A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Careful ... or you'll end up in my next book

Three years ago, I gave a talk to a local women's group. Meetings were held monthly and speakers would be engaged to talk on varied subjects from baking to mountain climbing. I was there to talk about my books and my writing career to date.
About 40 women were present and the talk was going well. Only one woman was unsmiling. I checked that everyone could hear me. She could so that wasn't the problem. Undaunted, I talked about how I'd learned to read at the age of 3 and how I'd rarely been seen without a book in my hands since, I showed off copies of my books, and got a good discussion going on the hard-boiled detective fiction I write, on cozy mysteries, our favourite fictional detectives, etc. It was all good - except for the unsmiling woman.  
An hour passed, and I asked if anyone had questions. People did and we had lots of fun with that. The unsmiling woman was looking positively hostile by now. In fact, she couldn’t have looked worse if I’d been urging people toward a life of debauchery that included sacrificing babies.
I ended my talk and it was time for tea and biscuits. I was working my way through a mouthful of chocolate biscuit when the unsmiling woman made her way - tanklike - toward me. She sucked in a breath and said, "I'm 79 years old, I've never read a book in my life and I shouldn't want to."
I was so taken aback that I only managed to mutter something incoherent through my biscuit.
"In my day," she went on, undaunted, "we were taught to do something productive with our time. Like mend socks." She glowered at me, determined to point out that she was superior. "I bet you don't mend socks, do you?"
Well, no. Guilty as charged. To steal her words, I've never mended socks and I shouldn't want to. 
Having said her piece, she strutted off. She'd long gone by the time my brain thought up all the witty retorts. I should have demanded to know why she’d just spent over an hour listening to me when she could - should - have been doing something productive. I should have asked how mending socks can be considered more productive than learning about other places, times and people.
Three years later, the memory of that woman still haunts me.
But guess what - yup, she's going in the next book. Lonely, cantankerous, sock-mending old spinster gets clubbed to death by irate crime writer.


Marcelle Dubé said...

Some of my best characters were based on people I've met over the years. I either "borrowed" a quirky mannerism or an offensive attitude. Amazing how cathartic it is to create an unpleasant character and place him or her in dire situations... bwahahahahahahaha...

Thanks, Shirley. I needed a good laugh.

MaureenAMiller said...

Ahhh! My ornery Grandmother went on the prowl again! Sorry about that, Shirley. :)

Clare London said...

What a fascinating story! Who knows what was going on in her life at that time? It always intrigues me to wonder about all the hundreds of people that pass our way at any time. But that's where imagination certainly kicks in, like you say - and there's never a lack of scope out there in humankind :).

Shirley Wells said...

Marcelle, it is cathartic. I suppose there's a moral for people to learn - be boringly pleasant toward us. :)

Maureen, it's all your fault. Keep her under lock and key in future. :)

Clare, there could have been all sorts of problems in her life which might excuse her behaviour. Every time I start to feel sorry for her though, I ask myself why was she attending a talk by a writer.
Still, if it weren't for the 'odd' people who enter our lives, we'd have very little to write about. ;)

Liz Fichera said...

Oh, I LOVE that! And make sure she mends unmendable socks. ;-)

Toni Anderson said...

Brilliant, Shirley! The mean old biddie. There was no reason to attack you. That was just wrong.

I balled up all my old hags and made them a single character in STORM WARNING. Sure as hell made me feel better--especially at the end. Muwhahaha

Tom Foolery said...

It's a crime not to read methinks ;-) TFxx

Wynter Daniels said...

You get the last laugh. I love it. Those people you meet just for a moment that make an impression make for great fodder since we can conjure so much from a little snipet.

Julie Moffett said...

Totally agree! Find my best character traits in others, especially the odd ones. I couldn't make that stuff up. Seriously!! :)

Shirley Wells said...

Liz - yes. I could put her in a padded cell surrounded by a never ending supply of unmendable socks.:)

Toni - what a great idea to get rid of them all in one go. I'll have to try that. :)

Thommo, hello and thanks for dropping by. You're right and she should have been locked up. Where's that locksmith?

Wynter, where would we be without these people? Our jobs would be so difficult.

Julie, that's it exactly. You really couldn't make it up. :)

Rebecca Rogers Maher said...

Maybe she was mad because you made her want to read a book by being so entertaining. If so, good work!

Elise Warner said...

People are fascinating. Isn't that great? What would we write about without them? Books would be filled with descriptions of scenery.

Shirley Wells said...

Rebecca - hey, perhaps you're right. Why didn't I think of that? I shall pat myself on the back. ;)

Elise, that is so true. And the cranky ones are the best of all!

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