The Truth About Authors
The most common question I get when talking to readers is “Do authors really try out all those sex scenes in their books?” Then the person will lean close and whisper, “I’ve read that shades book.”I always laughed and left the reader with this thought: “No one ever asks me if I’ve tried to kill someone using the method in my cozy mysteries.”Hi, I’m Lynn, and I’m the CEO and President of Snide Comments R Us, a sarcasm self-help group. I’m also the author of the Tourist Trap Mysteries and my sophomore book, Mission to Murder, releases July 31st at fine digital stores everywhere.But getting back to my premise. I hate to break the mystique around our choice of career, but really, most authors are normal people who have voices in their heads. Okay, so not entirely normal, but instead of the voices telling them to murder someone or dress in a flowered muumuu on Flag Day, our voices tell us stories. Stories that haunt and tease us until we give in and sit down at the computer, open a Word document, and prepare to write. Then the voices abandon us.
It’s a crazy life.
So how does a middle-aged schoolteacher write about a police duo that only solves crimes on Tuesdays when the talking dog shows up at the station to clean out the treats from the break room? She or he researches.
Yep, those skills that you learned in high school English on how to use the library are actually useful for a writer. Although I suspect a lot of researching happens online rather than in-house. My Google search would make a budding serial killer jealous. Between checking out murder methods including guns, poisons, and more unusual body disposal methods, I’d flag red if the computer bots that seek out possible domestic threats, as in A Person of Interest, actually existed.
Once I’ve settled on a method, I move to the harder part: figuring out the motivation. It’s not enough just to say the victim was a jerk and he deserved to die. You have to convince your reader that the killer believed taking the victim’s life was the only alternative, come hell or high water.
Sometimes that’s harder than figuring out whom to kill.
South Cove, California, is my fictional tourist town for the Tourist Trap Mysteries. The victims so far in the series, except for Miss Emily in Guidebook, were the type normal people would consider killing if they could get away with it. Take Craig Morgan in Mission to Murder. He’s an arrogant, self-centered jerk who wasn’t very nice to anyone, including his ex-wife, except his Standard Poodle. Fifi, he loved.
This weekend as I drove my ATV around the trails where we like to ride, I worked on my motivation for the latest Tourist Trap book. I had to believe it before I could write the story so someone else would suspend belief and follow me on this crazy trip.
Head work. That’s what makes most authors different from the rest of the population. Even when we’re not thinking about the story, our subconscious is playing with the lines and trying to weave something together that will withstand time and strain.
Our dirty little secret?
Even when we look as if we’re listening to your long, drawn-out story about your vacation in New Orleans, we’re thinking about how cool that setting would be for the next book. Or how much your lips look just like the heroine’s lips.
That’s our secret.
Lynn Cahoon is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Guidebook to Murder. An Idaho native, her stories focus around the depth and experience of small town life and love. Currently she lives in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi where her imagination tends to wander. She is accompanied by her husband and two fur babies.