Thursday, August 12, 2010
Dean James (Miranda James), Guest Blogger
Readers are often curious about the origin of a writer’s ideas, so I thought I would talk about the origins of my new “Cat in the Stacks” series and how I developed the characters, the setting, and the plot.
First, a bit of information about me. I’m a librarian (specialty, cataloging) in the Texas Medical Center in Houston. I have two cats, both elderly now. I read a lot of mysteries, along with non-fiction (history, biography) and romance (chiefly historical). I’ve also worked, either part-time or full-time, in a mystery bookstore for the past twenty-six years.
Now, onto the ideas part …. The basic idea for this new series came from my editor at Berkley Prime Crime. She suggested I think about a series with a librarian and a cat. I had actually been thinking for a while about writing a series with a librarian detective, and the addition of a cat to the mix was no hardship. I knew right away that the cat in the series would be a Maine coon, because they’re unusual, and very striking, cats, and I knew I would call him Diesel. The very first Maine coon I ever saw was named Diesel, and he weighed about forty pounds (very large even for a Maine coon) and sounded like a diesel engine when he purred. That Diesel has long since gone to pet heaven, but in tribute to him I created a literary version.
Next came the librarian. I wanted someone older, with some life experience, so I decided to make Charlie Harris, the main character, roughly my age (fifty when the series begins). I also made him a cataloger like me, but also with considerable administrative experience. Without really thinking much about it, I knew Charlie was a widower, with grown children. (It’s just a lot easier for an amateur sleuth to run around and detect without having to check-in with a partner all the time.)
There you have it – how one simple suggestion “a librarian with a cat” grew into a book and, I sincerely hope, a long-running series of mysteries. I’m about to finish the second book in the series, and I thought, What if Charlie’s son turns up, saying he’s quit his job and wants to stay with Dad for a while? And what if an eccentric wealthy book collector is murdered? Stay tuned….
Thank you, Dean. And, I think you know, we're all looking forward to the return of Charlie and Diesel. We'll stay tuned!
Murder Past Due by Miranda James. Berkley Prime Crime, ©2010. ISBN 9780425236031 (paperback), 304p.