It’s the question I invariably get about my fiction: How much of it is true? I believe it’s an honest question, and I will give an honest answer. Certainly, people, especially those who know me personally, might speculate about my new mystery, Chasing the Case.
But let me back up a bit and say that I have been inspired by people and places I have met. That includes the rural hill towns of Western Massachusetts, in particular Worthington, where my family and I lived for twenty-five years. I even set the mystery in a town called Conwell, a name that has a connection to Worthington. But is it really Worthington? Nah.
There are other nahs in Chasing the Case.
A woman did not disappear from a hill town of thousand people 28 years ago. I made that up.
I will admit there is a lot of me in the protagonist Isabel Long. The mystery is written in the first person, so I couldn’t help myself there. We’re both nosy, sassy women. But she’s a widow and I’m not. She has three kids and I have six. She got canned when her newspaper went corporate. I didn’t. And after leaving the newspaper biz, I haven’t become an amateur P.I. as she did. Frankly, I am not that brave.
As for the other characters, I do model Isabel’s 92-year-old mother, her Watson, after my own mystery-loving mom. (She was amused.) But my mother doesn’t live with me. Isabel’s three kids are inspired by a few of my own. Yeah, there’s a lot of my own spouse in Isabel’s late husband.
But the rest? The characters – from the missing woman’s family to the gossipy men in the general store’s back room to the clients at the bar where Isabel works part-time to the bar’s owner – are made up. I repeat: they are made up.
I once had a New York agent who wanted me to write a tell-all nonfiction book about my life in Worthington – something on the order of Peyton Place. He read the first couple of chapters and wanted a whole lot more dirt. But I couldn’t do it. I loved the people and the town too much.
So instead I write fiction. I use what I’ve experienced, as I’ve said before, and have my way with it. I believe this is true of many or most fiction writers.
The previous novel I published – The Sweet Spot – centered on a scandal involving the young widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam eight years and her married brother-in-law. Did it happen? Nah.
But I’d like to think I wrote it with enough authenticity that one could believe it happened. The same goes for Chasing the Case.
Chasing the Case officially launched on 18 May 2018. Here’s the link to order a Kindle version or buy the paperback: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase