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G. P. Gottlieb on Imagining Mysteries Everywhere

G. P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped cozy mystery series. You can find out more about her on her website, or by clicking here, see her last post here, and buy her books here.

I didn’t always see evil lurking around the corner, but since I started writing mysteries, everyone where I go, including on vacations, I imagine an intricate plot, the arc of a story, and a satisfying ending in which world order is preserved.  

Boxes at La Scala

Strolling down a sunny street in Milan, passing fashionable people and color-of-the-season shop windows, I’m a little uncomfortable. A thief could walk by and jab someone with a small knife, steal her purse, and melt into the crowd. I imagine that the young woman was being watched, and now two operatives speed after the mugger while a third operative, dressed as a nurse, finds a tiny thumb drive embedded under the barely surviving woman’s skin. It contains North Korea’s nuclear codes.

Later that evening, we enter La Scala, the world-famous opera house, and head to our box on the first tier. The performance is Lucia di Lammermoor, sung by one of the greatest sopranos of the century. What if the other four people in our box, though middle-aged and dressed fashionably, conspired to murder us after the first act? They could casually leave the box, mingle with the descending horde for a few moments and then slip out the doors into the heart of Milan. We won’t be discovered for over two hours, and the evildoers, who paid for their tickets with one-time-use credit cards issued under false names, have already melted into the night. But we emerge at the end of the opera joyful and satisfied with a magnificent performance, although we’ve just sat on stools for three hours, so we’re a bit sore.

We head south to stay in a chateau nestled against a mountain overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. We’re in the French Riviera, and the view from our room is stunning, but we climb precarious steps up and down to reach everything. The first day, I’m winded by the time we get to the reception office and need to rest before heading down another flight of stairs to our glass-walled room. We sit on our balcony looking out at the dazzling sea, and I’m comforted that only a sharpshooter with high-powered binoculars can reach us from the magnificent villas situated nearly 3000 meters across the valley.

Piemonte Town

But a skilled assassin could check into our grand hotel and casually pass us going up or down the steps as we explore the gardens above and below. Busloads of anonymous tourists go up a different path, and we’re constantly passing strangers. We’d assume an accident if someone got pushed over the precarious railing. I’d scream to alert the crowd, but it’d be too late. What if only I saw the black-clad, either female or slight male figure running from the scene of the attack. What if nobody else thinks that a crime has been committed? Does the murderer know that I saw her/him? There’s only one way people like that take care of witnesses.

Happily, we’ve just returned home from a lovely vacation in Italy. The only drama we encountered was on the stage at La Scala.

All the scenes of chaos and murder took place in my mind as I prepared to make some headway with my fourth Whipped and Sipped mystery. Sadly, I never once looked at my W.I.P. (which is at about 10,000 words, or 1/7th of the way finished) during two weeks in Italy and the south of France.

But, since I continuously imagined murders, assassinations, and brilliant sleuths uncovering bold attempts to take over the world, I consider it a satisfying vacation.

Even though we’re told that THINKING about writing is different from WRITING, I know that I need a few weeks now and then to write about dining in Michelin-starred restaurants or walking holding hands on old, cobblestoned streets with my husband of thirty years. Although I thought about writing while speeding past lush vineyards or stopping at gorgeous bakeries on the Rue Montorgueil in Paris, I let it all slide.

Turns out though, that the only way to write a book is to sit down and write the book!

GP Gottlieb

G.P. Gottlieb is the author of the Whipped and Sipped mystery series, as well as an interviewer on the New Books in Literature channel of the New Books Network podcasts. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, and Facebook.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Great post. Author Bonnar Spring pretty much wrote this type of plot in her wonderful suspense novel of last year called DISAPPEARED, in which a woman’s adult sister disappears in Morocco and there’s a ticking clock to find her. Bonnar Spring based it on her visits to Morocco.

  2. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Galit, I see you took your inner childlike writer with you on your Mediterranean trip. How delightful! I, too, imagine mystery plots, suspects, and how my four detectives would solve the make-believe cases I conjure up just about everywhere I go. Good thing most (some?) people in real life have scruples!

  3. Avatar

    I love it that your imagination never really takes a vacation. You may not have been writing down those imagined plot beats, but you were writing them in your head!

  4. Avatar
    Margaret Mizushima

    It’s hard to give our writers’ minds a vacation. I enjoyed your vacation scenes here, perilous though they were! 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Marie Sutro

    Glad I’m not the only one whose mind tends to wander toward the nefarious and ill fated. Great article!

  6. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    How many of us kind-looking women are actually imagining crimes?

  7. Tracey S. Phillips
    Tracey S. Phillips

    Count me as well! I think it’s just our creative minds on overdrive. Sit down and put those words to paper! You have some great story ideas, Galit!

    1. GP Gottlieb
      GP Gottlieb

      And thanks to Blackbirds for giving me an outlet!

  8. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    Hahaha! I had a conversation with my family that went like this:
    ME: You know when you walk into a bathroom with a lot of closed doors and picture a dead body behind one?
    ME: Fine. That makes my next question moot.
    DAUGHTER: *sigh*
    HUSBAND: What question?
    ME (pouncing on the opportunity): How was it murdered?
    Now when I point to something dark and choked with bramble, my husband just says, “Don’t.”
    I want to read all your Italy assassination stories. Start writing!

  9. GP Gottlieb
    GP Gottlieb

    Now we’re in Colorado, about to drive dark mountain roads back to Denver. The crime possibilities are endless!

  10. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Galit — I’m late to the party (on a book tour in Washington state with my imagination riding shotgun). I agree with the other responders—WRITE! I’m waiting to read what transpires.

  11. Avatar
    Avanti Centrae

    OMG – I do the same thing! Imagining danger around every corner and assassins lurking in hotels. Guess we found our calling, eh?

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