Kate Flora: When I announced to people who know me that my new book, Wedding Bell Ruse, (ebook ISBN 9781647160876) published tomorrow, is romantic suspense, people asked me why the switch? Am I going in a new direction? It is quite a switch to go from writing dark, gritty police procedurals and true crime to romantic suspense. Even I was surprised. Here is how it happened.
A question writers are frequently asked at book events is where we get our ideas. For most of my books, I may have a character or an event or a situation that I begin wondering about. It’s a process of slowly developing a plot, asking questions like “Why was this person a victim?” or “Who would want to kill that person?” or “Why was the person in this situation?” That asking usually leads to a series of answers to those questions that let me develop the plot of the novel.
Much of the time, I am writing a series book, and some of the questions, and much of the plot, will arise out of my series characters–who they are, what they do, how they see the world. If it is a Thea Kozak mystery, the situations she’s involved in usually arise either out of her work as a consultant to private schools or through some family or friend connection, often involving a vulnerable person who needs rescuing or justice. For Joe Burgess, because he’s a personal crime detectives, the stories usually begin with a call from dispatch to a crime scene and a victim and his investigation begins.
Sometimes, though, the opening just comes to me, a situation that just sparks my curiosity and impels me forward, as was the case with the central character in Wedding Bell Ruse, Callista “Callie” McKenzie. When she came into my head, she was driving down an unfamiliar road in Vermont. It was night and she was far from home, running away from a life that had imploded after a terrible betrayal by her fiancé. She was broke. Exhausted. A meticulous and cautious accountant with no plans for her future. Finally, needing a break, she pulled to the side of the road to rest and was awakened by a police officer checking to see if she was okay. Sent on to the village coffee shop, she orders coffee, then goes to the restroom to try and look less disheveled. When she comes out, a strange man is sitting at her table. He has the saddest eyes she’s ever seen. As she sits down, he says, “Smile and pretend you’re glad to see me.”
Openings that arrive in a rush, where I can see the characters and scenes so vividly, are very rare. As a writer, I just had to know more. As I followed Callie and her story and learned the story of the man who sat at her table, I wasn’t thinking about what I was writing. If asked, I probably would have said I was writing a fairytale. I just needed to know what was happening. I’ve always believed that while writers go to work every day and write whether the words flow or not, when something arrives like it was “sent,” I should follow it to see where it takes me. This time, it took me on a romantic and suspenseful journey with two people, one who needs to hide out and get herself together, the other who needs to marry soon or lose a precious piece of land, and some people who don’t want the marriage to take place.
It was different. It was fun. I doubt that I’ll do it again, but I’ve always been a writer who answers the call when stories–fiction for nonfiction–come to me.
A kind writer named Mary Harris helped me find my publisher and my kind friends on Facebook helped me find the title. The winning title was on the Maine Crime Writer’s page, suggested by George E. Clark.
I’m not much of a reader of romantic suspense, but when I was the librarian’s assistant at the Vose Library in Union, Maine, (at age 11 1/2) one of the perks of the job was that I was second in line for the newest Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart novels. I cut my adult reading teeth on romantic suspense. This book is, of course, dedicated to them.