Welcoming Patricia Driscoll, mystery writer, probation officer today. (I try to stay on the right side of the law!)
I’d like to thank Camille Minichino for inviting me to be a guest on her blog. After all, I hold Camille partly responsible for getting me involved in this crazy world of mystery writing. Several years ago, I interrupted her while she was taking a quiet break on the patio during the Book Passage Mystery Conference. I asked her to sign my newly purchased copy of “The Nitrogen Murders,” and from there a conversation was born.
What am I working on/writing?
I’m working on the final edits of my sequel to “Shedding Light on Murder.” The working title is “Shedding Light on Evil.” The setting is an antique lamp store called Pearl’s which is located in a Cape Cod village. The lamp shop is inspired by a real lamp store in Yarmouth Port, where my mother worked for 27 years. It’s a very unique store, with beautiful lamps, mostly glass oil lamps that the owners have refurbished and repaired. They also make shades out of gorgeous papers and fabrics. A nice setting for a cozy mystery.
How does my writing/work differ from others in its genre?
As far as I know, there aren’t any other probation officers or former probation officers writing mysteries. Grace Tolliver, my protagonist, is a former probation officer who has decided to give up her career to take over Pearl’s lamp shop. My experience as a probation officer for San Francisco Adult Probation, gave me exposure to the entire criminal justice system. I like to say that the police have the excitement of the chase, the lawyers the drama of the courtroom, and the probation officers the less than glamorous years spent working with the defendants on a personal basis. P.O.’s visit defendant’s homes, and meet their families, all in an effort to keep them from re-offending. Experience with issues such as drugs and alcohol, mental health, domestic violence, stalking, gangs, sex abuse, robbery, burglary etc. give the probation officer an up close and personal understanding of the criminal, their motivations and desires. I also interviewed several murderers who were never going to be granted probation, but by law, are entitled to a pre-sentence report. All fodder for mystery writing.
Why do I write what I do?
I spend a lot of time on Cape Cod, as my family lives there. I chose the setting for my books first. I’m inspired by the Cape, a unique place surrounded by water, filled with historic homes, dirt roads that disappear into groves of shrub pines, hidden lakes, and ponds known only to the locals and what I like to think of as curious nooks and crannies. It struck me as a perfect setting for mystery. I write cozies despite my background working with real life offenders, who are anything but cozy.
How does my writing process work?
Since Grace Tolliver is an amateur sleuth I feel that it’s important to have a reason for her to get involved in a case, so I start with that. In “Shedding Light on Murder,” Grace is directly involved because an employee of hers is accused of the murder of a customer, who has been hit over the head with a lamp. (Of course!)
In the sequel, Grace discovers a body floating in a pool, while hiking with the merry widows hiking group. The murdered man is the godson of Bella, Grace’s friend and employee. Bella makes it clear, in no uncertain terms, that Grace will help her find the killer.
Then, I set out the general story line, keeping in mind the basics of novel writing such as acts, characters arcs, and plot twists. I figure out who did the crime, and how the case is solved. I loosely outline the first few chapters. As the story develops, often in ways that surprise me, I make the necessary changes. When I get stuck, I take a long, hard walk up and down the hills in my neighborhood. For some reason, this always works and I get much needed exercise as well!