Why Write A Mystery Novel
As an author or co-author of a couple of business books and many chapters, articles, and white papers on professional topics, I am sometimes asked, “Whatever made you want to write a detective story?” I suppose I could answer the question in a number of different ways, but the main reason, as you can see in my short bio, is that I have always thought of myself as a Nancy Drew wannabe – she was my avatar.
Nancy was independent and used her sharp mind to solve problems. At a time (the ‘50s) when women could aspire to be nurses, teachers, secretaries or perhaps stewardesses – for those who wanted a bit of adventure – Nancy was a breath of fresh air. (I couldn’t bring myself to read the Sue Barton or the Cherry Ames series). She was a leader among her friends; including her somewhat inept boyfriend, Ned Nickerson, and always managed to bring things to a successful conclusion. Although my friends and I recognized that Nancy’s situation was far from realistic (her conveniently widowed and generous father provided her with a snazzy roadster and apparently limitless funds and freedom); we all wanted to be her some day. Even now, when I meet an accomplished woman over the age of 45, it’s not unusual for her to cite Nancy as a childhood heroine. In my generation, heroines were few and far between. Eleanor Roosevelt, Marian Anderson, and perhaps Golda Meier were living examples of what women could accomplish. After that short list, we would turn to Wonder Woman and Nancy if we wanted to find a female character who was both smart and courageous.
The idea of writing a mystery novel first came to me about twenty years ago. I was on a plane and was working on my laptop – a new activity for business travel then. I wrote an outline of a story with an internal consultant as the protagonist, sketched out a few pages; then the battery died. Some time later, when the thought of it next surfaced, the file seemed to have evaporated and I couldn’t remember enough about the idea to redo it.
A couple of decades on, my dear friend and colleague, Bev Scott, asked me to co-write the second edition of her book, Consulting on the Inside (ASTD Press – link!) For a number of months I ate, drank, and slept the life of an internal consultant – a role I had lived for a number of years, but which had, at first, seemed to be in the distant past. As I read and wrote; especially as I reviewed the interviews with people who were currently in that role, I remembered more and more of my own experiences. When the book was finished, I missed the discipline of writing. Having gotten so far inside the internal consulting role once again, I began to reconsider the idea of the internal consultant as detective. At about the same time, I happened to be having lunch with a former client who was currently consulting inside a small division of a large company. She regaled me with stories about her clients – no names, of course – and ended one by saying, “I think if she had had a weapon, there would have been blood on the conference room floor!” Something clicked in the back of my mind and I knew I had to get started.
Many hours of mentoring by my daughter, a writer of young adult fiction, and a wonderful Book Passage Mystery Writers’ Conference gave me the motivation to move ahead. Friends read and critiqued it; my newly formed writing group encouraged me. My schedule in the past year was full of long flights, often with access to electricity so battery life was not an issue. Suddenly the project took on a life of its own; a parallel life with my Barnes & Conti work. So here we are. The next book in the series, Murder on Retreat, was published in late 2014. Other adventures may be taking place in the particular part of the multiverse inhabited by Sarah and her colleagues, friends and family. They have become a part of my life and I hope they’ll find a place in yours as well.
They say that learning a new language is a great way to keep your brain in shape at my age. For me, learning to write fiction is like learning a new language. I find it more difficult and challenging than writing business and professional books, but it is also great fun. I hope, if you’ve read this far, that you will share the new paths that you’re exploring and contribute ideas both for this blog and for future books.