Wednesday, January 20, 2010

author guest post: anne canadeo

As part of the tour for Knit, Purl, Die, Anne Canadeo took the time to answer the question, "How do you continue to come up with fresh plots for the series?"

I do love writing a series because I get very attached to the characters and can always think of something else that might happen to them. Black Sheep Mystery series is just starting off, so I don’t have any problem coming up with different situations that place this group of intrepid knitters at the scene of a crime. If the series continues for a few years (we can dream, can’t we?) I’d expect that devising plots will be more challenging.

Sometimes I begin with a setting or situation that captures my imagination. One I instinctively sense will hook readers, because it hooks me. In the third book which is just the outline stage now, (A Stitch Before Dying) the Black Sheep decide to go away for the weekend to a spa in Vermont. I thought I could have a lot of fun with this concept, showing the characters on a girls-only outing. The closest I’ve ever come was entertaining my high school friends for a weekend last summer. Husbands, children and house pets were banished. My home is not quite a spa, but we do live near the beach. We ate good food, drank an appropriate amount of wine and everyone had an amazing time. I suppose the underlying theme of all the Black Sheep books, aside from the joys of knitting and solving mysteries, is exploring the bonds of female friendship. The spa setting seemed like an ideal setting to play that out. Of course, unlike my mini-reunion, a dead body - or two - turns up and the Black Sheep go from meditating to investigating.

Some writers are very plot oriented. I’m more focused on character. I think a lot about each character’s personality – their personal histories, psychology, relationships, life goals and challenges – and usually find that a good story evolves from there. Even a mystery. As Henry James said, "Character is plot."

For Knit, Purl, Die, I started with a simple situation, a striking image that would be the centerpiece of the mystery. A member of the knitting group who works in real estate, is showing a house to prospective buyers and she finds a body floating in the swimming pool.

The question becomes, who is this dead person and why/how did they meet this grisly ending?
My next task was to develop the character of Gloria Sterling, the lovely corpse. I had some idea who she would be – rich, attractive, assertive. But I really ended up loving her and totally enjoyed writing about her, especially the part of her life she kept hidden from her friends. She turned out to be a complicated, charming, larger than life woman. The dark side of Gloria’s character becomes the path of the investigation for the Black Sheep. Unfortunately, I find that the characters who get killed off are often the most fun to write about and regret that I can’t bring them back to life for future books.

I guess it’s really hard to say where story ideas come from. When a good one comes along, I just feel it. Tracing back my steps and trying to figure out how I got from A to B doesn’t seem to help much when it’s time to write the next outline. It’s largely an unconscious process. Part of the magic...and/or frustration...of the process.

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