If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

September Interviews
9/4 Liz Milliron, Heaven Has No Rage
9/11 Marilyn Levinson/Allison Brook, Buried In The Stacks
9/18 Ellen Byron, Fatal Cajun Festival
9/25 Maggie Toussaint, Dreamed It

Saturday Guest Bloggers: 9/14 Debbie De Louise

WWK Bloggers: 9/7 Valerie Burns, 9/28 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology will be released on June 18th.

Congratulations to Margaret S. Hamilton for being a finalist in the Daphne Du Maurier contest. Margaret competes in the Unpublished/Mainstream mystery/suspense category.

Congratulations to Shari Randall for WINNING the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her book, Curses, Boiled Again was published by St. Martin's last year. Read the interview about the book here. Yay, Shari!

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.

James M. Jackson extends the Seamus McCree series with the May 25th publication of #6, False Bottom.


Thursday, October 10, 2013


I recently finished Louise Penny’s eighth and latest book, How the Light Gets In, and I felt frustrated because I had no one to discuss the ending with. I love Penny’s books and each one is better than the last, but maybe it’s because not only her protagonist, but also the characters with all their idiosyncrasies seem real enough to become my friends. So I lay awake thinking about the ending and considered calling my brother-in-law in Tacoma since he’d already read it and enjoyed it, too. But even with the three hour time difference, it was still too late to call him. A few days later my Tacoma sister and I did have an online chat about the ending and where Louise Penny would go with her next book.

Then I got to thinking about her main character, Armand Gamache, and remembered meeting him the first year Louise Penny came to Malice Domestic with her first book, Still Life, What? How could I meet a fictitious character? Well, I did sort of because Louise Penny and her husband were at my table for the beginning of Malice-go-round. She had three minutes to talk about her book and told us about Armand Gamache and how he was based on her husband, not that her husband was Chief Inspector of Quebec’s Surete, but because Gamache had all her husband’s characteristics. The expression on his face as Penny talked about her book was full of pride and love for his wife. Even in the years that followed at other Malice’s I could see the love between the two of them, just like that of Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache. It’s in their expressions and body language.

Although Still Life wasn’t nominated for an Agatha that year, it won numerous other awards, and five of her subsequent books won an Agatha, something no other author has done, and her book The Beautiful Mystery debuted at #2 on the New York Times bestseller list. Because I believe in starting a series at the beginning, I picked Still Life for both of my book clubs and reread them several years apart. I enjoyed it just as much the third time and maybe more because I found clues to the murderer I hadn’t noticed in the first read as well as little things that would turn up in future books.

So next I thought about my main character Catherine Jewell. A lot of people have asked if I based her on someone I knew or if she were me. She’s not really either one totally, but a mixture. When one of my sisters and I collaborated on The Blue Rose, which for years was called Murder at Elmwood Gardens, we decided on a gardening theme since our whole family of six siblings were gardeners. Our youngest sister, Catherine, is a botanist so we gave the protagonist her name and made her a botanist. My sister wanted our Catherine to be in her twenties and a very ambitious person who would expand her horizons into creating gardening businesses and a show on TV or the radio. Within a month I had taken over the writing because we lived too far apart to get together very often, and she still had kids living at home. I didn’t. But I couldn’t get into the head of an ambitious twenty something year old woman, so I aged her to forty. I also gave her a past life before coming to the little town of Portage Falls that was somewhat similar to mine. Catherine lost her husband and only child in an accident ten years before. Because my oldest son had died, I could write realistically about her loss. I am not a botanist, but I can contact my sister for anything I want to know that I can’t find in the many gardening books I have. Although Catherine has a few quirks or beliefs that are mine, for the most part she is a totally fictitious character sprung from my imagination.

I wonder how many other authors, especially of series, can write a protagonist without making them at least a little bit like themselves or like someone they know well even if they switch genders.

How much of your main character is like you?

As a reader, what main character resonates most with who you are?


James Montgomery Jackson said...

The protagonist of my series, Seamus McCree, shares many of my interests, and I never have a problem figuring out how he would say something because he speaks as I speak. However, he is a bit larger than life. So he’s richer, smarter, taller, stronger, faster, and has more hair than I. He is not partnered, but I am. I have two children, Seamus has only one; athough he is special, he is not like either of my children or an even an amalgamation of their best characteristics.

When I read I want the characters to be interesting. I don’t care if they are male or female. I can buy into magic, or special powers, or limitations or almost anything, as long as the character stays in character, but above all they must be interesting.

~ Jim

E. B. Davis said...

I haven't had my MC's abusive background, but since my father was bipolar, I understand having a dysfunctional youth. Abby and I also share a love of champagne and sparking wines, an inquisitive mind for understanding what makes people tick and a fascination for problem-solving to gain peace in our lives. We also believe in spirits and that there is another game being played here on earth that has nothing to do with labor, land and capital. I think she's a bit braver than me. She stands up to many terrifying events that would have me diving under the covers.

Polly Iyer said...

I've had people who know me and read my books tell me they hear me in the dialogue. I'm sure they do, because the characters come from my head, and we can't help leaving our thoughts on the written page. When I write a character, I become them, and their story becomes my story. How else can a writer make it real. I do take traits from people I know, but I doubt they'd know it.

Warren Bull said...

The novel I have waiting at the publisher to be read is based in large part on the childhood of a close friend. I imagined what it would be like to live in the family situation she described to me. My protagonist is like what I imaged she was like at the protagonist's age. I asked her about incidents in her family for the book and she told me a number of them.

Gloria Alden said...

Jim, after meeting you in person at Malice this past spring and also after being one of your blog partners for almost two years, I saw you in Seamus. I don't care if a character is male or female as long as I can relate to them in some way.

E.B. my protagonist is braver than me, too. At least I think so since I've never been in the dangerous situations she gets into although I guess making a rattlesnake get off a trail that I didn't want to leave could be considered brave - or foolish.

I agree with you, Polly, the characters do come from our heads and we do tend to take traits from people we know even if we change the character to suit our purposed.

Judy Hogan said...

I also use myself in my main character, Penny Weaver. She is a poet and a small farmer, but she has a successful love life, and I'm single after two marriages. She is slightly more sarcastic than I am in her voice, which seems to happen naturally. She can also deal with lots of people dropping in, whereas I like to plan things. Judy Hogan

Gloria Alden said...

I see the similarities between you and Penny, Judy. There is an age difference, too, but maybe not when you first started writing Penny. I'd still like to read those earlier books.

Nancy Adams said...

There's always a bit of me in my main characters, but they're always much braver than I. My historical MC is also much more of an extrovert and more apt to take action and help/interfere in other people's lives, whereas I stand back and keep my curiosity in my head (or use it to fuel more stories).

Good questions, Gloria, and a thoughtful post. I, too, am a huge Louise Penny fan.

Kara Cerise said...

Good question, Gloria. My main character is a male cowboy in the late 1800s who rides in a horse race whereas I'm a terrible horseback rider and am allergic to hay. The similarity is that we both have endurance. Thank you for making me think.

Gloria Alden said...

Nancy, I always like hearing from another Louise Penny fan. I think many writers are not near as brave as their main characters. :-) I don't interfere in other people's lives, but I'm very curious about people. I tend to talk to people in line or other places I meet them like waiting for an airplane, etc.
Once in my seat on an airplane, though, I tend to stick my nose in a book.

Kara, as a kid I galloped everywhere on my imaginary horses. I still love horses although the ones I got rather late in life (38 years old) have been downsized to two ponies now. I took falls off the horses I had. I can manage hay when I feed them, but when I would try to help put up hay, I'd break out in a rash and have trouble breathing.

Anonymous said...

The protagonist in my Jesse Damon crime novel series is based on several prison inmates who were locked up at an early age (14-17). Their convictions are violent and fairly serious, or they would have remained in the juvenile justice system. I have stayed in touch with a few of them and they talk pretty freely. Interestingly, none of them has ever claimed that he didn't commit the crime that resulted in the conviction, at least to me. I am also in touch with a few who couldn't make it out on the street and are locked up again, and they keep me up with developments inside the state prisons.

I think they are essential to adding a feeling of authenticity to my writing. It's important to me to present a representation of how difficult it is for these people to survive in society, despite the best of intentions. A lot of people don't think they deserve another chances.

Gloria Alden said...

KM, you have made Jesse Damon so real to me that I get saddened whenever he runs into problems on the outside. I want to make everything workout for him, comfort him and help him in anyway I can. What makes a great character is when the reader can totally emphasize with a character as I do with Jesse. Good writing, KM.