It’s not a cozy!
My recent book The Most Dangerous Species is set in
a 12-acre cat rescue sanctuary in a village much like the one where I live in
the mountains in Central California.
Cozies are a genre of mystery fiction that often include
cats, domestic murders, amateur sleuths, and sometimes recipes. The tone is often light and airy and the sex
and violence happen off screen. I like them just fine when I’m in that mood,
but those are not the books I write.
Police procedurals are more in my line. The Most Dangerous Species features
a hotshot sheriff’s homicide detective from Bakersfield and a prickly village
patrol officer. The backstory of cat rescue is one that I know well, having
been a co-founder of the local SPCA.
Over the space of years I helped set up spay/neuter clinics, trapped and
fostered litters of feral cats, wrote grants and set up a thrift store to help
fund our work.
Animal rescue work makes you hate people for the terrible
things they do to animals. All of tha…
Location as a Character
in a Novel Murderers and
thieves aren’t born bad. Their environment shapes their basic inherent
characteristics (genetically derived) into criminals. We are all products of
both nature and nurture. Accordingly, locations
are characters in all of our lives. I wanted to
show how sloppy practices can morph into criminal activities (embezzlement,
abuse of animals, perjury), and these “small” crimes can escalate into murder
in the right permissive environment. In She Didn’t Know Her Place, State U
provides the right environment for nurturing wrong-doing. This red-brick state
university was a sleepy place in the 1950s. Then the ambitions of a few to make
it more competitive led to shortcuts. The result is this college looks in good
shape on the surface, but the foundations of most building are badly cracked.
The buildings are often drafty because of poor maintenance. In other words, the
state college is a character in this mystery. It’s deceiving pretty front hides
Where do I get my inspiration? That’s the top question I get
from readers. The short answer: everywhere. Frequently ideas are a collage of
memories and characters from my life (or someone else’s life) to which I add a
hefty measure of my fertile imagination. If the resulting story was a painting,
it would resemble a Picasso. In my acknowledgments for Murder at the Book Group, #1 in my Hazel
Rose Book Group series, I thank my interesting family and friends for gifting
me with story ideas for years to come. And let me add my well-honed
eavesdropping habit to this gratitude list while I’m at it. It doesn’t matter
if I understand the context of what I hear—in fact, it’s better if I don’t. Social media is a gold mine of inspiration,
a modern day gathering around the water cooler. It seems like everyone has
something to say (some way too much). And, as I’m a fiction writer, I don’t
have to worry about “fake news.” Advice columns give me wonderful
ideas. Consider the letter from the woman whose…