Edith, North of Boston
I’m delighted to welcome my former teacher and one of my first author friends today, Susan Oleksiw. I love both of Susan’s series. Her Anita Ray mystery series make you feel like you were plopped directly into southern India, and her Mellingham series lets us see deep into Joe Silva’s life. Take it away, Susan!
Building the Protagonist’s Family
One of the best parts of writing the cozy is building the protagonist’s family. I write two traditional series, one set in a small New England town, which I’ve named Mellingham, and the other set in South India at a tourist resort. The lead characters in both series have families but there the similarity ends.
Chief of Police Joe Silva is the third of seven children in a large Portuguese family, and the first to move away from his hometown. He remains close to his family, but wants to make his own life. A bachelor for many years he falls for Gwen McDuffy, who has recently moved to Mellingham in the third book, Family Album. Gwen is the ostensible foster mother of two young children, Jennifer and Philip. By the fifth book, A Murderous Innocence, Joe and Gwen are living together and becoming a family. Joe’s parents and siblings take to Gwen right away, and as much as she comes to love them, she is intimidated by the sheer size of his family and their exuberance over the smallest matters, in Last Call for Justice. More changes are in store for Joe and his beloved, but right now I enjoy exploring their relationship in short fiction before I move on to the next step in their relationship in the seventh novel.
In the Anita Ray series, Anita lives with her Auntie Meena, her mother’s younger sister, at her aunt’s tourist hotel. Meena’s husband died young, and she is left with the hotel and a daughter who would rather live high in America. Anita’s mother is South Indian and her father American, but she has no interest in living in the States, which she is barely knows. Auntie Meena sees in Anita the perfect opportunity to be a fully engaged mother, finding her a suitable husband, introducing her to the “right” sort of people to tempt her away from photography, and proving to her older sister that she is a good parent, in the third in the series, For the Love of Parvati.
As a writer of mysteries I spend a lot of time working out plot lines for each book, but equally important for readers of the two series are developments in the characters’ lives. Joe and Anita grow, and their families and personal lives expand and deepen. I never know where their personal lives are going to go, but this is definitely one of the best parts of writing a series.
Susan Oleksiw writes the Anita Ray series featuring an Indian American photographer living at her aunt’s tourist hotel in South India (Under the Eye of Kali, 2010, The Wrath of Shiva, 2012, and For the Love of Parvati, 2014). She also writes the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva (first introduced in Murder in Mellingham, 1993). Susan is well known for her articles on crime fiction; her first publication in this area was A Reader’s Guide to the Classic British Mystery. Her short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and numerous anthologies. Susan lives and writes outside Boston, MA.
Readers: Ask Susan a question! Curious about India? Or the life of Joe Silva? She’ll stop by today and answer.