I have a sweatshirt with these words printed on it, “Careful, or you’ll end up in my novel.” I’m not kidding. Everyone I meet is fair game and many have, indeed, ended up in my books. I might change their looks, or age, or occupation, but some aspects of them go into the characters I create.
When I decided to write a mystery series set in Edwardian England, my first task was to create a memorable setting. I needed a background that would provide a number of continuing characters. I didn’t have to look too far. I had spent six years managing my parents’ guest house on the southeast coast of England. People from all walks of life had streamed through its doors, and I had a wealth of experiences that I could use in my books.
So I created a seaside hotel, and filled it with characters fashioned from the weird and wonderful personalities that had passed through my life. The Pennyfoot Hotel became as real to me as that guest house, and the people in it became my surrogate family.
I cared about them, laughed with them, grieved with them, until they often wrote the stories themselves, while I followed along, typing furiously in an effort to keep up with them. They woke me up in the night to ask for my help, or to answer a question that had been pestering me for days.
The day I wrote the last line of the final book was as heartbreaking for me as the day I left England for the last time. I was leaving family behind.
I still miss them, though I’ve moved on. I’m on the lookout now for a new family to people my books. So, careful, or you just might end up in my novel.
Until the next time,