Saturday, January 17, 2015

Inspiration, Setting, and Reader Enjoyment are Integrally Linked

by M. M. Gornell

My initial inspiration for writing came from--and has been reinforced throughout my life--by all the great mystery authors who have led the way. My earliest memories are of falling in immediate love with Agatha Christie--her style, her plots, her murder methods, her protagonists, her characters, her locations.Christie was my rock star! These days, I am continually inspired and re-energized by the work of P.D. James. (I am an admitted and unashamed anglophile.)

Along with characters, a key ingredient for my enjoyment of a book is being "taken away." For example, with P.D., I just love being transported to her wonderful locations in Britain. And seeing London and environs through the eyes of her protagonist, Adam Dagleish, is marvelous.

For each of my own novels, my inspiration and first kernel of an idea has come from a location that has reached out, grabbed me and wouldn't let go. That sounds a big silly, and it's not the whole story, but truly, so far, I've been inspired to start a story because a location said, "Me, me!" Write about me." From the location, I've then wondered who would have lived there, or come that way. What is their story? In the case of my first published novel, Uncle Sy's Secret--during my many dog walks, a particular place along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail kept calling out, "What a perfect spot for a murder." And in the case of another my books, Lies of Convenience," a near collapsed quonset hut near Route 66 never failed to tug at me. Indeed, Route 66 is my current writing impetus, and I think will hold my imagination for a long time to come. So many stories along the way.

Consequently, I hope my readers are taken away for a few hours into an interesting world that captures and captivates--either because it's so different from theirs, or because they identify with the characters and location. Especially with Route 66 and the desert, I'm hoping that through my characters' senses, the "feels" of the place comes through and grabs them like it did me.

In my mind, story inspiration and reader enjoyment are tied together by setting. Wonderful locations drew me to mystery fiction, and they now inspire me as an author. And creating that "sense of place"--through all the senses--is one of my writing goals. From my writing aspirations comes my most cherished hope--that when readers close  my books, there's a smile on their faces, and thoughts, questions, ideas beyond who the murderer was remain--but most of all--they feel a sense of regret the adventure is over and they have to leave the world of my novel.

(Excerpted from The Mystery Writers where you can read Madeline Gornell's interview and learn more about her.)

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