Well, here we are, ready for the second installment of Behind the Scenes. I was going to put the names of all my novels into a hat and draw one randomly, but I was feeling much too lazy to do all that work, so I assigned each book a number and used an online random number generator to make the pick.
This time we’re going behind the scenes of Peppermint Twisted, third in the Candy Shop Mystery series I wrote under the pseudonym Sammi Carter. I chose the name Sammi Carter to honor my maternal grandfather, whose name was Thomas Samuel Carter, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing as her until my publisher decided to discontinue the series.
Now here, in no particular order, are 5 things you may not know about this book:
Number 1: The character of Shellee Marshall was named after a friend and former co-worker who had asked me if I would name a character after her in one of my books. Shellee and I worked together for many years in the federal court system, but it wasn’t until after she’d moved several hundred miles away that she let me know she’d like a character named after her. I was happy to oblige. After all, if it hadn’t been for Shellee and Kris, I never would have been able to take a vacation. The two of them covered my desk when I was gone and did a great job of keeping my boss, the judge, happy. Though I’ve lost touch with the real Shellee in the intervening years, seeing her name in the book always makes me smile.
Number 2: I set the story around a local arts festival after attending Swiss Days in Midway, Utah. As I wandered around the various exhibits and display areas, I realized that day (as so many writers before me have done) that a local festival, with the noise and the crowds and the confusion, a swarm of strangers taking over a usually quiet town. really did provide a great backdrop for murder. A good festival gives a writer so much to work with!
Number 3: I didn’t originally plan for Abby’s to be a suspect in the book, but once Abby’s brother, Wyatt, showed up with a truck-bed full of tools so he could renovate the second floor of Divinity, it was just too great an opportunity to pass up. Felicity Asbury possessed a few of the qualities of a former boss that fell on my “Not So Favorite” list, so it was a little cathartic to off her in the book, and circumstances just made it impossible not to let the police suspect Abby of doing the deed. You can only suspend disbelief so far, after all.
Number 4: And speaking of Wyatt, he was one of my favorite characters in the series. I can’t say that Wyatt is a carbon copy of my cousin, Gary, who passed away in 2006, but Gary’s larger-than-life personality and sense of humor certainly gave me a great jumping-off point. He was very much on my mind as I wrote the first-draft of this book, as was my dad who passed away just two weeks after Gary. So start with a solid foundation of Gary, toss in a dash of Kurt Russell from Tombstone, (Yes. Wyatt.) and mix in a few other guys I’ve known over the years, and Wyatt Shaw was born.
I had a lot of fun with Wyatt in every book, even if he did occasionally make a questionable decision or two. As Abby says of him in Peppermint Twisted:
Deep down, Wyatt’s a good guy. It’s just that his best qualities are buried under forty-five years of macho bullshit, which sometimes makes them difficult to find.
Creating Wyatt was a fun way to remember Gary who was ten years older than me, and just so, so cool when I was a kid.
Number 5. I am endlessly fascinated by family dynamics. It’s a subject I frequently explore in my books. I’m interested in how we fit with the people around us, how those who love us most can sometimes resist our efforts to change, and how family members assume and assign roles within the family. The members of Felicity Asbury’s family in Peppermint Twisted were an interesting bunch to learn about and write.
Getting into other people’s skins is a big part of the job of a writer. To do our job well, we have to understand what makes people tick, and it’s especially fascinating when I’m working with characters who aren’t a lot like me. I spend a lot of time observing people, talking to people, and trying to understand why people who see life differently see it the way they do. I was fascinated by how the people around her reacted to, adapted to, and coped with her controlling, and highly judgmental nature. How do people cope when someone like that is front-and-center in their lives?
As a writer, I’m a hybrid between a planner and an organic writer. I like to have some idea where the book is going, but I also like to leave characters free to surprise me–and they do. I knew that Felicity had a daughter going into the book, and I knew that Felicity and her daughter had issues, but just what those issues were came as a surprise to me. Nor did I know how Ursula fit into the picture until I was nearly finished writing the first draft. This is why you’ll never find a book available for sale that hasn’t been thoroughly edited and revised several times. Often, I have no idea what’s going on until very late in the first draft, and it takes some work to make sure what surprises me is tucked into the book as seamlessly as possible.
So there you have it: five things about Peppermint Twisted you may not have known before you read this blog post.