By Sherry — I’m so delighted that Sell Low, Sweet Harriet is out in the world
My husband was sitting on the couch reading Sell Low, Sweet Harriet the other day. All the sudden I hear him say, “Are you kidding me?” I had a fairly good idea what he was referring to, but I wandered into the family room and asked, “What?” in an all too innocent voice. He looks up at me. “This sounds like my family.” Oops. Well not, oops because I knew he’d recognize that bit of his families’ life that I had borrowed. I just said, “Write what you know” and got the heck out of there.
Since I couldn’t move out I had to talk to him about that particular scene. He said, “Maybe it should be write what you suspect and not what you know.” Brilliant. (Don’t tell him I said that—I already have enough trouble dealing with his ego. I have two friends who come to visit and call him the prefect man. Then when they leave, I’m left to deal with the aftermath. Don’t tell him this either—honestly he’s lovely and I’m lucky to have him in my life.) Where was I? Ah, write what you suspect.
I quickly realized I suspect everything. That teenage girl walking alone in the woods when I’m walking my dog? Meeting someone her parents don’t approve of. The guy sitting in his car at the far end of the library parking lot? Drug dealer. The two guys exchanging an envelope outside the post office? Russian spies. Hey, I live outside of DC – they really could be and notorious spy Robert Hansen used a park not too far from where I live as a dead drop.
Suspecting things is what leads us to story ideas. It’s why you always hear writers talking about “what if?” Because when we aren’t suspecting something we are “what iffing.” What if that girl meets her boyfriend, gets pregnant, her parents kick her out, and the boyfriend deserts her? What if the drug deal goes bad, and some poor person walking across the parking lot witnesses a shooting and is kidnapped? What if the spies realize someone has seen the exchange and is following them? What ifs are so much fun.
And if I’m not suspecting or what iffing, I’m borrowing. The opening for Tagged for Death came from a conversation I overheard in an airport. I tucked that puppy away for future use and was delighted to pull it out. Around fourteen years ago an ambassador told us a story about what her kids did in a foreign country. It was hilarious and it’s in Sell Low, Sweet Harriet. There’s one more thing I don’t want you to tell my husband. He might come across a few more things that sound familiar.
Suspecting things, what iffing, and borrowing are corner stones for how I write. How about you? Is that how you write? Readers did you know that’s what writers are always doing? Do you do it too? I’ll give away a copy of Sell Low, Sweet Harriet to someone who leaves a comment.