My writing came out of a purely accidental statement. My husband and I share a dream that once retired we will pick a foreign country and rent a home in a small town or village. We will live there for several months and see it as a wonderful way to immerse ourselves in the local culture as well as site seeing. One night my husband, a police detective, was called in on a case and worked all night. Ultimately ruining our plans for the next day. As he was falling asleep, he proceeded to say, “It goes to the retirement dream of living in foreign countries.” I responded, “Yeah and with my luck you’ll end up investigating a crime there, too.” A seed was planted. A story arose, but it took many years for me to finish the final draft in order to be published.
Thinking about which country to choose for a book, developing characters, and ultimately how the murder(s) take place is the life blood of mystery writers. Places my husband and I have visited are a starting point. Since starting my first book, whenever I’m in a foreign country, I take notes on foods served, architecture, scenery, cars, and people I’ve met that make complex characters. Some friends have asked to be characters as suspects, victims, witnesses, even murderers. Maybe I should be more concerned about the people I hang around with.
The joy of writing about travel and exploring another country’s customs, food, myths, and history is fun and exciting. However, it brings with it challenges.
My two main characters are always the outsiders. Either because they don’t speak the language, or they’re viewed as foreigners. That can lead to misinterpretation of people’s motives, the validity of the information being shared, or where a character’s beliefs are coming from. No matter what the belief, it does require respect in how it’s presented, so I spend a great deal of time in how I write it in. Also, how the characters become involved in the investigation, how official police information is shared, and how evidence is collected must be believable.
Fun is derived from using the misinterpretations to misdirect readers in the form of a ‘red herring’. Information can come from an unlikely sources, such as a ‘physic goat’. Also, the fact that much of the dialogue reflects the interplay I have with my husband, dialogue flows relatively easy. My husband is my ‘expect’ on procedure and evidence gathering. Much of his training early in his career was ‘old school’ which helps with the reality that small or remote communities don’t have the budget for the latest technology or high-priced equipment. Basic police work solves the crime or gathering forensic information. Whether that’s the retired detective in the story or his partner/wife.
If the main characters get something wrong or misunderstand, it can be used to tease out other’s reactions as a catalyst for moving the story along, setting a mood, or uncovering motivations. I love nothing more than watching a movie or television program and seeing a place I’ve been to. It floods me with positive memories and a longing to return.
I’m curious as to your favorite travel locations with or without the murder plots.