There are always surprises in writing. “Where do you get your ideas from?” a reader recently asked. Good question; and when I thought about the process I’d followed, the answer surprised me.
The Dave Cubiak Door County mysteries are set on a very real Wisconsin peninsula buffeted by the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Door County is a magnificent location – “the Cape Cod of the Midwest” – and it seems logical that the setting would come first and foremost in generating ides for the series.
This certainly was true for Death Stalks Door County, the first book. Sitting on the beach on a splendid day, I was struck by the natural beauty of the setting; but sitting there again that night, with no moon and clouds shrouding the stars, stunning beauty gave way to a sense of the sinister. Anything can happen here, I thought. From the contrast between day and night, I jumped to light and dark, good and evil and on to the notion of a beautiful locale with sinister forces at play beneath a travel brochure veneer. The story grew from there.
For Death at Gills Rock, the second book, my focus was totally on people. The idea evolved from my interest in World War II and the long reach that sad, horrible event had on the world. My father had served, as had many of my relatives. One aunt lied about her age in order to enlist in the WAVES. I knew the old veterans were dwindling in numbers and looked for a way to build a story linked to the war.
The Coast Guard Station in Sturgeon Bay is just a few miles from my summer cottage. Had the Coast Guard been involved in the war effort? I asked one of my beach neighbors. Yes, indeed, and men from Sturgeon Bay had fought in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska. A few simple facts unfolded into a mystery about war, treachery and deadly secrets….
For book three, plot came first. Death in Cold Water (my working title) is a work in progress that started with the action. First, I knew what I wanted to have happen, and then I had to figure out who was involved and where on the peninsula the story took place. Important elements, certainly, but only to be determined after the seed of the story was planted.
I plan to have six books in the series, which leaves me with two down, one to finish and three to spin out of my imagination. From where will the inspiration come? Will the pattern repeat: setting, character, plot? Or will there be different jumping off points? I have no idea but look forward to following the path of discovery that will give me the answer.
Review of Death at Gills Rock Coming Tomorrow!