Thank you so much for letting me visit today. I write mystery novels and short stories. And I’m often asked about where my ideas come from.
I write what I know and where I know. Most of my short stories and my Delanie Fitzgerald mystery series are set in Virginia (about a three-hour drive south of Washington, DC). I’m a transplanted beach girl from Virginia Beach, but I’ve lived in Central Virginia since the early ‘90s.
The people and landscape are diverse. We have large cities, vast stretches of rural areas, mountains, and beaches. And we have over four hundred years of American history – a setting ripe for interesting characters, murder, and mysteries. The climate is pretty moderate. It’s common to have eight inches of snow, and then for the temperatures to be spring-like a few days later. And I am fortunate to work in downtown Richmond on a hill above the James River. We have an amazing view of the capital city. Below us on the hill is the restored Tredegar Iron Works that dates back prior to the American Civil War. There are so many historic, cultural, and recreational sites within walking distance. And every once in a while, you can see an eagle or a hawk fly over the river. This the perfect landscape for a mystery series.
My characters are made up, but if friends, family, and coworkers look closely, they’ll see phrases and idioms that they frequently use. Sometimes, I’ll even merge the characteristics of two or three real people to make an interesting character.
My sleuth, Delanie Fitzgerald, is a private investigator, and she makes up personas for some of her investigations. I use names of friends and family for aliases, police, and waiter names. And I’ve been known to pay homage to my favorite authors and pop culture icons in minor character names.
I keep a small notebook with me wherever I am. I jot down notes, snippets of dialog, and great names. As I do research, watch TV, or people-watch, I’m on the lookout for ideas and interesting activities to add to my stories.
The idea for my short story, “Spring Cleaning” (Virginia is for Mysteries Volume II 2016) came when we moved our offices at work. The moving company brought in large rolling bins for packing, and that gave me idea for some office spring cleaning when I realized the bin could hold a body.
I wrote “Par for the Course,” (50 Shades of Cabernet March 2017) while my husband was watching the Masters golf tournament. The Richmond area has some craggy granite cliffs, and it gave me an idea for a mystery where a friendly game of golf turns the beautiful greens high above the James River into a sordid crime scene.
Sometimes, I get ideas for crimes and capers from real cases, but I usually take liberties with the details. In my short story, “Washed up,” (Virginia is for Mysteries 2014) a beat-up suitcase washes up on Chick’s Beach (at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay), and it’s filled with some mysterious contents. Back in the ‘80s, there was a real case where suitcases filled with body parts did wash up on beaches along the East Coast. In my story, I thought it would be interesting for beachgoers to find something old and sinister in an unexpected place.
I am fortunate to be the daughter of a retired police captain. He is my best law enforcement resource and sounding board. He answers all my weird questions like, “Daddy, what does a meth lab smell like” or “What’s the best way to dispose of a body?” And he’s a stickler for writing things right. I never liked watching cop shows with him. He’s very critical of what can and can’t happen in the real world.
I also found an amazing tribe of writers with Sisters in Crime and Guppies. They are a wonderful group of sisters and misters who are so generous with their time and advice. My local chapter has great programs. We frequently bring in law enforcement, writing, and publishing subject matter experts for seminars and workshops. It provides our members an opportunity to ask questions and network with the professionals. Recently we’ve had a funeral director, fire marshal, FBI agent, college police chiefs, and police spokespersons talk to us about their experiences. And we take some fun field trips to places like the state forensics lab, the FBI field office, the gun range, and the State Police headquarters.
My story ideas come from a variety of sources. And you never quite know where your next bit of inspiration will strike. So keep an idea file and look for clues and mysteries wherever you go.
Thanks to Heather for providing us this wonderful look into thought processes in creating her wonderful books. Heather is one of our amazing MTW authors and we are happy to have her contributing.
Heather Weidner’s short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet (March 2017). She is a member of Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia, Guppies, Lethal Ladies Write, and James River Writers.
Secret Lives and Private Eyes is her debut novel.
Originally from Virginia Beach, Heather has been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers.
Heather earned her BA in English from Virginia Wesleyan College and her MA in American literature from the University of Richmond. Through the years, she has been a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, and IT manager.
Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com
Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ
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5 thoughts on “Where Do Ideas and Inspirations Come from for Mysteries? by Heather Weidner”
Reblogged this on Don Massenzio's Blog and commented:
Check out this great post from Heather Weidner on where mystery ideas come from. There are some great suggestions.
Reblogged this on The Page Turner and commented:
Sharing on The Page Turner from Mystery Thriller Week.
Reblogged this on Viv Drewa – The Owl Lady.
Great post! Thank you for sharing with us. 🙂