While Auntie M is attending St Hilda’s Mystery and Crime Conference in Oxford, please welcome California author Michael Wallace, who will describe the genesis of his third mystery, Not Death, But Love:
The Book That Wanted to Be Written
Most authors, I’m guessing, are carrying around several unwritten books in their heads. Typically we have an idea of which one will get written next, but sometimes one of the stories insists on muscling its way from the back of the queue to the front.
Something rather like that took place with my third Quill Gordon mystery, Not Death, But Love, which was published on Amazon May 27. This wasn’t originally going to be the third book in the series, but things happened.
In 2012 I was hired by a family foundation to write the family’s history. It’s one of the best jobs I’ve ever had, because it paid generously and the work was fascinating. By the end of it, I felt the long-deceased family members had come alive inside my head and that I was able to convey a reasonably good sense of them to the readers.
In the course of that work, I came across several things that were a surprise to the people who hired me. There were no terrible scandals, but there were lawsuits and family schisms they hadn’t known about until I started digging. At the time, I was simultaneously working on my second mystery, Wash Her Guilt Away, and at some point it occurred to me that a family history with a deep secret — one worth killing to keep — could make the basis for a good mystery.
One of my plans for a future book had been a story centering on a controversial land-use plan, something that would make use of the knowledge I picked up working as a consultant for Wells Fargo Bank and The Home Depot more than a decade ago. That one had been on the back burner, but I decided to combine ideas to make the land development part of the family history, and was off to the races.
When I was working on the real family history, I often lamented that none of the family members had kept journals (at least none that had survived). I decided to give my murder victim, a retired English teacher named Charlotte London, a journal. It was originally supposed to provide a set of clues to complement those in the family history, but it ended up being much more than that.
Simply put, in the course of creating the journal sections, I discovered that Charlotte had come to life most vividly, and, surprisingly to me, became one of the most dominant and complex characters in the book. Not to be gooey, but I got to be rather fond of her, and I’m hoping the book’s readers will, too.
The history aspect carried through the rest of the book as well. I found myself wondering about, and inventing, histories of various elements of the book. These included the lake, the Italian restaurant where the characters ate dinner, the Rotary Club, where community and political alliances were cemented, and the town where the story was set. Such details, I feel, are what add richness to a book. They can often be what a reader remembers long after he or she has forgotten whodunit.
MICHAEL WALLACE is a native and lifelong resident of California. He received an A.B. degree in English Literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, worked for 19 years as a daily newspaper reporter and editor, and has had a long second career as a public relations and publications consultant. He has been an avid reader of mysteries since childhood and a fly fisherman for more than three decades. He lives in the Monterey Bay area with his wife, Linda Ogren, a university lecturer in biology. Their son, Nick, is in the army.
LINKS The McHenry Inheritance Book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008OAODZ6 Video: http://youtu.be/qeUj3R4mf_Y Wash Her Guilt Away Book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00K1DOV56 Video: http://youtu.be/m1Hqg11YJ0o Not Death, But Love Book: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00U5LEFHS Video: In production Website: http://www.quillgordonmystery.com Blog: http://www.outofglendale.blogspot.com Twitter: @Qgordonnovel Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MikeWallaceMysteryWriter