Today read about an interesting Q&A with Owen, where we talked about his inspirations, his writing habits, the development of his characters, and much more!
When did you realize you wanted to write cozy mysteries?
My first inspiration for writing mysteries came from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes stories, which I grew up on as a child. Then one evening in a B&B in the lowlands of Scotland I read a story of the police investigating a murder following the discovery of a headless, handless body. I thought that would make a excellent mystery novel. As soon as I returned to the U.S. I began to write. The result was The Strange Case of Mr. Nobody published in 2000.
I know some of your inspiration comes from your ancestral roots in Scotland, but are there any other inspirations you draw upon when writing?
I draw upon my own life’s experiences and little understood phenomena that I run across. For example, some friends showed us a fairy circle under one of their hawthorn trees. Since I had never seen or heard of such a thing I researched these fungal growths which led to research into fairy folklore which led to the first story in Death at Beggar’s Knob. The hum of the second story is a real world phenomenon which has been around for many decades, yet its origins are unknown and as yet unexplained. All you need is the smallest kernel and a barrel of imagination on which to build a mystery story.
What is your writing process like?
I write in the morning, usually right after breakfast. I start by reading what I wrote the day before as a warm up. What plan I may have for that day’s writing is often overtaken by the story which develops and gains an increasing life of its own as I write. What makes my writing so enjoyable and exciting is that I never know where the story is going or what the characters will do next. I am so fascinated to see how it develops and the twists and turns it takes that I live the story as I write, often not knowing what is going to happen next. I have to keep writing in order to see how the story and the characters turn out. To me a good story writes itself, and I am just along for the ride, an observer watching life develop and grow on the written page. But twists and turns have to seem “right” or they are not included in the narrative.
I have often been told that I should develop a detailed narrative outline before I start to write so that I know where the story will end up at the conclusion. Bosh!! That would take all of the joy and excitement out of writing. Each story is a new and fulfilling experience for me as much as it will be hopefully for a future reader. Life is too short to make work out of writing, meticulously trying to bend each sentence, each phrase towards an intended goal. Let the story grow, give it the freedom to develop its own narrative, its own story line. Don’t cramp it by preconceived notions of what a “good” story ought to be. The story will write itself if given half a chance.
How have your characters developed and grown throughout the John and Mary Braemhor Mystery series?
If you read the beginnings of Mr. Nobody you will have a good picture of John and Mary Braemhor, their history, their nature. They have changed little over time, except that Mary now takes a more direct, active role in the mysteries than she did at first. To me the main individuals in the stories need to offer the reader consistency, stability, so that if the narrative disturbs them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they have their emotional stability restored by a familiar character, someone they know and trust throughout the story.
In my two latest mystery books I have added a new character, Mary’s eccentric maiden aunt, Aunt Rita, as some light and often comic relief in the story line. But even Rita is stable in her character.
Death at Beggar's Knobb is your fourth John and Mary Braemhor Mystery, does it get harder to come up with new mysteries each time you sit down and write?
As long as you stay open to life’s experiences, no, it does not become harder to come up with new mysteries. Personal wonder and curiosity are the keys. But I do not necessarily sit down to write a new mystery. I sit down to develop a kernel of an idea into a good story, well told.
How did you come up with idea for Death at Beggar's Knobb?
I came up with the basis for each of the six stories in Death at Beggar’s Knob by being open and curious about things and people around me.
Obviously each novel in your series is a different mystery, but is there a way in which you connect each novel in your series other than the 2 main characters remaining the same?
Many characters, starting with the beginning of the series, carry through all four novels. Obviously, John and Mary Braemhor stay throughout the series, as now will Aunt Rita. Other characters, like Charlie MacLaine, the private investigator from Utah occasionally working for the FBI, and members of the Scottish constabulary repeat throughout the novels. Often I refer back to previous happenings from earlier novels in later ones.
What was your favorite part about writing Death at Beggar's Knobb?
My favorite part of Death at Beggar’s Knob was the end, because by then I have lived through six new and different adventures and my personal life experiences have been expanded.
What does it feel like to finish a novel?
Finishing a novel ist both exhilarating and sad. Exhilarating because my own life has been broadened and I know now what the mystery was and how it was resolved. Sad, because a new adventure and segment of life has come to a conclusion.
Do you have any ideas in the works for your next John and Mary Braemhor Mystery?
(Guess we'll have to wait and see exactly what those ideas are!)
Is there anything else you would like readers to know about Death at Beggar's Knobb?
Yes, they should buy it and the whole series to expand their joie de vivre.
Thanks Owen for the wonderful insight to who you are as a writer, and how you write your novels!
You can buy Owen's newest mystery here at amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939816610/?tag=cocapr-20
Don't forget to keep coming back. We still have two more posts coming later this week, including one featuring exclusive excerpts from Death at Beggar's Knob!