By Connie Chappell
Many years ago, I remember saying to a friend that I thought I had a book in me. A lot of time passed, but that book got written. I needed that time for seasoning and gaining personal experience, which allow me to create characters that are rich and round and true.
Today, I’m the author of four novels with a fifth on the way. Wild Raspberries (2015) and Proper Goodbye (2016) are companion novels. These two books introduced me to the creation of literary fiction after I thrived for several years in the mystery genre, my first love. My Wrenn Grayson Mysteries series was launched in 2016, with Deadly Homecoming at Rosemont followed by Designs on Ivy’s Locket in 2017. In October 2018, Lily White Lie is scheduled for release.
The construction of a mystery holds my values as a writer to the centerline. It is my job to keep the reader on track and riveted to solving the mystery.
I taught myself the tenets of mystery-building by deconstructing other mysteries—in short, crossing over to read like a writer. The benefits of this practice only went so far.
Within a few chapters of my first mystery, I developed my own process, one I named “writing in layers.” I build a mystery through the construction of thin layers. This allows me to keep moving from the beginning to the end of the mystery quickly and repeatedly so story intricacies are not forgotten. I also keep the story’s outline up to date. The outline is a combination of road map and synopsis.
My first three Wrenn Grayson mysteries created 65 locations and 158 characters populating my fictional town of Havens, Ohio. All these locations and characters resulted in extensive recordkeeping in various forms. I use spreadsheets, file after file of written descriptions for returning characters, and town maps prepared by my graphic designer, Me! These maps, color-coded by book, are uploaded to my website. The map pertaining to my upcoming release will be printed in the book with a full-color digital image in the electronic version.
I am currently working on two novels: Summers Only, a companion book to Proper Goodbye, and Wrenn Grayson’s fourth mystery, Honeysuckle Blue Revenge.
I also have a third novel completed and “stewing.” I often put a novel away for a while, so I can return to it with fresh eyes. Later this year, I plan to stir and probably spice up Summer At Home, a piece of literary fiction that creates one of those amusing family messes we all love and put my talent for character creation into play once more. I miss my characters for weeks after they’ve gone into stewing mode.
Putting the recordkeeping habits and color-coded maps aside, I rise without benefit of an alarm clock at the quiet hour of four every morning to build a layer or two on one fictional foundation or another. This time before dawn is mine. The routine never falters. A dedicated writer does what she must to bring a story to a worthy conclusion.