Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Mystery Writer as Expert by Mar Preston

What happens when an idea for a book strikes and won't leave you alone? What if it's something you know nothing about? Such as banjo picking, as in the second book of my second series set in the tranquil mountain town where I live in Central California?

I heard a blue grass band and saw my fictional Detective Stafford of the Kern County Sheriff’s Department clear as daylight. The music  set my toes tapping, my mind dancing, and my little ears going ping, ping, ping with a new idea!

For Rip-Off  set in Santa Monica I read Chechen newspapers in English for three years and everything else I could find on the people in this fascinating, war-torn country. For my third Dave Mason mystery I drove to Riverside, some hundred plus miles away, to talk to a cop about Kurds living in Turkey.

 And it's just background because both books take place in Santa Monica.

 I marvel at Christopher Meek's book, Love at Absolute Zero We met and started talking at the Ventura County Book fair and traded books when buyers were few. I was hooked within a few pages, couldn't wait to finish it. One of those.

 Christopher Meeks is an English professor at Santa Monica College, not a physicist writing what he knows. You wouldn't know that reading this book. Large dollops of quantum physics appear in digestible and even enjoyable hunks.

Meeks insisted he knew nothing about physics but he had an idea and he learned what he needed to convince the reader he was a scientific naïf  who sets out to find his soul mate using the scientific method, within three days.

What would a storyteller do nowadays without the Internet where you can read about your idea in ever-widening circles? And when are you simply procrastinating the writing by contacting yet one more expert?

Part of the joy of writing mysteries is entitlement it gives you to ask nosy questions and poke your nose down all strange rat holes.

What's the strangest research quest you've ever embarked on? 


Pat Browning said...

Help! What is the title of the book set in Kern County? I'm always on the lookout for books set in the great Central San Joaquin Valley, and this one sounds right up my alley.

C. M. Albrecht said...

You could have watched "Deliverance" a couple of times. Banjo pickin' at its best.

Mar Preston said...

Silly me, Pat. The title is Payback and it is set in the mountain town where I live overlooking the valley, Pine Mountain Club. Do you know it?

Of course only nice people live here who rarely contemplate dismemberment.