Writers are often told, “write what you know.” For years I did not follow that advice, but rather wrote about things I didn’t know and therefore could enjoy learning about through research and interviews. Then, one day it came to me that I wanted to write using some of the crazy things that had happened to me during a nine-year stint with a rural weekly newspaper. Hired because I was a writer with plenty of clips, not because I had any idea about journalism, I set about finding stories.
One would think that living in the “boonies” of the Arkansas Ozarks, not much would happen, but I soon learned that wasn’t true at all. As a result, I can draw on a multitude of experiences and characters I met during those years in writing fiction. So, the question was, what genre would be best suited for these new books? I settled quickly on mystery/suspense, and since I’m branded sexy, dark, and gritty, there’d have to be some pretty hot love scenes tucked in between dark murders and gritty mayhem.
For the first in the series, which I decided to title by twisting the titles of Edgar Allan Poe, a fortuitous decision, since I was later able to obtain blurbs from Christopher Allan Poe. I’m a firm believer in serendipity, especially where writing is concerned. If we open up to all possibilities, then all of them come to us. So a mystery I had played around with earlier became The Purloined Skull, twisting Poe’s title The Purloined Letter. My stories do not twist Poe’s tales, but are original ideas with a bit of darkness and paranormal added for fun.
In that first book, I used a man who lived in a cave near the small town where I worked. He became a pivotal character whose name I changed even though he was deceased.
Townsfolk had many strange stories to tell about Caveman Jake. I also used a fellow I knew quite well, who grew marijuana because he couldn’t make a living for his family growing row crops to sell. I had so much fun writing the opening scene where Jessie West, the reporter (yes, probably me in another life) deals with him after his dogs dig up some bones that turn out to be human.
After that book was published, I decided to continue the series since it had been so satisfying to write. The second book I set around what was known in our part of the woods as the SEFOR plant, the abandoned Southwest Experimental Fast Oxide Reactor. This spooky place plays a big part in the mysteries of The Tell-Tale Stone that include two murders and a thirty-year-old diamond heist from which the diamonds are still missing.
The next book of this series is titled The Pit and The Penance and I have plenty of characters to fill it with as well as a ready-made plot. All I’ll need is a murder most foul. Only one murder actually occurred while I worked for the paper, and it was such a big headliner that the dailies covered it. I may use it someday, who knows? The manhunt is an exceptionally exciting and satisfying tale.
Because I worked less than 30 miles from the Oklahoma border and the Cherokee reservation, as well as having descended from Cherokee great grandparents, I created a hero, Dallas Starr, who is a Cherokee lawman, a burned out ex-narc who has come to Grace County, Arkansas to find peace. So he signs on as the new crime scene investigator for the Grace County Sheriff’s Department. Is he in for a surprise. Oh, and he has special powers which he inherited from his grandfather. A psychic ability to touch the spirits of those involved in violence, both the living and the dead.
In my time with the newspaper I’ve held and petted a 30 foot long reticulated python, played with white tigers who lived in a wilderness rescue park, flown with barnstormers, in Fifi, the last B29 still flying, in a glass helicopter, and took a flying lesson in a Cessna. I interviewed America’s first spaceman, Joe Kittinger, not once, but twice and flew with him as well. His story is breathtaking. Here’s a link: http://www.history.com/news/joe-kittingers-death-defying-leap-from-the-edge-of-space
Other people I’ve interviewed and who will appear sooner or later in my mysteries are Al Houser, the first Apache baby born to Geronimo’s people, known as the Fort Sill Apaches, after they were released from captivity. Then there was the couple who lived so deep in the woods it took me half a day to find them in the breath-taking beauty of the Ozark wilderness. She had never been off the place and he only once when he was drafted. The war ended before he was called up. This couple had been married 75 years and some of the stories they told were priceless. Today they are buried just up the hill from the house they lived in all their lives.
So, perhaps it is understandable why I’ve turned to writing what I know after all these years of spending months researching what I didn’t know. It’s been quite a journey, either way you look at it.
Blurb: Dallas Starr and Jessie West work to solve a pair of grisly murders while searching for stolen diamonds and pursuing their favorite pastime…finding love in all the unusual places.
Bio: Recently Velda Brotherton moved out of her comfort zone, writing western historical romance, to begin a mystery series, A Twist of Poe, the books based loosely on her experiences working for nine years with a rural weekly newspaper. She has been writing for close to 30 years, and besides mysteries her work runs the gamut from regional nonfiction to mainstream fiction about strong women who persevere no matter the challenges. Other genres include paranormal and horror. Her brand, sexy, dark, and gritty serves her well in all her endeavors, giving her audience what they expect from her, no matter the genre. Brotherton lives in the Ozarks with her husband and near her daughter. She has set several of her more recent fiction novels there.