Kate Flora: As seems to be its habit these days, summer arrived too slowly and now seems poised to flee just as we are settling in to enjoy it. I object! While it’s true that official fall doesn’t arrive until later in the month, the sudden onset of early darkness and a hint of melancholy in the air confirm that it is coming.
Every year, I, like many, think that I will spend long summer days curled up in a porch rocker, my nose buried in a book. Last summer I even toyed with the notion of retiring, of never again sitting down at my desk and typing: Chapter One, and then seeing what my characters would do. I failed to successfully retire, though I did perhaps succeed in slowing down.
When I find myself feeling jaded, after thirty-five years at the desk, I often try to write something different. This summer, I thought it might be fun to convert a half-finished short story called “Unleashed Love” into a romance novel. (Those of you who remember that I vowed never to try romance again, where were you when I needed a reminder?) Anyway, as is usually the pattern when I set out to write something, what I’ve planned when I was plotting the story in my mind is pretty often not what happens when my characters start feeling their oats and misbehaving. “Unleashed Love” is supposed to be the story of a woman’s adventures when, recovering for a terrible breakup, she adopts a rescue dog and her dog turns out to be an excellent matchmaker. I intended the book to be sweet and light, but apparently that’s not my style. The story has gotten a lot deeper as I’ve explored Sarey’s relationship with her complicated and demanding family and the retired psychiatrist who is her dog walking companion and subtle advisor.
I may complain, but in fact, I love the adventure of seeing my characters start directing my stories, reminding me that while I am supposed to be in charge, at least on some subconscious level, the story is writing itself. Or I am making all these things happen but unaware that I am.
In any case, I was going along quite happily following Sarey’s adventures, with several
more chapters plotted out, when I was reminded that I’m supposed to have sent the next Thea Kozak mystery to my publisher, and I’ve barely started writing it. I’ve been playing the avoidance game because I’ve put Thea—and myself—in a very difficult situation. After years of talking about a baby, Thea and Andre finally have one. Not only is it a challenge for them, as new parents. It is a very big challenge for their creator. Thea is used to being an independent woman, frequently called out, sometimes into dangerous situations, in the service of her client schools or people who need her help. But larking off to a client school, or setting out to help someone, as Thea the Human Tow Truck puts it, “broken down on the highway of life,” isn’t so easy with a tiny baby.
So while the book opens with Thea, while running a quick errand, finding herself facing what appears to be a desperate young mother whose baby has been kidnapped, she uncharacteristically hands the desperate girl over to the police. Thea might want to help but she has a newborn. Babies need to be fed and changed and rocked and none of that can conveniently be done on the public street or at a police station.
Saying no is not part of her character, and I am alternately cursing, and embracing, the challenge of how she’ll go about solving a mystery without doing much away from home detecting. There is also the challenge of all the new baby gear that people have these days. My youngest is thirty-eight, but luckily, there are two recent babies in the family, and I’m sure the mothers won’t mind advising Aunt Kate on the latest innovations.
So…in closing, a question for our readers: What would you like to see Maine Crime Writers blog about? Process? Where or how we work? Where we get our ideas? We are always eager to hear your suggestions.