Today the Chicks are sharing what inspired us to write our mystery series. Read on to discover how inspiration can truly come from anywhere. Feel free to leave a comment!
Several years ago, a friend of mine (the fabulous Diana Orgain) announced that she’d sold a mystery series. Of course, as someone who loves mysteries in all their forms—from television crime dramas to Nancy Drew to “What’s that noise? I’d better go investigate!”—I was instantly intrigued. Around that same time, an editor I knew from Chronicle Books called me up and asked me if I wanted to ghostwrite a nonfiction book with a destination wedding planner. My answer? “Heck yeah!” As I learned all about her business, it hit me: I had the perfect amateur sleuth! Destination wedding planners go jetting off to foreign countries with people they don’t really know, and if anything goes wrong, it’s up to them to fix it. And if that something happens to be a murder, well, you’ve got the perfect setup for a cozy mystery.
Being broke. As we all know—at least those who dare to admit it—being broke will make you consider doing some crazy freaking things. I’m just glad my desperation didn’t involve a stripper pole. (Like my main character, I don’t possess nearly enough inner thigh strength.) Instead, it involved me driving past a billboard in Los Angeles offering a $50,000 reward for information on a murder. One thought popped in my mystery-novel-obsessed head: I should try to solve it so I can get the reward money. Of course, thinking you can solve a murder to get $50,000 to pay your bills is a horrible idea for real life, but it turns out it’s a great idea for a book. And it didn’t even involve me having to be half-naked. Unless, of course, you count writing in my pajamas.
When my parents hit their 90s, Mom was eager to join their Florida friends who had already moved into a seemingly vibrant, lushly-landscaped retirement community across town. My dad—well, not so much, and I secretly agreed with him. Eventually, Mom won out, and on my extended visits I swam endless laps at the mostly-deserted pool, alongside a lovely senior with much better form. One day, around 5 pm, when the residents were already at their formal dinner, I was in the elevator on my way down to the pool for another round, when the doors opened on that same woman, who was hurriedly buttoning up her flowered blouse. “Oh dear, oh dear, I’m late,” she muttered, like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. “And I’m a mess.” I assured her she looked lovely, but she just touched my arm, and said, “Appearances are everything, you know.” She stepped out on the lobby level, buttoned-up and completely composed—but as the elevator door closed behind her, she turned and gave me a wink. And I realized I’d just met Dorothy, the senior half of The Ladies Smythe & Westin.
I fell in love with south Louisiana when I was a student at Tulane University, so when I began thinking about writing a cozy mystery, I immediately went to Cajun Country as a setting for Plantation Shudders. Maggie Crozat, my protagonist, is a 32-year-old artist who went to art school in New York City, and then lived there for a dozen years. My teen daughter is an artist, as are two close friends from Louisiana, hence the inspiration for Maggie. And since I grew up in New York, I got to throw in a little of my own voice, too! So many of my personal experiences in Louisiana found their way into Plantation Shudders that I wound up including a “Lagniappe” chapter at the end of the book (lagniappe: “a little something extra”), where I share the real story behind some of the fictional places and characters.