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Inside The Wacky Mind of a Mystery Writer

By Liz, loving every minute of summer so far and wishing I was at the beach!

I was going through some old to-do lists on my desk the other day when I came across a note on which I’d written the following:

You may recall the recent news item about the dead toddler in the swing in Maryland. I apparently heard the soundbite and experienced that “ooooh” moment where I thought Hey, that would be an incredibly creepy cool opening to a book, wrote it down and went about my business. If anyone else had come across the note, they’d surely wonder what on earth was wrong with me.

Fun photo courtesy of Kim Fleck/Brand Fearless!

And such is the life of a crime writer. I don’t think any of my fellow writers would take offense if I said we’re all kind of weird like this. We see or hear stories in the news that horrify normal people and, while we do register that same emotion, it’s often followed up by excitement at the thought of a new plot or scenario or character or…you get the idea.

Like last week when the story circulated about the house in New Jersey with “The Watcher” sending creepy, threatening letters to the owners. My first reaction was Wow, I’d hate to live there. My second thought was, Let’s get this book written, baby!

But it doesn’t always stop there. My fellow Wickeds can testify to all the ways my imagination runs amok. When we were on retreat a couple weeks ago, it was right after the inmates escaped from the prison in upstate New York. Julie and I were out in the bunkhouse for the weekend, and I kept her entertained with my worries about the escaped murderers showing up looking for a place to hide and finding us in our tiny corner of Old Orchard Beach.

Yeah, sometimes it’s hard being in my head.

I’m used to it, though. This has been going on ever since I was a kid and created a whole coven of witches who lived in the woods behind my house. The guy up the street with the motorcycle? Well, he was in a murderous biker gang that went out on the weekends and did dastardly deeds. I was always fascinated when my parents invited him over for dinner. (No, he wasn’t actually part of a murderous biker gang, if you were wondering.) That girl in church every Sunday with her rough-looking ‘family?’ They had to have kidnapped her and forced her to go to church to make things appear normal. (I was on to her because no one else was allowed to wear jeans to church. There had to have been something crazy going on there!)

And so it goes on, to this day. Now, at least, I have plenty of books into which I can channel my runaway thoughts. One of our mentors, Hallie Ephron, talks about devising a premise for a mystery novel using the “Suppose…what if” format in her book, Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel. I think she trained me too well, since now I do this simply walking down the street.

But it’s a sure bet I’ll never run out of material.

Readers, ‘fess up: How many of you create mysteries wherever you go?

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