I like to watch people, whether I’m in a grocery store or a restaurant, filing away in my mind little snips of information I can use in my books. I have often drawn some curious stares myself in a checkout stand. Like the time I had a flash of inspiration and excitedly told my husband that I’d decided to hire a hit man to kill Simon’s wife. The woman in front of me spun around as if she’d been shot, hurriedly grabbed her bag and fled.
When starting a new book, the characters come first with me. I have to know intimately the people who will drive my story. I have to know their deepest secrets, for only then can I tell how they will react to all the problems I’m going to throw at them.
Take Clara and Stephanie, the main characters in Extra Sensory Deception, for instance. They are cousins, both an only child, and grew up inseparable. They shared everything, from books and clothes to wishes and dreams. One was rarely seen without the other. Yet they are as different as sea and sand. Stephanie is impulsive, quick to act and just as quick to have second thoughts. Clara takes her time, analyzing, reflecting and weighing the consequences. Their adventures take them on the same path, but often with quite different results.
Secondary characters are the most fun to create. I can be more adventurous with them, giving them quirks and traits that would be tiresome in the main characters. In Extra Sensory Deception Clara’s assistant is a very large, very exuberant, somewhat mischievous dog named Tatters. Clara also has an unusual gift – she has inherited the family’s sixth sense, which allows her to read Tatters’ mind. Their conversations are a joy to write.
I’m often asked if I base my characters on real people. I think all writers do that, even if they’re not aware of it. I do know that a little bit of me is in all my main characters, and that all the people I create in my stories are made up of traits, quirks and descriptions of people I’ve met in my life.
When I was still living in England, my parents owned a small seaside hotel. The guests came from all over the country, and from all walks of life. It fascinated me to discover that we are all alike in so many ways, with the same wants and needs, yet every one of us is unique in some special way. It is in that individuality that I find my most memorable characters.
The people in my stories are like family to me. I smile when they smile, cry when they cry. They wake me up in the night to tell me their story, and they are with me every minute of the day until the book is finished. Then I’m off again to the grocery store for more inspiration.
So, if you see someone staring at you in the checkout stand, it might just be a writer like me, fascinated by something you’ve said or done. Or not.
About the book: As the owners of the Raven’s Nest bookstore, cousins Stephanie and Clara Quinn are the premier booksellers in the quaint town of Finn’s Harbor, Maine. But with Clara’s inherited ability to read minds and see the future, she’s also the premier crime solver .
You don’t have to be a psychic to know: The rodeo is coming to town! Clara’s boyfriend, Rick Sanders, invites her to the show to meet his high school buddy and expert calf roper, Wes Carlton. But when Clara’s Quinn Sense offers her a disturbing vision involving a rodeo clown, she worries that there will be more danger at the rodeo than just the traditional bucking bronco.
Of course, her premonition turns out to be accurate, and a dead body is discovered behind the concert stage, strangled by Wes’s piggin’ string. Rick is sure that there’s no way Wes could have murdered anyone, but he’s going to need Clara’s Quinn Sense to keep the authorities from roping the wrong suspect...