by Julie, summering in Somerville
I love creating worlds and bashing them into other worlds. Especially when it works.
I am preparing for my September 28 launch of WREATHING HAVOC, the fourth book in my Garden Squad series. I’ve been thinking about what to talk about in blog posts and on panels, and the thing that strikes me is that the book is about worlds colliding, both for the characters and the author.
What do I mean by worlds colliding? In real life, of course, our worlds collide all the time. We meet people who share one interest and realize that they also share another. Someone from your church ends up in a class you’re taking. You’re reading the Facebook post of someone you went to college with, and realize that they know someone you currently work with. Attending a grant writing workshop and recognizing someone from your Sisters in Crime chapter gives you a start: worlds collide in unexpected ways. Have you ever been visiting somewhere and you see someone from home? Your tourist life and home life collide.
As a writer, my mystery writing world collides with my theater world in a major subplot of WREATHING HAVOC. The two worlds collided before, of course, in my Theater Cop series. But theater hasn’t played a part in the Garden Squad series until now, though I mentioned the theater world a bit in DIGGING UP THE REMAINS. Having the world of the past and the present collide affects all of the characters in WREATHING HAVOC, and it was fun creating both of those worlds and then bashing them into each other.
Worlds colliding are always part of the plot of a cozy. Gardening and murder are worlds colliding. But I always enjoy it when there is expertise or a new angle on those colliding worlds. Elizabeth Peters expertise in Egyptology colliding with history and mystery are wonderful ways for worlds to collide. In Three Days of the Condor, the world of research collides with the world of espionage. In Dr. Who the world of what is collides with the world of what could be.
The tricky part for mystery writers is colliding worlds in a way that helps tell the story, but doesn’t feel contrived. Coincidences resulting from worlds colliding have to be handled carefully. “Her cousin worked with a safe cracker? What?!?!” doesn’t work if that’s the reader’s response. If a reader’s gut response is “pul-leeze”, the writer needs to rethink the storyline. Collisions need to feel organic. That’s harder than it sounds.
When writing a series, colliding worlds helps upend expectations, and adds layers to characters and storylines. It can also shake things up.
Readers, what are your favorite examples of worlds colliding? I’m going to choose one commenter and send them an ARC of WREATHING HAVOC.
Best friends in high school who went there separate ways only to find each other when they are senior citizens.
I love those stories! I know of two couples who married 40+ years after not seeing one another.
And isn’t it funny that sometimes when one of those collisions happens in real life, and you can barely believe it, you realize you can’t use it in a book – nobody would believe it!
Just this week I saw that a former hi-tech (software engineer) colleague who lives in the next town was invited to the same party, hosted by a youngish guy in my town, as I was. I asked Kincade how he knew Ken – it turns out Ken also worked where Kincade and I did, something Ken and I had never talked about. Ken teaches programming to kids, so it’s not a huge stretch, but I was still surprised.
Edith, that’s so true! Real life is stranger than fiction sometimes.
Edith, I was just thinking that!
Worlds colliding. A vivid image, Julie. Your new book and its two worlds sound fascinating. Count me as interested!
I found out that my childhood neighbors were related to someone I worked with decades later. I realized it when comments were made in Facebook.
Facebook helps figure out connections, doesn’t it?
In books, I would have to say that my favorite example of worlds colliding was when I realized that Edith had essentially created the Edithverse within her books by tying the Country Store mysteries with the Quaker Midwife mysteries. I actually messaged her to make sure I wasn’t imagining it and then exclaimed, “The Edithverse!” to her when it was confirmed.
Julie, I love that you included Doctor Who in your examples.
I had to think a bit about real world examples of worlds colliding but I did come up with one example. It was when I discovered that one of the music related friends I’d made via Facebook was friends with someone I knew from back in the day when I had pen pals. I saw one’s name listed as a mutual friend on the other’s page and was very surprised for some reason.
Glad you liked that, Jay!
Again, Facebook. A way to trace collisions. Love your Edithverse example, Jay. And Dr. Who. I think I may rewatch the David Tennant seasons this summer…
Julie, if I was going to do a rewatch I’d always start with the Christopher Eccleston series. I loved his portrayal. Despite there never being a chance he’d return to the role on TV, the British audio drama company Big Finish did just recently get him to return as the Ninth Doctor for a series of new audio adventures. I bought the first set and I’m eagerly awaiting the release of the 2nd volume.
When you’re on a crowded subway in Berlin and see someone you know from Massachusetts!
Isn’t that the weirdest feeling?
Three examples of worlds colliding are being completely across the country in WY to come face to face with a couple that we knew while living and working in another town like 20 years prior. It was strange that at that exact time from different areas that two couples decided to take that vacation and then to run into each other.
However, the strangest collision would have to be when I was talking to a then sister-in-law about our ancestors. She was telling this story about a distance relative that had been pregnant and was bitten by a rattlesnake. It caused her to go into labor and then both mother and baby died. It reminded me of a family story my Granny had told many times. I looked at her and asked if they buried both mother and baby in the same coffin and she replied yes. We started comparing notes and it seems that a distance relative of hers was kin to a distant relative of mine. If not for that one conversation, we might never have known.
The third one is my favorite. When we decided to downsize and move to our dream destination 5 years ago, it meant going through and disposing of a LOT of stuff accumulated from our years together plus what he had inherited from my grandparents and parents. In the course of that and not wanting to throw out something we might want or need, I was going through some papers of my grandparents. I found out that my Granny’s parents were originally from the area we were moving to and in fact one of them was buried in the hills around where we had purchased land. Facts that I had never known. I told hubby that we weren’t moving to a new location, but rather we were moving back to my roots.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
SUCH great examples, Kay. I love the last one. Family and roots pull us in ways we don’t understand.
First thing I thought of was the movie The Parent Trap with Hayley Mills, when the girls discovered each other. Also, I did the ancestry.com genealogy and found out my grandmother lived in the very same small town I live in now when she was small! Your book sounds delightful!
THE PARENT TRAP is one of my favorite movies, and a great example. And I love the town coincidence. There’s magic in family roots.
I was on vacation in Bermuda once and ran into someone I used to work with in NJ
sgiden at verizon(.)net
That always feels so odd when it happens.
I love the worlds colliding concept. I think the really big collisions have to happen early in the book to be believable. Bob worked with a man for six months before I met the man. We talked for five minutes before I realized he’d gone to this small private high school with our best man’s wife.
I thing writers are really good at rooting out the traces of collisions.
I was doing some stuff on Ancestry late at night and discovered my ex-sister-in-law, someone I’ve spent holidays and kids birthday parties and all kinds of occasions with, is very, very distantly related to me. Not blood-related, but still. It was a shock to both of us.
I love those kinds of stories!
I went to work for a law firm in Miami and was casually discussing funny high school stories with one of the attorneys. She asked me when I graduated. We were both from north-eastern NJ. My school had 250 women from 1st grade to 12th. I told her the year and that she had probably never heard of the school. Turns out not only had we attended the same school, but she was a senior when I was a freshman. In the intervening 40 years both of us had changed our last names and, shall I say, matured enough so we didn’t recognize the other.
Wow, that is worlds colliding!
I often run into fellow alumni from my college in weird places. It’s always fun.
Recently, during our vacation home-buying adventure, the mortgage broker I talked to had *the exact same birthday as me* right down to the year.
Yikes. That is a coincidence!
That’s called being Astral Twins, Liz!
I found out a couple of years back that Kellye Garrett went to grad school with a friend here in town who I know from ultimate Frisbee and church.
That is worlds colliding. I bet you have several worlds that collide because of your various interests.
My mother grew up in a small town in Quebec. One day in October, her parents went out to
dinner and left her with her grandmother. When her gran turned on the radio there was an announcement the Martians had invaded the Earth! The son of her parents friends was
sent to reassure them it was only a radio program to amuse the populace.
Seventy years later, Mum and Gerry met at a funeral. Both were widowed. A second marriage
was very happy.
What a beautiful story, Chris!
I was visiting my Sister in Michigan and ran into my income tax guy while shopping. I never thought I would run into someone from Chicago in a small town in Michigan.
That’s a double take, I’ll bet.
Meeting a friends new boyfriend and found out he is cousins with my long lost best childhood friend from elementary-middle school whom I lost touch with ages ago.
Wow! That could be the basis of a novel.
I have a friend who I swear must know everyone in the whole city. I can’t remember how many times I’ve met someone new and it turns out they know her. Crazy!
I call those folks connectors. Good people to know.
World colliding, yes , it is a Small World, we never know when or where or what we are going to be doing when we see someone from our past. Your book sounds like a great read and I love, love your book title. Have a great rest of the week and stay safe.
I so agree! And thank you for the kind words about my book!
I’m sure there’s something odd like that I’ve experienced but can’t think of any right now. I do remember when a co-worker went on vacation to Texas, only to run into one of her neighbors from back home!
It’s always so odd when that happens.
My aunts had their youngest children on the same day. Years later the children both lived in Rockville, Md. Looking forward to reading the newest garden book. Stay safe and well.
That’s really interesting! Did they have the same name?
I enjoy stories of royals or someone who has wealth and prestige who falls in love with someone considered “common”.
That’s a great worlds colliding example.
I know I’m late to the party, but my mom used to manage the local roller skating rink. She was hiring, a lady came in and applied to run the snack bar on weekends. After speaking with the lady, and after offering her the job– mom found out through the hiring paperwork that she had just hired her second cousin!
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