MYSTERIES IN MAY FRIDAYS – The Sheridan Hendlery Mysteries
Christa Nardi – Writing Process
Different authors approach writing from different perspectives. Most often, authors either identify as a “pantster” (i.e., writing from the seat of their pants) or “plotters” (i.e., writing an outline first and following in a very sequential format). I’m definitely left of center or more of a “pantster” than a “plotter.” I start with a general idea of the characters and the story line. Nothing that resembles an outline; however, usually the victim is identified early. The story is driven if you will by the series continuing characters and the victim’s circumstances. From there, I start writing.
Characters. The Sheridan Hendley Series is a spin-off of the Cold Creek Series. Sheridan was the protagonist amateur sleuth and she marries the hunky detective she met in the first book in the series. For a number of reasons, she moves to his house and no longer works or lives in Cold Creek. In the new series, she still maintains many of her old friends. At the same time, she becomes step-mother to a teen-ager, gets involved with a local animal shelter, and makes new friends. Characters make the story and keeping her old friends present, along with the new, was important to me. I’m a dog lover, so there have to be dogs somewhere in the story.
Motive. Sheridan’s motive is consistently to help find the real killer and protect someone innocent who is accused. Not quite as lofty as “justice” or “truth” as the stories don’t include a trial, but generally aligned with making things right. The motive for the murderer, however, varies along the lines of greed, jealousy, power, or retaliation, with drugs, gambling, and other obvious criminal activity. Although the stories are “clean reads” with no graphic sex or violence, there are allusions to the behaviors. In most cases, the victim is not mourned by many; rather, many have a motive for murder.
Research. At various points in the process, an idea comes up that warrants some fact-checking. If I refer to a chain store or restaurant, does it even exist in the story location. McDonald’s may be every where, but Five Guys is not in every state. When it comes to legalities, there are also many variations from state to state. I haven’t included it in my books (yet), but marijuana is legal in some states, only legal for medicinal purposes in some states, and against the law in other states. The laws related to animal shelters or dog rescue are very different from state to state, particularly in regard to kill versus no kill shelters. Because I don’t have a detailed outline, some of the research gets done as the story progresses.
Location. I’m an east coaster, from the Northeast to the Southeast. My stories take place in Virginia, in the middle, sort of. I’m not a city person, don’t like all the traffic and noise, and much prefer green spaces. As a result, Sheridan goes from small town Cold Creek to suburban Clover Hill where there are lots of parks, green space, and residents know each other less or more by choice. A stranger is noticed and there is a lot of family history for many.
I hope that gives you a feel for how I approach writing the Sheridan Hendley Mystery Series. A holiday novella is planned for Fall release along with a 4th in the series later in 2020.