Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, living proof that a long writing career includes both feast and famine. I’ve been through several famines. Just now, I’m lucky enough to be in a feast stage. The next few years are going to be very busy.
In an earlier blog I talked about using the plot device of going back to the old home town. In that post, I wrote the following:
“When I started work on an idea for a new series, it never occurred to me that I was repeating myself by having the new sleuth return to her old home town. In fact, going back is kind of the point of the book. Mikki Lincoln is a woman my age (sixty-eight) who moved away right after high school. It’s an invitation to her fiftieth high school reunion that gets her thinking about her old stomping ground. A recent widow, she sells her home in Maine and heads for the rural New York state community where she grew up. In fifty years, there have definitely been changes. She’s in familiar territory . . . and yet she’s not. For an amateur sleuth, that seems to me to be the best of all possible worlds.”
At the time I wrote that, I couldn’t yet reveal where negotiations stood for the sale of this new series, or what would happen to the Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries if I started writing about Mikki. Finally, I can tell all. I have not one, but two new contracts. One is for three more books in the Liss MacCrimmon series (#11,12, and 13). The second is for the first two Mikki Lincoln books.
The tenth Liss MacCrimmon story, Kilt at the Highland Games, will be in stores in hardcover next Tuesday, July 26, but I’m already hard at work on number eleven, X Marks the Scot, to be published in the fall of 2017. Credit for coming up with that title, by the way, goes to my editor, Peter Senftleben.
I don’t want to give too much away (actually, I can’t, because I’m making it up as I go along), but the action starts when Liss finds a mysterious map hidden in the back of a portrait she bought at auction. The portrait is a copy of a real eighteenth-century painting of the official piper of Clan Grant, shown here. As you might expect, Liss can’t resist trying to find the spot on the map that’s marked with a big old X.
The first book in the new series won’t be out until the spring of 2018, but I’ve been working on it, on and off, for some time now. My trip back to my old home town last fall for my own 50th high school reunion was also a research trip. I met with a classmate’s son who is a deputy sheriff to pepper him with questions about the investigation of homicides in New York State. As I expected, there are differences between Maine and New York. Since Mikki is an amateur, she isn’t going to be deeply involved in forensics, but I still had to know some basics, such as whether it would be the state, county, town, or village police in charge.
I won’t be using a real place as my setting, but Mikki’s hometown will have a lot in common with the village where I grew up. It’s in the heart of what, fifty years ago, was known as the Borsht Belt, a popular summer vacation spot for folks from New York City in the days before air travel became common. These days, the area has fallen on hard times. In my fictional village, there is a plan afoot to revive tourism by building a theme park. Not everyone is in favor of the idea.
Why, you may be asking, would a sixty-eight-year-old woman want to uproot herself and, essentially, take a step backward. I pondered that long and hard and tried to put myself in her shoes. What if her husband of forty-plus years, who is also her best friend, up and dies on her? With apologies to my own husband, who is (knock wood) in good health and seems likely to remain so, I realized that if I were suddenly widowed, I might find it hard to go on living alone in the place we’d shared for so long. An invitation to my fiftieth reunion got me thinking about the “good old days.” Nostalgia is a powerful force. If widowhood and the reunion coincided with the house I grew up in coming on the market, I would be tempted. I loved that house as a kid. As an adult, I can see it has some big disadvantages. It has near neighbors on both sides, for one thing, and I’m used to living out in the country on fifteen wooded acres. But for fictional purposes . . .
So, on impulse, in need of a change, Mikki buys back her childhood home. When she finds out how much work needs to be done on it before winter, she realizes that she needs to supplement her retirement income and sets up shop as a book doctor. Although Mikki expects to deal with most of her clients by email and phone, one of the first people to contact her is a local woman who has written a book about Murder, Inc., a criminal organization that dumped the bodies of their victims in that area of New York State (true story) during the 1930s. The body of the author turns up a few days later. Is there a clue to her murder in the manuscript? Of course there is, and Mikki is the only one who’s in a position to find it.
Needless to say, although I am enjoying plotting the ins and outs of Liss MacCrimmon’s current adventure, I am also tremendously excited about this new project.
But wait, some of you may be saying. What about the Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries? Never fear, the third entry, Death in a Cornish Alehouse, will be out in the UK in December and in the U.S. in April 2017.
Frankly, the prospect of writing five new novels in the course of the next two and a half years fills me with both great joy and sheer terror, but given a choice between feast and famine, I’ll take the feast every time.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse ~ UK in December 2016; US in April 2017) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com