Friday, August 14, 2009

Where Do They Come From?

Emeralds and Espionage came from "place." Walking the golf course with my husband in the early morning mist one morning, a story began to form and over the next few months, it became so clear I finally wrote it down. My characters came much like Anna's - clearly with all their baggage and personality. Since terrorism had begun to surface in the news, it seemed natural to make them Interpol agents fighting terrorism.

When I finished the manuscript, I was blessed to go to a writer's conference at BYU-Hawaii and as we flew over the volcano in a helicopter, Pearls and Peril's outline came to life. Everything we did, every where we went became the places for Bart and Allison's honeymoon perils. I had started a short story titled "The Island" and I incorporated the house and island and Kat from that into the portion when Allison was kidnapped.

An article in the travel section of the Los Angeles Times reporting the grand opening of the Museum of Modern Art and a diamond exhibit created the setting and story line for Diamonds and Danger. I had killed off the bad guy in Pearls, but everyone thought he was such a great villian that I resurrected him for Diamonds.

I had such fun with place and setting on those books that I stuck to the formula: pick a location, research it, visit, discover the history, explore it extensively, then throw my characters into the mix with a problem to solve. Someone had been kidnapped by terrorists somewhere in the world and held for ransom, so I figured the Three Tenors were definitely worth a huge ransom and Anastasia should be the group to save them in Turquoise and Terrorists. The mystical aura of the area lent itself to Allison's talents and connection with her father. My husband and his mother had a spiritual connection - she knew when he was in trouble. It was a natural thing for me to gift Allison with a similar (though more pronounced) gift.

Interntaional smugglers made headlines about the time I was ready for a new location. I've always been intrigued by Siam and the exotic Far East, so my next trip was to be to Thailand and Sri Lanka and incorporate those problems for my characters to solve. I love this book because I loved the possibility that while Allison was searching for her husband and pretending to be the wife of a fellow agent, she is thrown from a frightened elephant and has amnesia. Through all the mechanizations of Oz who has always been in love with her, she stays true to her husband. Several of the events in this book came about because my traveling children had things happen to them there and they became part of the story.

Amethysts and Arson came about because of a single tiny two paragraph filler in the newspaper reporting churches in the south had been burned to cover up robberies. The police had found a cache of the stolen goods, but none of the said churches claimed an antique amethyst altar cross. Voila. My active imagination conjured up an entire book around that!

And throughout all of them, a gem had to be included. Emeralds is my favorite stone so that was the first one. Pearls fit Hawaii. Diamonds for the exhibit in San Francisco, turquoise, of course, for Santa Fe, amethysts for the stolen cross, and sapphires come from Thailand and Sri Lanka.

I went to a gem and mineral show to find an amethyst ring (I have a ring for each of my books) and found a lovely little malachite lion. I love malachite! So I e-mailed JoAnn Jolley and said my new book was going to be Malachite and Murder. Did she like that title? She said yes. No problem with it. I wrote the book about this little lion, using some of the travel experiences and places from Amethysts in the south. When I submitted the book, I was told I had to change the name - murder had not appeared in any LDS book titles and Covenant wasn't going to be the first to do it. No matter that Susan Evans McCloud had a great book entitled "Murder by the Sea." So I had to change the gem to Jade. But again, in this book, location and place heavily affect the story.

I was born and raised in Idaho - an hour's drive from opal mines - and never knew they were there! One of my very good friend's father actually was half-owner of one of the big mines up there and I had no idea. So when I discovered that, of course, Opals and Outrage became the next book set in my own backyard. Osama bin Laden was in the news, so he became the epitome of the terrorists bad guys Bart and Allison had to vanquish. One of my favorite characters ever is Injun in this book. Again, because of the location, he had to be there. The Clarence in the story is fashioned after my uncle.

Bear with me - only two more! Rubies and Rebels was born in Armenia while we were on our mission. 9-11 happened while we were there which influenced this book. I loved the monasteries we were privileged to tour so I peopled this book with real live characters from Armenia and had the action take place in some of our favorite haunts.

Topaz and Treachery came from our tour of Italy and cruise of the Greek Islands. Everywhere we went, I could visualize Bart and Allison pretending to be tourists and making themselves available for some unknown person to pass them the precious Topaz stones from Elizabeth's necklace. Again, history was a huge part of this book, so I was able to incorporate lots of actually historical data and people.

And that - in a rather large nutshell, is where my ideas and characters come from. Maggie McKenzie is another story for another time. :) I'm looking forward to hearing from the rest of you on this fascinating subject. Thanks for asking, Gale!


Nancy Campbell Allen said...

So, so cool! I love behind the scenes stories. Thanks for sharing that!

Cheri J. Crane said...

It is fun to learn the inspiration behind your books. Way cool. ;)