Have you ever hidden a secret or reference in your book that only a few people would find or understand? Why did you do it? Will you do it again?
Julie: In all of my series I do enough research to inform me, but I try not to bog the books down. But in my Theater Cop series, if you know theater you’ll understand the book on a different level. In the Clock Shop series I refer to specific clocks, and I suspect folks who know clocks will enjoy those references. I’m not sure it’s possible to do as much research as we all do without weaving it through the book.
Sherry: I do end up putting little things in that some people probably catch and others don’t. In The Longest Yard Sale I refer to each of the Wickeds books when Sarah is planning a bigger, better New England’s Largest Garage Sale. In book eight, working title Spy Low, Sell High, I have a joke about a friend that anyone who knows him well will get. I try not to overdo it because it can take someone out of the story.
Edith: In Farmed and Dangerous, book #3 of the Local Foods Mysteries, I have my farmer thinking about getting maple syrup from Jessie Crockett’s maple farmer in New Hampshire and Pawsitively Organice pet treats from Liz’s Frog Ledge protagonist. I hoped I might give a little boost to my fellow Wickeds’ books. I love including real historic homes and references in my Quaker Midwife Mysteries that only locals will recognize, but they aren’t hidden. I do it because it’s fun and I think makes the reading more authentic.
Jessie: I like to share information about things that interest me or my characters in my books so I don’t think I do hide anything in them besides clues to the mystery itself. I do have readers ask at events, in a sort of under their breath way, if I have done just that sort of thing. They seem to recognize the towns in the books as their own towns or the characters as their friends and neighbors. But it isn’t intentional; rather I think it shows the universality of human experience. But now that you’ve got me thinking about tucking in secret bits who knows what might happen!
Barb: I like to put things in my books that don’t get explained until future books. For example, in Clammed Up, the first book in the Maine Clambake Mystery series, I mention that Julia’s mother grew up with a distant cousin. In Boiled Over, the second book, I say the cousin disappeared off Morrow Island years earlier. The story of his disappearance doesn’t get told until book five, Iced Under. The same with the mansion’s ghosts, which are mentioned in Clammed Up. The story of one of them is told in book six, Stowed Away. I didn’t know what these stories were when I left these little hints. I think of them as lifelines, cast out for later. I doubt most people notice, unless they are reading the books back-to-back-to-back.
Liz: In my second Cat Cafe book, Purrder She Wrote, I mentioned buying organic treats from Stan’s shop in Frog Ledge. It was a fun way to bring my two characters together. I also like to put “behind the scenes” glimpses of animal rescue in each of my series also. I think people like to read about how things like that really work.
Readers: Do you ever catch references in books that not everyone might get?
Oh, how fun. I catch references every once in a while, but not very often. The most recent one that comes to mind was a veiled reference to Hank Phillippi Ryan. She was described as a Boston reporter with a man’s name. It was just one line I believe, and anyone who has never heard of her in real life would probably think she was some throwaway fictional character. I think it was in a Linwood Barclay book.
I love that, Marla!
Sometimes, but I try not to gloat.
Gloating is fine!
A lot of my characters find themselves in unfamiliar situations (think former banker Meg Corey who suddenly finds herself running an apple orchard!), which gives them the opportunity to ask a lot of questions–a nice way to give readers information without hitting them over the head with it. I also try to use real places as often as I can, so if someone wants to follow the book, they’ll find those places.
I think readers love real places being thrown in.
I caught and enjoyed the cross series references 💖👏
Good morning, Wickeds! What a fun discussion to start the day. I don’t think I have ever done this on purpose, but there are a few bits of family history that I have borrowed from people who told me stories, and a few moments that are my own real experience. My books are full of real places, of course, but they are hardly secrets. However. There is a semi-abandoned house on my block, very haunted-looking. One of these days…
Ooh, use that house!
I love when I catch a reference to something I know about but assume many do not. It’s just a secret little shot of endorphins.
I agree, Ginny!
In On the Road with Del & Louise, the title characters at one point are looking at a baby name book, making lists of names…. which look remarkably like some of the names my wife and I toyed with ourselves—including the one we eventually chose for our son!
Perfect, Art! I think I missed that bit.
The only one I remember seeing was in one of Hank’s Jane Ryland books – Charlie McNally made a cameo. I guess if I’d never read the Charlie books I never would have made the connection.
I caught the references to the other Wicked’s books you mentioned. I’ve caught a few over the years, but there are others I have completely missed I’m sure.
I’m sure I’ve missed a lot too!
I like when authors put those little references to their own or other authors or their characters. I also love historical tidbits since I’m familiar with a lot of American and British history. I know some facts about other countries, too.
River North, a character in all of my Witch City books is named for Salem’s North River–but probably only
Salemites would notice!
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