Saturday, March 8, 2014

Guest C. Hope Clark: Writing Mystery with an Agent in the House

When I got this guest blog I avidly read through it. I do so want to be on that porch sipping bourbon with Clark and her husband! See if you agree. (Her third book has just come out, also check out her awesome newsletter mentioned below.)

Writing a Mystery with a Federal Agent in the House

By C. Hope Clark

   I married a federal agent. We met on a bribery investigation. I was the person offered the bribe, to set the record straight . . . not the other way around. We set up a sting, hidden recording devices, even a hidden camera. Didn’t catch the guy. Frankly, I don’t think he had the money, but Feds get anal about bribing a federal official, so they go through the motions in a very serious manner.
          It got tense. It got dangerous. It grew into more than we expected. People got mad. Some questioned if I’d made it up. Years later, that controversy propelled me nicely up the career ladder, much like my protagonist, but during that roller coaster ride, I became rather fond of that agent, who became rather fond of me.
          Today, in my efforts to write mysteries, he comes in handy as we sit on the back porch playing out scenarios. He can also be a pain in the butt. 

          The first book in The Carolina Slade Mystery Series, Lowcountry Bribe, was based upon how hubby and I met, only I embellished, inserting murder, kidnapping and considerably more mayhem. As I fleshed out Carolina Slade and her special federal agent Wayne Largo, hubby became my sounding board. He taught me about weapons, blood spatter, and how a chase scene might play out. But invariably in my storytelling effort, he’ll say, “A real agent wouldn’t do that.”
          “It’s fiction, sweetie,” I say. “Are you telling me this cannot happen?”
          “No, I guess it could happen, but if I were the agent it wouldn’t. Too risky,” he says. “I wouldn’t allow a CI (cooperating individual) of mine to take those chances.”
          “But the CI is the protagonist. She’s the main character, not the agent.”
          “Just saying, an agent wouldn’t let her get in trouble.”
          I sigh. “Well, humor me. She’s the heroine. The agent is the sidekick here.”
          He sighs and shakes his head. “Just saying . . .”
          And so it goes.
          Palmetto Poison is the third book in the Carolina Slade Mystery Series. Slade is still partnered with Special Agent Largo, and they’ve been through a lot. Hubby’s mighty proud of my books, I might add. Still, we regularly sit on the porch with bourbon in hand, often playing out scenes to go in the next book.
          “We can’t do that,” I’ll say sooner or later. “It ruins the tension. I need more danger and suspense.”
          “But it’s stupid,” he’ll say. “A real agent wouldn’t do that.”
          I sigh as always. “But sweetie, Slade has to solve the case, not Wayne. And she has to stumble along the way.”
          “Wayne’s a pansy, then,” he says. “If I were the agent, none of this would happen.”
          “Exactly,” I say. “And there’d be no book.”
          “Hmph,” he says. “So what happens next?”

BIO – C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series by Bell Bridge Books. The third, Palmetto Poison, was released in February. Hope is also editor of, where her newsletters are read by 45,000 readers.


Patricia Gligor's Writers Forum said...

Well, C, I guess your story proves that there's a positive side and a negative side to just about everything in life - and writing.
I'm definitely putting "Palmetto Poison" on my TBR list.

Hope Clark said...

Patricia - thanks so much! There're always two sides. It just depends on which side you want to be on! LOL He's adapted, though. Still chuckles at Slade's mishaps but tells me he wouldn't let those things happen.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Hope,

So nice to learn more about you and your work. I enjoy reading your newsletter and I'm certain many fellow authors do as well. Best wishes. Wishing you much success with the new novel.

Hope Clark said...

Thanks so much for saying so, Jacqueline. I appreciate the support.

Kaye George said...

Thanks so much for posting today,Hope! You have such a natural setup for mysteries. I have a similar critic my house, but he's not a federal agent!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Hope, kudos. Being married to a federal agent would freeze me faster than a popsicle because I'm one of those people who has to get everything right ;) Good for you for telling him IT'S FICTION. Thank goodness, I'm married to an engineer who prefers nonfiction Palmetto Poison sound great. When and if I ever get caught up again, I want to read it! Have enjoyed your last two books

Hope Clark said...

Oh, my husband doesn't read, Donnell. But he sure loves telling me what to write about! LOL Just tonight I was trying to explain subplot to him. He didn't see the point. He thought just focusing on the crime was all the thrill a reader needed. He's a good sounding board, but sometimes a frustrating one. Thanks for reading Carolina Slade. I enjoyed reading your Deadly Recall. Your latest is on my TBR list.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I loved this post because it mirrors the lectures I get from a member of my critique group who's an ex-cop. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "It wouldn't happen that way in real life."

Luckily, I'm not writing real life, so I do it my way. :D