Ah, the timeless question. Where do you get your ideas?
I think it was Stephen King who talked about a little mail-order store in small town America...
I've never been able to find that store myself. Stephen keeps it a close secret (I hope you're smiling.)
I had reason to experience that dilemma about two years ago, a year
into the pandemic, and a year after my husband David died.
Damn that covid, and what it's done to publishing. When Orca Books told me that they were capping the line that carried my Goddaughter series (translation: still selling the books in the line, but closing it to future books, at least for now) I was in a tight spot.
write next? I'd had 10 contracts in a row from Orca! That series
garnered three major awards! How could I leave it behind?
Put another way: what the poop was I going to write next?
The Goddaughter series featured a present day mob goddaughter who didn't want to be one. Gina Gallo had a beloved fiance who thought she had gone straight. But of course, in each book she would get blackmailed into helping the family pull off heists or capers that would inevitably go wrong. It allowed for a lot of madcap comedy.
Some would say I was a natural to write a series about a mob goddaughter (we'll just leave it at that.) And I liked the serious theme behind the comedy: You're supposed to love and support your family. But what if your family is this one?
Issues of grey have always
interested me. We want things to be black and white in life, but quite
often, they are more complex than that. I like exploring justice
outside of the law in my novels. But I digress...
The Goddaughter books brought me to the attention of Don Graves, a well-known newspaper book reviewer up here. He commiserated with the end of the Goddaughter series, and immediately suggested the following:
"Why don't you write about her grandmother? Prohibition days, when the mob was becoming big in Hamilton."
The idea burned in me. Except it wouldn't be her grandmother. (Don is older than me.) It would be her great-grandmother! Coming to age in the time of Rocco Perri and Bessie Starkman...
I settled on 1928,
because that was the year women finally got the vote in England. The
status of women features very much in this novel. The time frame also
allowed me to use the aftermath of WW1, including lives of men like my own
grandfather, wounded by gas, and shell-shocked. I would make the
protagonist a young widow, because I knew grief - oh man, did I know
grief. My own husband had died way before his time, the year before. I
could write convincingly about that.
But I would also use bathos to lighten the tale. (I seem incapable of writing anything straight.) The comedy of the Goddaughter books finds its way into The Merry Widow Murders, and so far, has generated smiles for prepub reviewers.
The book took me over a year to write, working full time on it. It helped me to channel my grief. It forced me to step out of my comfort zone and write something with considerable depth.
And it taught me that - even widowed - I wasn't entirely alone. That ideas are beautiful things that can come from friendship, and the good hearts of readers and reviewers you are fortunate to meet along your publishing journey.
Thank you, Don!
"Delightful...Not to be missed" Maureen Jennings,
and the Paradise Cafe series
The Merry Widow Murders
and all the usual suspects
from Cormorant Books
1928, At Sea
When an inconvenient body shows up in her stateroom,
Lady Revelstoke and her pickpocket-turned-maid Elf know how to make it
disappear--and find the killer.
"Miss Fisher meets Hitchcock's The Trouble with Harry. The perfect escapist read!" Anne R. Allen