Kathleen Kaska (Fifth Saturday Blogger)
Do you listen to friends, family, or readers who give you ideas for your next mystery?
I have a long list of historic hotels, recommended by folks who read my series, for my next book. I’d have to live way into the next century to write a Sydney Lockhart mystery about every one of those hotels. But I still love hearing about these places. Each one has a unique story to tell: the ghost who lives in room 315; the infamous gambler who was murdered in the lounge; the blockbuster movie that was filmed there back in the fifties.
Occasionally, an enthusiastic fan or friend will suggest a plot for my next story, and some trouble my wacky protagonist could get into. Though I always take note, rarely do these suggestions find their way into my books. I’m a Pantster and planning what will happen doesn’t work for me—usually.
Early one recent morning, I received a phone call (yes, a real phone call—no text; no email) and by chance I actually had my phone on. It was my dear friend, talented wildlife photographer, and fellow birder, Wendy McSwain. Right away, I could tell she was excited about something. I figured she’d spotted a least bittern. Background: we’d just spent five days in Texas, birding along the coast searching for that illusive bird, which had recently been seen at a local birding haunt. If you’re a birder, you know that much of the time is spent quietly watching and waiting. While staring into the cattails one morning, Wendy wanted to know what trouble I had in store for a recurring character named Ruth in the next mystery I was currently working on. Ruth is the wacky sidekick who gives my protagonist, Sydney, nightmares. So far, all I’d come up with was a new boyfriend who was a pilot. He was teaching Ruth to fly. A little seed must have sprouted in Wendy’s brain, ergo her phone call just mentioned. While Wendy talked, I took notes. Her ideas were brilliant. I’m going to use them. They even spill into my next next mystery, which works wonderfully in a series. Murder at the Menger is only twenty-five percent complete, but the dedication page is already written.