The Joys and Perils of Writing Murder Mysteries

December 1, 2017


Yesterday I killed someone.  I planned it, executed it, and then covered it up. Then I began the search for me, following the clues to track down an exceptionally tricky killer. Ahem.


Today I interviewed four people who had the means, motives, and opportunities to commit murder. None of the interviews were easy because people lie, get angry, and behave suspiciously when they think someone believes them capable of committing a dastardly crime.


Tomorrow I will narrow down my suspect list and focus on the two who seem most likely to have done the killing. It might get dangerous. Desperate people do desperate things, so I have to be prepared for surprises.


Today, as Abby Knight, I also ran a cozy little flower shop named Bloomers. I made flower arrangements, delivered them, and fretted over my finances. Then I hopped down the street to become Marco Salvare, the macho owner of Down the Hatch Bar and Grill -- concocting drinks and listening to my patrons’ woes in addition to using the Internet to do some background checks on my suspects.


Today I was also a crazy artist, a shallow fashionista, a Brit with a flair for tea and homemade scones, a middle-aged mother of teenaged quadruplet sons, and a millionaire cad, all characters that populate the Flower Shop Mysteries.


By the end of the writing day, the author me is exhausted.


But then I have to step out of my make-believe world and start thinking about what to make for dinner, and what bills to pay, and do I have time for a load of laundry? Oops, forgot to schedule a hair appointment, renew my license plate, and take out the trash. Too late now. I’ll have to squeeze it in tomorrow.


When I sit down to work on my latest book, I exit my stressful world and enter one where I can make everything go my way – or nothing. I can bring out the sun, travel to another place, invent new friends, and catch bad guys without leaving my desk. Not that it’s easy to describe a three-dimensional world using two dimensional words -- and make it all seem real. But, boy, is it rewarding. This was brought home to me the other day.


I used to teach a creative writing class at a local women’s shelter, where I lead women of various ages in exercises that enabled them to step away from their problems for awhile just to dream. This isn’t something they take much time to do normally, so it’s like a mini-vacation.  This past Monday, I had them do right brain exercises that allowed them to see the creative process at work. At the end of the hour, a young woman thanked me for my efforts and broke into sobs. She said she had just been released from a year in prison and while there, learned the joys of losing herself in books. She’d never read much before and had now gained an appreciation of what it took to write one.  She said she devoured every book she could get her hands on in prison and truly felt they kept her sane. What happiness it gave her to immerse herself in a place where everything turns out right, justice is served, and good people live happily ever after.


Creating a world like that is one of the greatest joys of being a writer. What makes it worth all the hours of hard work is knowing you’ve touched at least one reader’s heart.

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