Behind the Book: 39 WINKS

Welcome to “Behind the Book,” our fun new Chicks on the Case feature! Join us as we Chicks share the real stories behind our stories. Inspiration, motivation, frustration, jubilation–you’ll find them all right here… 

Well, hello! It’s Kathy, and I’m here to regale you with the origin story of 39 WINKS.

The second book in my medical mystery series finds our pharmaceutical protagonist, Maggie, losing sleep over her bestie’s sleepwalking aunt. The auntie wanders the house in her sleep, performing various and sundry household tasks, and eventually stumbling across the body of her murdered husband. Is it sleep-murder—or a really unfortunate parasomnic coincidence?

The concept of this book came to me in a dream. Well, sort of. It came to me after years of chronic sleepwalking, some of which involved dreaming.

I’ve been a sleepwalker for as long as I can remember. Just like Maggie’s Aunt Polly, I have folded laundry and prepared meals (specifically macaroni and cheese) whilst sawing logs. I’ve also taken showers, brought cardboard shipping boxes into bed, tried to do battle with imaginary spiders, and awoken with my hand on the doorknob, ready to leave the house.

It’s more than a little disconcerting.

I don’t readily remember these incidents—sometimes ever. Typically, however, images of the previous night come to me like a distant memory, as if I’m gazing at them through water. But still…I did things I not only couldn’t remember, but had no desire to do.

The idea of not being in control of your actions—or at least making that claim—seemed like the perfect hook for a mystery. Especially since there are murder cases that have involved the Sleepwalking Defense. Double especially since sleepwalking can be induced by disease or drug—two causal agents that are very much a part of Maggie’s world.

Sleepwalking provided a framework upon which to build plot, character, and theme. It was easy to channel Aunt Polly because I was her. The pharmaceutical connection, the relationship between Maggie and Gus’ family, and the tension between personal and objective realities made for a compelling—if not familiar—story.

Now the book has been out for a few years and my own sleepwalking has reduced exponentially—an absolute dream in both cases.

So that’s my story. What’s yours? Have you sleepwalked or sleep talked? Do you have any sleepwalking stories involving yourself or a friend/family member?

About 39 WINKS

Former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O’Malley is losing sleep. Constantine’s aunt is a multitasking sleepwalker who, in addition to wandering her stately home, prepares meals, folds laundry and, one winter night, stumbles across her husband with his throat slit. It’s a rude and gruesome awakening that’s upsetting to Aunt Polly. And interesting to the police. Maggie and Constantine work to uncover who killed the cosmetic surgery mogul and why. As they dig into the lives of those who knew him best, they discover that the truth is only skin deep and doctoring perception is a treatment with deadly side effects. A gripping page-turner with more twists than a surgeon’s suture, 39 Winks is a tale of lies, betrayals and greed that will keep you up at night. And looking over your shoulder.

Available from a bunch of places, including Amazon.

24 thoughts on “Behind the Book: 39 WINKS

  1. This may be the most fun idea for a blog topic I’ve seen, Kathleen. I love it. Your story of the origin of your story also touches on the therapeutic and healing properties inherent in writing. Thanks for sharing the tale with us all.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Oh, Ambien did my wife and me in! I was catching white “lab mice” that our then dachshund was defecating out in bed. and Kathy (My wife, NOT Ms. Valenti) walked face-first into our refrigerator while trying to make her way to bed for the night. Our daughter steered her into the bedroom where I was reading, and in pure Ali form (The girl-child) She said to me, ” I think this belongs to you…” Yeah, fun times!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Wow, what stories! So my younger kiddo sleeptalks and sleepwalks. We’ve had incidents involving trying to get out the front door, running through the house, and jumping into the shower while fully clothed!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Well, no wonder those sleepwalking passages in 39 Winks were so vivid–absolutely adore this book and the Maggie O’Malley series, Kathy. To my knowledge, I’ve never sleepwalked–and hopefully never talked in my sleep, but who knows? I do remember my first book where I encountered a sleepwalking scene: Freddie Bobbsey in one of the earliest Bobbsey Twins books. It may even have been The Bobbsey Twins Of Lakeport. But 6 yo Freddie walked around the house saying, “Please may I have another piece of strawberry shortcake. Just a tiny little piece…” They thought it was a ghost. I repeatedly acted it out for my mom b/c it made her laugh. (Think I was the same age as Freddie.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Holy cow, Kathy! Thank goodness it seems to be in your rearview mirror. When I was working in the legal field, I had super vivid nightmares that would include shouting, punching, and kicking and would not stop until my wife would wake me up.
    The episodes have pretty much gone away since I changed careers. Yeah, mine were totally stress related.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can imagine how scary it would be to sleep walk.

    That’s not something I have ever done. But I once had a full conversation with someone who was sleep talking at a youth retreat. The funny thing is, it wasn’t making sense, but it sounded like him, so the rest of us (who had been awakened), couldn’t tell if he was awake and putting us on or asleep for a few minutes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yikes–that sounds pretty scary, Kathy! Glad you’re not doing it as much anymore. But what a great premise for the book!

    I don’t believe I’ve ever sleepwalked (is that a verb?). But I remember when my sister and I shared a bedroom back when we were kids, her shouting out very clearly in the middle of the night, “But Mom, I don’t LIKE bananas!” (And I believe in truth, she actually did like them fine. Go figure.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Kathy! That’s so kookoobananas! Perfect story starter. Nothing that interesting ever happened at my house, although when my daughter was about 3, with long dark hair and a white nightgown, she’d be sleepwalking and perfectly backlit at the top of the stairs, scaring the bejeebers out of us. There was a horror movie at the time advertised almost that same way. My sister and BIL lived with us for awhile and he was a night owl. Unbeknownst to us, she’d sleepwalk downstairs, climb up on the couch next to him, and carry on perfectly lucid conversations with him.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The long-dark-hair-white-nightgown sleepwalker sounds truly terrifying to the unsuspecting–or those who’d seen the movie! I’d love to know what the conversations were about!!


  9. Kathy, glad you’re staying between the sheets now when you’re asleep! I don’t sleepwalk, but I have shared a bedroom with two people who did — my sister and my husband. Little sister would wander over to the dresser and brush her hair. When she left the bedroom I’d follow her until she made her way back to bed. I wanted to make sure she didn’t leave the house! Hubs doesn’t get out of bed, but he acts out dreams. One night, he had his foot pressed against the wall and was making motions with his hands like he was pulling a rope! Really vivid! My sister outgrew sleepwalking and hubs only sleep acts when he’s really tired!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like you handle your sleepwalking companions like a dream! Interesting about your husband only sleep-acting when tired. I wonder if it’s a physical/bodily stress response!


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