Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Writing Fiction, especially historical fiction, requires research. Even contemporary fiction requires a certain amount, especially if the setting of your book is unusual or far away. This is the part many writers dislike, but I find it fascinating and rewarding. Yet, only two of my books are historical.

Of course, I was lucky, in that my husband and I traveled to different countries, and I took notes in order to describe those places accurately. At the same time, I didn’t want my book to sound like a travelogue, so I tried to limit descriptions to actual sights my characters would encounter or interact with.

Our most recent trip was to Italy, where we had the opportunity to visit Rome, Florence, Venice, Pisa and Lake Como. Naturally my character did the same thing (I made my female protagonist a travel writer so I had a good excuse, but I hope I didn’t overdo it. See THE ITALIAN JOB.) In addition to actually seeing the sights, I purchased a book on Rome, Florence and Venice beforehand, and bought one about Lake Como while there.

We visited England several times because we had both relatives and friends there. Bits of that area can be found in FINDING AMY and DEAD IN THE WATER (A cozy, humorous mystery to be released October 6th). Because we owned condos on Maui, we traveled to Hawaii many times, and those books include STRANGER IN PARADISE and CHOICES. A train trip from New Orleans to Washington D.C. sparked the plot of NORTH BY NORTHEAST, and two weeks on a friend’s yacht resulted in SOUTHERN STAR. Aunt Gladys told me all about being a schoolteacher in a logging camp in Oregon in 1913, (THE GREEN BOUGH) and the many books I accumulated about the Titanic told me much of what I needed to know for COLD APRIL.

I was born and grew up in Illinois (very flat and dull), but I also lived in Phoenix briefly. However, most of the last fifty years I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, and that helped me to write ONCE MORE WITH FEELING, FREE FALL, DEAD MEN’S TALES (coming in 2016) and the novella, THE WEDDING GUEST. Also, three other novellas, under the name P.J. Humphrey, A STUDY IN AMBER, THE SIGN OF FIVE, and THE RED HERRING, are set in the “city by the bay.” A fourth in the HOLMES AND HOLMES Series is THE MISSING MAN, of which I’ve written two chapters so far.

The woman-in-jeopardy mystery, EYEWITNESS, set in New York, is due October 15, my mystery novel set in Phoenix is written but not yet published, as is BEATING THE ODDS (about horse racing in Kentucky) and a YA novel, A YEAR IN PARNEL.

Wait! I still haven’t written stories about Mexico, Germany, Canada or Africa. Hold your breath about Africa: I need to go there first. Isn’t  writing the best occupation for travelers and we who wish to travel?


  1. For my first book i did over a year's worth of research before i penned a word! Obsessive, I know, but the time period demanded it (100,000 years ago).


    1. Bob: That's awesome. I hope your readers appreciated your dedication to accuracy. But if not, I'm sure you felt vindicated. The writer must always feel the extra work paid off, even if a reader doesn't notice it.


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