Write What You Suspect and a Giveaway!

By Sherry — I’m so delighted that Sell Low, Sweet Harriet is out in the world

The winner of the giveaway is the Marilyn who left a comment at 2:36 pm. Watch for an email from me! 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.

102 Thoughts

  1. My husband shakes his head at the stories I intuit and elaborate of people we don’t know. Body language, exchanged looks, and of course snippets of conversation can have mind running wild with scenarios.

  2. Wow! That is so interesting. My brother is a writer – I’m going to have to pay closer attention to his stories! I haven’t read this book yet – I’m looking forward to reading it!

  3. Sherry, your writing-idea process sounds a LOT like mine! 😀 There’s usually a kernel of fact at the very beginning but after what iffing, it grows into something completely different.

    Congrats on the new release!

  4. I’ve noticed that as I’ve tried out different ideas for the story I keep threatening to write that if I realize that something sounds too close to reality, I try to change things up a lot to make it less recognizable.

    Congrats on the new book Sherry!

  5. I finished the book last night, Sherry – and loved it! Yesterday I was wondering if I was the only person to suspect surveillance or kidnapping when I see an unmarked white panel van. Right now I’m staying at an inn that leaves its outdoor hot tub and heated pool open all night to guests, and the steam rising up as I walked by to get first coffee was eerie. What if a body showed up in the hot tub overnight? But really, aren’t we lucky to have active imaginations?

    1. Ooohhh, that does sound creepy! Some days I wish I could take my imagination down a notch. I’m so glad you loved the book. Thanks, Edith!

  6. Good morning Sherry!
    When reading a book I do a lot of what if this happens? Than of course I’m reading late into the night to found out! Lol!!
    Love this series!!!!

  7. As a reader I do the same thing when I see or hear odd things around me. I think it comes from reading so many mysteries. I can’t wait to read the new book!

  8. I’m and avid reader and people watcher with a distrust in general so I’m always wondering what people are up to! And I’ve read about my favorite authors getting ideas from everyone and everywhere!

  9. I do! Sometimes I feel a little bad after, but really, if no one else knows, it’s not hurting anyone, right?

  10. My husband is a writer and so he and I are always what-iffing and making stories up about my co-workers (shhhhh…don’t tell them!) and other people we know. It makes for interesting dinnertimes! Congratulations on the new release and thanks so much for the giveaway!

  11. Yes, my life can deliver many what ifs – whether they be from observations made when walking my dog or especially from working in a library – all kinds of characters there! I’d love a copy of the book – sounds like a very fun read!

  12. Yes! Thanks for that. Writers walk through the world collecting stories like burrs on wool.

  13. We all do it! There isn’t a person I know who doesn’t tell a story of something funny or interesting that they witnessed or heard about. That’s what makes the world go round. Keeps things fluid. You could also tell your husband that we all find things familiar in the books we read. We are drawn to the familiar. Lol.

  14. This sounds great! Our minds are certainly very mysterious, interesting parts of who we are! Thank you for the chance to read this!

  15. Absolutely do it! Life would be so boring if you didn’t do the “what if’s”. Cheers! And that you for a chance to read your book!

  16. I people watch and actually make up stories of what they are doing and saying…. my friends and husband and strangers think its hilarious…. some things you just can’t make up though because real life always has a twist somewhere…

  17. Sherry, congrats on the release of this the next in a great series! I really enjoy these books a lot.

    David Sedaris writes about his family in most his pieces. And very obviously so. I often wonder how they feel about this. I would have one fewer relatives if someone did that to me! And I would be the obvious murder suspect.

  18. When I first started writing I was afraid to make my main character too much like myself. I didn’t see her as me but I thought if I even gave use one similar characteristic my friends and family would think I thought I was her. Like what if we take our coffee the same way?? But I’ve let go of that and written my charachters how I see them. Some have very different personalities and some might be like me. It’s good to write what you know sometimes. But I also agree with you, when I’m out at the grocery store or wherever I happen to be I take my story lines from watching people and writing what I suspect. And I’ve never even really thought about it or realized before. How interesting!

    1. Sarah and I share some similarities like both being Air Force spouses. But if I found a dead body, I’d run screaming! It’s amazing all of the places we can find stories.

  19. You’re one of my favorite mystery authors, and I’m so excited about your new book. Congratulations on Sell Low Sweet Harriet! I always enjoy your stories.

  20. Love the cover of this! I hope I don’t make any authors mad…and it would be fun to know what you borrowed from your in-laws!

    1. Laughing! I feel the same way about making authors mad. I actually borrowed more than one thing — I can’t wait until he gets further into the book.

  21. Yes, I think I do it too. Especially like now when I an 40 numbers away from having my number called to pick up my prescription refills. Lots of people to watch and can’t help speculating

  22. The hot air balloons in Seymour last summer we went to see them. I said wow what if someone made the balloon crash for revenge. My kids said you think if weird things. It must be from reading mysteries. Yep I think out of the box alot.

  23. The hot air balloons in were in Seymour last summer we went to see them. I said wow what if someone made the balloon crash for revenge. My kids said you think of weird things. It must be from reading mysteries. Yep I think out of the box alot. Thank you for the chance I really want to read your 📖 book

  24. Honestly, I think we are all a combinations of everyone and everything around us. Our minds are sponges and it’s up to each of us to figure out what to squeeze out and what to use purposefully in our lives. It can be as simple as an expression we heard as a child that we still use ourselves to this day or as complicated as a course we studied in school that is major part of a career. It can be taught on purpose or acquired by happen stance along life’s pathway. As a writer I can see where you would be looking and listening for things that could be used in your line of work just as a carpenter might be looking for that new tool or trick of the trade to make his life easier and more productive. I think as readers, we look at the world a little differently from the type books we read as well. Loving cozy mysteries, maybe it’s given me a way to deal with all the pain and horror represented every day in the news. You realize there is more behind the scenes than just what is reported and maybe even a way to find a little humor or lightness in all the bad news. And I do run across situations that I think to myself (because sometimes if I spoke them openly they might grab that straight jacket) about wow wouldn’t that work in great in this series or with this person in that book because it relates to their skill or the recent book I read.

    Thank you for the wonderful chance to win a copy of “Sell Low, Sweet Harriet”. It’s a book I definitely want to read, but just haven’t had the opportunity to do so YET.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  25. I guess after reading do many mysteries, you do look at things and people differently. Looking forward to reading “Sell Low, Sweet Harriet”.

  26. I constantly find myself “what or why iffing”! I love that you do too! But please don’t tell the perfect man! Super congrats on the release!

  27. Airports, Restaurants, they are all good for picking up conversations or even ideas my problem is can I write things…kooky things that happened to Friends that could lead to murder…thank you for the chance of reading your book.
    Marilyn ewatvess@yahoo.com

  28. I’m constantly relying on my real experiences (rearranged of course). I’m just hoping I’ve done enough rearranging!!

  29. My mom and I are always playing the “what do you think they’re up to?” game when we go somewhere. Kinda fun to create a scenario when you see someone acting a little suspicious… but if we ever saw one of our scenarios playing out for real, preeeetttty sure we’d be running away as fast as we could! I think a vivid imagination is a definite necessity for a mystery writer, cozy or otherwise and if you happen to get inspiration from family members, so be it! LOL! But now, I have to say that you have got us all curious about what is in this book that was inspired by your in-laws…..

  30. I constantly am thinking “what if this happens?” “Would this change that?” “How would it work if…?” It’s not only great entertainment but it may come in handy someday- never know!

    1. You don’t ever know. And this sparks a little memory about an article about people who do that have a better chance of surviving. I wish I could remember where I read it!

  31. Great post! The drag about living in L.A. is that you spend so much time in cars that you miss great moments around people. I had so many more of those in NY. But I still do hear stories that I tuck away for future reference. Be careful what you tell a writer, lol!

  32. Yes, I am like that also, always thinking of what if’s and always suspecting, especially that things can happen in isolated areas , there could be a body there, or just different things. My husband always tells me I watch too many murder movies, I do like to watch forensics and all that. But you know, it is hard to trust a lot of people you never know what they are thinking and what they are capable of , even though, a lot of them are just not having a very good day, but it’s always good to be vigilant and we always have to be aware of our surroundings. Your book sounds like a very good read! Thank you for the chance. God bless you.

  33. I am a worrier by nature so guessing what some unusual scenario looks like to me is troublesome. Being a mom and a grandmother it’s only natural that you worry and question anything that doesn’t see normal! Regarding how authors may get some of their extras for their stories, I have the idea that when authors ask readers things like what was your most embarrassing moment or what was your most unusual experience on a vacation or what was your worst gift or worst restaurant meal etc that sometime in the future some of these replies will show up in a story. But it’s only my suspecting. 😀

    I love your books and would feel honored to receive a copy of your latest release! Thank you.

  34. I always wonder if something in a book was really fiction or if there’s more truth than fiction. I wish I could have sit down with Pat Conroy and asked him which parts of The Prince of Tides were his real childhood.

  35. My brother is the writer in our family. He works in Los Angeles. I am a reader!

  36. Is it bad that when I see sketchy people I immediately wonder where they hid the body and how they “dun it”? Lol. Love your post and the book sounds awesome!

  37. I do what if. or wonder what those people are up to..why are they here..etc..lol I do this while shopping, out to eat, riding in the car.. “Oh wait, man they are chatting up a storm..are the plotting someone demise?? hahaha Would love to get your book Sherry!!! Thanks, have a great evening all. nani_geplcs(at)yahoo(dot)com

  38. My husband always says to me, “You sure create a lot of worlds in your head.” This usually comes after something I suspect is disproven (“So-and-So must be getting a divorce. I noticed she wasn’t wearing her wedding ring.” It’s at the repair shop, of course.) Thank you for the give-away. I saw your entire slew of books at B & N the other night!

    1. That would be an excellent red herring! And thanks for letting me know you saw the books. It’s always nice to hear they are out in the wild.

  39. I’ve always thought that they use many bits and pieces from their life for details in a book. Thanks for the chance to win.

  40. My son writes wrestling scenarios. I have no idea where he comes up with his ideas. Definitely not from anything in his life or our family’s background. I’ve never been able to write anything. I have no imagination. His started in preschool.

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