Monday, November 30, 2009

Meet Flora Vastine

Flora Vastine warranted no more than a few paragraphs in Something in Common, the first of the Sticks Hetrick mysteries.

Of course she wasn’t a police officer then and was only filling a minority role in that novel. In fact, I didn’t even see her as a recurring character at the time. In Cruel Cuts I had need of both another protégé for Hetrick and a love interest for Corporal Harry Minnich. Flora, who had expressed interest in a police career in the first novel, fit the requirements for both needs.

Hetrick was still mourning the loss of his wife Sarah and I didn’t anticipate his falling in love with some one else at that point (though he almost did succumb to the charms of old friend Melissa Kline). But I did believe a little romance was necessary to broaden interest in what I now envisioned as an ongoing series. Even in the darkest of crime novels characters need to have interest in a little more than just catching the villain in order to be fully developed. Flora and Harry were the obvious choices for my purpose.

Since then Flora has become a major player. In fact, she warrants nearly as much space in Corruption’s Child as does Hetrick. And she’s equally important in Being Someone Else (awaiting publication).

Flora is young and energetic. She has enthusiasm and genuinely cares about other people. Occasionally she makes mistakes and gets in trouble. All of which make her very human.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Generative Factor

What do Michael Connelly and I have in common?

Now I see some head-scratching as some of my friends try making the comparison. I’ll make it easy for you. We share a number of things in common.

We’re both natives of Pennsylvania. We’re both male. We both write mysteries (okay, his are better known and sell far in excess of mine). We’re both former reporters and worked the crime beat. We both knew early on we wanted to be writers. Our interest in the subject was sparked by our youthful reading.

Enough with the comparisons. I could have as easily chosen a number of other writers born in Pennsylvania—John Dickson Carr (master of the locked room mystery and a favorite in my early introduction to the genre), John D. MacDonald or the noir master David Goodis. For my purpose, I could as well have chosen a number of admirable women writers born in the Keystone State: Jane Haddam, Lisa Scottoline, Martha Grimes or even Mary Roberts Rinehart.

Place of birth is of no consequence in making a writer. Nor is gender. Those are matters over which none of us has control. What does actually contribute to our becoming writers, though, is our early reading, our life experience, our association with other people. This mix, which may or may not be augmented by educational experience, is the generative factor.

Whether we succeed depends as much on persistence as on background. There are many others with similar circumstances who set out to become writers and gave up because they weren’t willing to persevere.

That, my friends, is the telling ingredient.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Meet Aaron Brubaker

Aaron Brubaker is the police chief of Swatara Creek in my Sticks Hetrick mystery series.

Though they’ve become closer in later books, Brubaker is both a little jealous and suspicious of Hetrick. Though he has more than 20 years in law enforcement, he readily acknowledges the former chief has something he lacks.

“Most of the time, Brubaker liked his job as police chief of the town of Swatara Creek. It entailed a certain amount of power and gave him respect he’d never expected to have. Normally he faced nothing more taxing than handing out parking tickets and dealing with occasional Saturday night drunks and mischievous kids.” (from Something In Common, Whiskey Creek Press, 2006)

But when it came to murder, he felt out of his depth. It was for that reason he called Hetrick in as a special consultant on their first joint case in Something In Common. Hetrick had dealt with murder, both as a police chief and earlier in his career as a state trooper. Still, Brubaker wanted the arrangement kept between them. His was a political appointment. He didn’t want those supervisors thinking he wasn’t up to the job.

Brubaker is a good, honest man; a good family man, and a good cop. He has grown in the subsequent novels, Cruel Cuts and Corruption’s Child. But even in the fourth novel in the series (awaiting publication) he still harbors a suspicion Hetrick wants his old job back.