Sunday, March 8, 2009

Art Imitating Life or Exposing Death?

No one writes stories in a vacuum. You need some point of reference, some spark of an idea to create the story. When you write mysteries you need the spark, the stamina, and the twist to keep the reader engaged in your version of reality.

I find my ideas in my life, in the news, in chance comments by friends or strangers, in something I’ve always wondered about and finally researched.

The Rosary Bride: A Cloistered Death (A Grace Marsden Mystery Book One) (Grace Marsden Mysteries) (set at Dominican University)I attended Domenican University when it was called Rosary College.

The Lion Tamer: A Caged Death (A Grace Marsden Mystery Book Two) (set at Brookfield Zoo)-----I’ve been a docent there for 22 years.

The Station Master: A Scheduled Death (A Grace Marsden Mystery) (set at Lisle Depot Days)---I live in Lisle and always wondered about that old, original depot.

The Scout Master: A Prepared Death (A Grace Marsden Mystery Book Four) (Grace Marsden Mysteries) (set in Robinson Woods Forest Preserve) Met someone at the 19th Century Club with a bizarre story about scouting. I’m a trained scout leader for Troop 562 Three Fires Council.

The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death (A Grace Marsden Mystery Book Five) (Grace Marsden Mysteries) (set in a friend’s cottage on Christian Island where I have visited).

See the pattern? When I started number six, The Innkeeper, I had no actual frame of reference. My idea came about when my ‘what if’ mind asked, “What if when my characters are remodeling the old house they bought they find hidden spaces under a false floor? And what if they find a human skeleton concealed in one of those spaces? And what if they begin to believe that the house might have been a stop on the Underground Railroad?

I don’t know anyone remodeling a 150 year old home, or do I? A friend of mine who knows the story I’ve written emailed me this link.

A homeowner purchases an 100+ year old home and begins to remodel when he discovers a small secret room in his basement.

Sound familiar? I know from my research on the Underground Railroad that Terre Haute, Indiana, where this news story takes place, had two churches that were in the forefront on anti-slavery activities. They were the Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church and the First Congregational Church. Terre Haute was one of the closest lines from Indiana across the Illinois border.

What if this secret room hid freedom seekers until they could be moved safely? The article doesn’t talk about skeletons—not yet!

Art imitating life? Well, a mystery writer has to add their style and twist but it makes you wonder. Maybe a road trip to Terre Haute is in my future.

Luisa Buehler

1 comment:

Mary Cunningham said...

Truth stranger than fiction, Luisa! I love these stories about strange rooms, and Terre Haute is practically in my old stomping ground in Southern Indiana.

Great post. I missed half of CBS Sunday morning because of the time change. My LEAST favorite day of the year!