I thought it would be a good idea to address some of the questions I’ve been asked about my writing process, where I get my ideas, plotting, and research. Unlike a lot of authors, I start with location. Twisted Vines, the first in my Shakespeare in the Vineyard mystery series, takes place in a real town—Livermore, California, wine country, a colorful location for murder.
Why Shakespeare? When my daughter lived in Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I attended several plays and fell in love all over again with the Bard. Why not bring Shakespeare to Livermore, create my own fictional theaters and vineyard, and set the scene for murder?
I give a lot of thought to all of my characters, particularly Caitlyn Pepper, my main character in this series. I begin by exploring her background; she had to be from Columbus, Ohio, my hometown. What are her secrets? Does she have issues she’s dealing with? What’s her profession? Who are her friends and business associates? How can I transplant Cait from city life in Ohio to a small town in California?
I’m driven to uncover additional tidbits that might influence the story, and toss stones at her to see her reaction. Once I answer these questions, I have my plot . . . but not enough yet to write a synopsis. I’ve tried outlining, but find myself going off in too many directions. A different murderer than the one I intended shows up, often for the better.
I love it when I’m asked about research. In 2003 I went through Livermore’s Citizen Police Academy to better understand police procedures. In those fourteen weeks, we learned about search and seizure and the justice system, ethics and internal affairs, range training, SWAT, K-9 demonstrations, narcotics, crime prevention, juvenile law, and much more.
I’m still an active volunteer and have a “regular” job tagging abandoned vehicles. I love role-playing with SWAT. I’ve been handcuffed, shot at with rubber bullets and paint pellets, and tossed to the ground. My research is great fun!
Another frequent question: What scenes are hardest to write? I assumed it would be romantic scenes, but, surprisingly, I find them to be the easiest. Words seem to flow from my fingers. But I cheat a little. I put on a romantic CD to set the mood. When the “moment” comes, I close the door and leave the rest up to the reader’s imagination.
Do you have a question? I promise to reply.