What characters in the mystery/suspense genre inspired you?
I’m a big fan of traditional English mysteries and have always loved Agatha Christie’s characters, particularly Tommy and Tuppence. I also love Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse and Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn. The more modern mystery characters I like are Martha Grimes’ Inspector Richard Jury and his friend Melrose Plant, and Nancy Martin’s Blackbird sisters series.
What's the best advice you've been given as a writer?
Stephen King’s On Writing has probably had the most influence on me, although I don’t know if you can call it advice. What struck me was how he likes to put his characters into terrible situations and then see how they get out of them. This is what I always strive to do while writing, although there are times when I don’t see how they can get out of the situation. But so far, they have managed to figure something out. Let’s hope that trend continues!
I’ve always read mysteries, starting with the Bobsey Twins. However, when I was 10, one of my friends was murdered and buried in a cornfield next to my house. I’m from a farming village of 600 people, so you can imagine how it rocked our world. (The perp was caught quickly, the sociopathic grandson of the lady who lived down the street). At 10, I wasn’t smart enough to feel frightened, but it did make me curious about the psychology of killers.
My mystery, Portrait of a Dead Guy, takes place in a small town, but the murder I knew from childhood isn’t represented here. I actually got the idea of an artist having to paint a coffin portrait after my father’s funeral. My Cherry Tucker mysteries take a more humorous look at small town crimes. Perhaps the grisly murder I knew from childhood made me curious, but I feel unable to put such a gruesome crime into a story.
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