the winners have been chosen and notified in the drawing for advance reading copies of A View to a Kilt. Thanks to all who commented.
Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, with more ARCs to give away. See the end of this post for details. And now, on to resolve the burning question posed in the title.
Writers are always being asked “where do you get your ideas?” Most of the time we give a flip or sarcastic answer because, truthfully, we don’t have a clue. Every once in a while, however, the source of a plot, subplot, or incident in a novel has very clear origins. That is the case with one of the key elements in the thirteenth Liss MacCrimmon Mystery, A View to A Kilt, which will be in stores on January 28.
A View to A Kilt was the third book in a three-book contract that dates way back to October of 2016. At the time I signed on the dotted line, it would be fair to say that “untitled book three” was just as vague in concept as that description makes it sound. I had some notion of finally taking readers to Moosetookalook, Maine’s annual March Madness Mud Season Sale, mentioned in earlier books, but all that did was pinpoint the time of year in which the story would be set.
March and April aren’t renowned for much in this part of central Maine except mud. Ski season is winding down. Signs of spring are still elusive. Tourists are scarce. Cabin fever is at its peak, which probably helps increase attendance at annual town meetings where citizens argue over every item on the warrant before voting to approve a budget for the coming year.
In January 2018, the time had come to start writing the official proposal for this book. It was due on the first of March. Called “outlines” in the book contract, these don’t have to be very long or even terribly specific, but they do need to contain enough detail to convince an editor that they will add up to 75,000 words worth of story. That Liss had been put in charge of the annual mud season sale wasn’t enough by itself. I didn’t even have a murder victim in mind.
On January 26, I had a doctor’s appointment in Augusta. That’s about an hour’s drive from my home. Since the roads were iffy, my husband drove. On the way, we brainstormed ideas for the new book. I’d had one thought—what if Liss and her husband, Dan Ruskin, found the body of a murdered man in their own backyard? What if no one knew who he was?
There was lots to play with there. Whoever finds a body automatically becomes a suspect, at least as far as the police are concerned. In fact, that’s what happens to Liss in Kilt Dead, the first book in the series, when she finds the murder victim in the back room at Moosetookalook Scottish Emporium. Obviously, the circumstances had to be different this time around. There’s a real danger of repeating one’s self when one writes a long-running series. So—no ID on the victim. But his identity would have to come out at some point, and make things worse for everyone involved, so who could he be? And why was he there, in the Ruskins’ back yard, in the first place? There had to be some connection to Liss or her family.
The suggestion from the driver’s seat was: “How about an uncle she’s never met.”
“She doesn’t have an uncle,” I objected. Hadn’t I made a detailed family tree for the MacCrimmons? I’d given her father a sister but no brothers and Liss’s aunt, Margaret, is a widow.
“A long lost uncle nobody’s ever told her about?”
We went back and forth for a while, at times getting pretty silly, but by the time we reached our destination, “long-lost Uncle Charlie” had evolved into a pretty interesting character. It would take me until I was actually writing the book to figure out all the ins and outs of his disappearance and his reason for coming back to Moosetookalook, only to be murdered before he could make contact with his niece or his brother, but I had enough to write my proposal. I even had what I thought was a pretty good title, The Lost MacCrimmon.
The title bombed but the “outline” was approved. As A View to a Kilt this book will be available in e-book and hardcover formats at the end of this month and it’s not too early to preorder a copy by following the links to booksellers below or asking your local independent bookseller or library to order it for you.
For those who just can’t wait, I still have a few Advance Reading Copies left. If you’d like your name to be entered in a drawing for one of them, leave a comment below or on my Kaitlyn Dunnett Facebook page. Sorry, it has to be US only. Postage elsewhere is more than the price of the book! The drawing will be held on January 10 and copies will be mailed as soon as the winners send me their snail mail addresses. Good luck!
With the January 2020 publication of A View to a Kilt, Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett will have had sixty-one books traditionally published. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist 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. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries and the “Deadly Edits” series as Kaitlyn. As Kathy, her most recent book is a collection of short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes but there is a new, standalone historical mystery in the pipeline. She maintains three websites, at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com and another, comprised of over 2000 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century English women, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women.