Hope is one of my new favorite mystery writers. Her stories keep me on my toes, take me by surprise, and give me a wild ride with my hair blowin’ across America. Guess what? She has a new one out–Murder on Edisto. Hot diggity!
Starting a fresh mystery intimidates me. Having attended many conferences and studied hundreds of blogs via my work as editor of FundsforWriters.com, I’ve heard so many rules of thumb that I’ve become numb to them. Instead I liken the origination process to running one’s hand over a sanded piece of wood, hunting the snag that bites my finger. Yes, there it is. There’s the spot where I need to start.
My publisher threw three conditions at me for a new series: law enforcement protagonist, an enticing locale, and family drama a la Southern. Where to start? I already owned a series I knew like my own family. The effort of starting over froze me into inaction.
After restless nights and conversations with my family, who I’m sure tired of the subject, I went with location first, to metaphorically and physically ground me. Where was a place I already knew that meant enough to draw upon my memories, emotions, or dreams? I needed a jumpstart like that to shake things loose.
Yes!!! That’s where I escape to regroup. It’s where a dear friend resides, only a short drive to another lifetime friend. No neon, no franchises, no motels. Oh my goodness, yes!
Now I had an excuse to run off to Edisto more often . . . and write it off my taxes.
Suddenly, the dam burst and ideas flowed through. The beach runs on Edi-slow time. Clocks and deadlines don’t matter. The natives all have previous lives, lives most have escaped from to find peace that nobody really wants to know about because then they’d have to explain theirs. Deer and sunsets on the marsh. The smell of pluff mud. The breezes and calling sounds of gulls and pelicans by day, the clicking of raccoons at night.
A place to heal.
Which meant my protagonist had to be broken.
What ifs raced faster than I could write them down.
What if she ran away from her demanding family to marry a Northerner? And he died?
What if she loved her work and became a well-known detective in, say, Boston? And the job ruined her in some way?
What if she found herself stuck, stymied, broken, and spent? How would she raise her son?
What if she escaped to Edisto Beach, to the family vacation home? And all hell broke loose?
By simply starting with location, and turning that location into a character with senses and personality, my story came to life . . . and I think it’s the best story I’ve ever written. And we named it simply, Murder on Edisto. What do you think?
When her husband is murdered by the Russian mob, Boston detective Callie Jean Morgan suffers a mental break down and relinquishes her badge to return home to South Carolina. She has no idea how to proceed with her life, but her son deserves to move on with his, so she relocates them to the family vacation home.
But the day they arrive on Edisto Beach, Callie finds her childhood mentor and elderly neighbor murdered. Her fragile sanity is threatened when the murderer taunts her, and the home that was to be her sanctuary is repeatedly violated. Callie loses her fight to walk away from law enforcement as she becomes the only person able to pursue the culprit who’s turned the coastal paradise into a paranoid patch of sand where nobody’s safe. But what will it cost her?