This week I’m welcoming Susan Holmes, author of the Waterside Kennels Mysteries. I’ve read Deadly Ties, the first in the series. Not only was I entertained, but I learned a bit about working with dogs. I think you’ll enjoy Susan’s post about… Well, read on, and welcome, Susan.
A Twist on an Old Rule
The Golden Rule of “write what you know” is embedded in my DNA. That’s my only explanation for how I came to write “Three Little Bears Visit New York City” before I hit kindergarten. It seemed perfectly reasonable to me; after all, if people go to the woods on vacation, why wouldn’t a bear go to town?
And New York City was a place I knew something about. My maternal grandfather had been a photographer in New York, and my father talked about how different “the big city” was from upstate New York where he’d been born. I used to watch my dad doing the New York Times crossword puzzle (in ink!). So the name, the place, was embedded in my consciousness early on.
Honoring the “write what you know” rule served me well for years, until I had an idea for a mystery with an amateur sleuth who runs a boarding kennel. Just one problem: the only thing I knew about kennels was from the customer’s point of view. Then it hit me: the “rule” was just a starting point. And thus “write what you can know” became my mantra.
My fictional kennel was constructed using everything I’ve learned about real kennel operations, with the addition of some nice extras. In real life, kennels are often run on shoestring budgets, while mine features many of the “bells and whistles” kennel owners had on their wish lists. The kennel owners I worked with were generous with their time and knowledge and let me follow them through their daily routines. As a result, I saw behind-the-scenes action customers wouldn’t typically see, which helped me better appreciate the hard work that goes on in a well-run boarding kennel.
The kennel is the physical “anchor” for the series. The story plays out across the region, which allows me to bring in the wonderful people and places of the Ozarks: Eureka Springs and its art galleries, the largely unpopulated area around Beaver Lake, and the folk tales handed down from one generation to the next. The inclusion of the Ozark treasure legends was inspired by conversations with the folklorist Phillip W. Steele. (Who can resist a treasure hunt?) If I’d stuck with the old rule to write only what I know, this series would never have made it to print.
Whether you’re writing about old stories or new problems, there’s something liberating about starting a project you know little or nothing about. You’re not constrained by what you know, or even what you think you know. So next time you get a wild idea about something, let it fly and see where it takes you!
Thank you for some wonderful insights, Susan. I hope you'll come back one day.
Dogs. Family. Friends. Treasure. Stories and rumors from the past. Secrets and lies. They’re all at the heart of this story. When trouble begins at the kennel, Maggie will have to dig into the past for answers if she wants to have a future. Because her search just might lead to murder.Read the first five chapters: http://dogmysteries.com
Facebook Author Page: http://tinyurl.com/ozk3uja
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