How much of it’s true? That’s the number one question I get about my books. It’s an honest one, and I will give an honest answer, especially since most of my fiction is set in the hilltowns of rural Western Massachusetts, where I’ve spent a good deal of my life. That includes my latest mystery, Working the Beat.
Working the Beat is the fifth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. It was released Jan. 27 by my publisher, darkstroke books.
Yes, I have been inspired by the people and places I know, in particular Worthington, Massachusetts, where my family and I lived for twenty-five years. (After that I moved to New Mexico for eleven years and returned four years ago to another town.)
Isabel lives in a town called Conwell, a name that has a connection to Worthington. But is it really Worthington? No.
I will admit there is a lot of me in the protagonist Isabel Long. The mystery is written in the first person, so I couldn’t help myself there. We’re both nosy, sassy women. But she’s a widow and I’m not. She has three kids and I have six. She got canned when her newspaper went corporate. I didn’t. On Feb. 4, I will be leaving the newspaper biz for good, but I won’t become an amateur P.I. as she did. Frankly, I am not that brave.
As for the other characters, I do model Isabel’s 93-year-old mother, her “Watson,” after my own mystery-loving mom. (She was amused.) But my mother doesn’t live with me. Isabel’s three kids are inspired by a few of my own. Yeah, there’s a lot of my own spouse in Isabel’s late husband, Sam. A funny aside, people will joke that they’re surprised Hank is really alive. I joke back I only bumped him off in my book.
But the rest of the characters — including the gossipy men in the general store’s back room to the clients at the bar where Isabel works part-time, to Jack, the bar’s owner — are made up. I repeat they are made up.
As a humorous aside, I’ve had people who know me personally try to guess who could be who in this series. Sorry, no.
I once had a New York agent who wanted me to write a tell-all nonfiction book about my life Worthington — something on the order of Peyton Place. He read the first couple of chapters and wanted a whole lot more dirt. But I couldn’t do it. I loved the people and the town too much.
So instead I write fiction. I use what I’ve experienced, as I’ve said many times before, and have my way with it. I believe this is true of many or most fiction writers.
But I’d like to think I write with enough authenticity that one could believe it happened. The same goes for Working the Beat.
WORKING THE BEAT: You can read Working the Beat in Kindle or paperback. Here’s the link: mybook.to/workingthebeat Thank you very much if you do.