Kaitlyn Dunnett here, today talking about the setting of the new Deadly Edits mystery, Murder, She Edited. It will be available in hardcover and e-book formats one week from today.
One of the ways I add verisimilitude to my two cozy series is to base the settings in my stories on real places I know well, Western Maine and the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains. In the Deadly Edits series, Lenape Hollow bears a striking resemblance to the town where I grew up. Specific buildings, particularly houses I lived or in which I spent a great deal of time also appear. A family farm was one such place. It belonged, collectively, to my maternal great-grandfather’s children, but when I was a child only my grandparents lived there, raising chickens to sell the eggs and taking in paying guests during the summer season.
To create my story, I left the farmhouse, land, and outbuildings as they were when I last saw them in 1958 when I was ten years old. Then I invented an entirely fictional family to live there in that same year. They abandon the place, taking nothing with them, after someone is murdered in the house. My senior sleuth, retired teacher turned book doctor Mikki Lincoln, comes into the story in the present day, when she’s informed that she’s to inherit the property if, within a certain specified time, she finds and edits several diaries left behind by the former owner.
I had a wonderful time returning to the site of so many happy childhood memories, even while adding crime and confusion to the mix. As I wrote, I kept expanding, using bits and pieces of the farm besides the house. Someone, you see is using the old barn for nefarious purposes. I even tried to work the farm pond into the story, and threw in a scary story my grandmother told me about a snake. Then I remembered that there was an apartment over the detached garage that was also rented out in the summer. What if the prime suspect in the murder was the person who lived there at the time? What if suspicion haunted him for the rest of his life? What if he had a child, still living, who wants that cold case solved as much as Mikki does?
There were dozens of possibilities, all centered around the physical appearance of the farmhouse and outbuildings. In fact, there were so many that I couldn’t use them all, although I had fun trying. Plot and characters may be the key elements in any mystery novel, but in this case the setting ran a very close third.
Readers, do vivid settings help pull you into the story? Share, please! And look for a chance to win a hardcover copy of Murder, She Edited in the very near future.
Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-three books traditionally published and has self published several children’s books and three works of nonfiction. 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. Her next publication (as Kaitlyn) is the fourth book in the contemporary “Deadly Edits” series (Murder, She Edited), in stores in August 2021. As Kathy, her most recent novel is a standalone historical mystery, The Finder of Lost Things. She maintains websites at www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com. A third, at A Who’s Who of Tudor Women, is the gateway to over 2300 mini-biographies of sixteenth-century Englishwomen, now available in e-book format.