferences, and she was always friendly and acted as though she remembered me.

In the series, her heroine, Kinsey, lives in a town with an uncanny resemblance to Santa Barbara though it has a different name. When asked why she did that, the answer was that too many changes in the real place happen over the years. 

I took that to heart when I wrote my own series, and I'm so glad I did.

In my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series, the main location is similar to the town I live in, a small foothill community. In the series I changed the name to Bear Creek and moved it into the mountains, 1000 feet higher in elevation.

However, many of the landmarks are the same, but because the town is fictional, I've changed things around a bit. An inn has a big part in many of the stories, and yes there is an inn in town. I've used some of the history for my fictional inn, but I've made some changes to the actual building.

The real inn stood vacant for a awhile, and is now under new ownership. Major changes were made to the decor, but I don't have to deal with that in my books.

The real town has 6 churches. Bear Creek has one.

The Rocky Bluff P.D. series is set in a totally imaginary beach town in between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Some might think it's based on Carpenteria, but it's not. It has some resemblance to what Oxnard was like many years ago, and geographically, bits and pieces of Carpenteria and Ventura. 

Since it is a fictional place, the streets, the businesses, the beach front are all creations of my imagination. Any changes that happen, will come from me.

And most important, the Rocky Bluff Police Department is mine. I've kept it small, understaffed, and underfunded because that makes it easier for me. How, you ask? My police officers have to solve crimes the old-fashioned ways. 

Yes, I have Sue Grafton to thank for giving me the advice to use mostly fictional settings.

Sue was a classy and gracious lady. Always willing to share her expertise and to encourage new writers. She will be missed.



Elaine Faber said…
I heard Ms. Grafton speak at a writer's conference and found her to be so witty and congenial. It was a completely different personality that I had imagined, having read her books. She was a treasure and will be sorely missed.
Thonie Hevron said…
It's funny how a comment can impact another person's direction. You have done the same with mine, Marilyn!
Thank you for commenting, Elaine. Sue Grafton was an amazing and down-to-earth personality.

Thonie, i had no idea I had any influence on you at all. Hope it was good.

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