Today’s guest on the Murder We Write blog tour, is Marilyn Meredith, who’s novel Lingering Spirit was recently picked as a finalist for this year’s EPPIE award in the spiritual/metaphysical category. Marilyn is the author of over thirty published novels, including the award-winning Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series, the latest being Bears With Us from Mundania Press. Writing as F. M. Meredith, her latest Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel is Angel Lost, the third from Oak Tree Press. Marilyn is a member of EPIC, four chapters of Sisters in Crime, including the Central Coast chapter, Mystery Writers of America, and on the board of the Public Safety Writers of America. Visit her at http://fictionforyou.com and her blog at http://marilymeredith.blogspot.com/
I sent Marilyn my list of suggested questions, and she was generous enough to answer all of them. All of us writers are interested in how other writers work and think, and Marilyn has a lot to say. So, with no further ado, let’s welcome Marilyn Meredith—
John: What is the relationship between fiction and truth?
Marilyn: I can only answer this as it applies to me. In Bears With Us, the latest in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery, as always I’ve borrowed a lot from my hometown, though I’ve moved it up in the mountains another 1000 feet (for better trees) and given it the name of Bear Creek. The bear behavior I borrowed from examples given me by my grandson who is a police officer in Aspen CO and spent one fall chasing bears out of people’s kitchens and other places. The type of dementia one of the characters in this book experiences is unfortunately, a real type though not as common as some others.
Most of my fiction is based on some truths that will work for the story that I’m writing.
John: We’re often advised to write about what we know about. How does this work for the mild-mannered mystery writer who never saw a corpse or has never been hassled by the cops?
Marilyn: First, I’m not what anyone who knows me would call mild-mannered, I’m a rather feisty great-grandmother who doesn’t allow anyone to bully me or anyone else. I have seen more than one corpse though never one that was murdered. I’ve only had one speeding ticket in my life and that was fairly recent and I certainly felt like I was being hassled. I’ve been around cops all my life: relatives, neighbors and friends.
John: Are you proud of your style? If so (and let’s hope so!), why? What’s special about the way you use language?
Marilyn: For my Tempe Crabtree novels, I write straightforward mysteries that include a Native American woman who has become as real to me as any of my friends and relatives. Frankly, I know her better than any of them, because I know exactly how she thinks—something I don’t know about the others in my life.
As for how I use language, I write rather simply and I’m proud to say that I have young fans as well as older ones. I’ve never been one to use a big word when a smaller one will do.
John: Can you name six essential ingredients of mystery plot that begin with C? (Extra credit for more C’s.)
Marilyn: Crime, Character Development, Color, Conflict, Crime Scene, Compelling Plot, Clues
John: Which is more important to you as you write: memory, research, or imagination?
Marilyn: Imagination is number one, but I do a lot of research, and don’t we all rely on our memory to make sure our characters are acting they way they should depending upon their motivation?
John: What makes your protagonist unique? What are his or her passions? Does she or he have flaws?
Marilyn: Deputy Tempe Crabtree is married to a Christian minister who objects when she uses Indian mysticism or rituals to help solve a crime. She is very much in love with her husband and this makes for fun conflict to write about. Like anyone she has flaws—but mostly that she often feels (and rightly so) that the detectives working a murder case don’t always pick the right person as murderer and she’ll investigate on her own.
John: What are your feelings about love and sex in fiction? Are they essential to plot and character development?
Marilyn: Everyone needs to love and be loved. As for sex, when people love each other they have sex. I always shut the bedroom door though, I figure my readers are mature enough to imagine what happens next. Sex is often the root of the crime and yes, I’ve used that before too.
John: Are there accepted rules of good writing that you enjoy breaking?
Marilyn: I like to use sentence fragments as times which drives one of the member of my critique group a bit nuts—but if it works I’ll use them.
I’m a stickler about POV rules though—and I want the reader to know exactly who the story is coming from. No head hopping for me. (See what I mean about using sentence fragments?)
John: Who is your favorite writer? What book made you want to be a reader? What writer made you want to be a writer?
Marilyn: I have many favorite writers, too numerous to list. I love the writers on our tour. I read every book by William Kent Krueger and adore the way he describes settings. Of course I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder (Little House on the Prairie) and Carolyn Keene (Nancy Drew books) when I was growing up. I don’t know that any one writer made me want to write—I’ve been writing stories ever since I could write.)
And now, a word from our sponsor. Here’s a book to entertain anyone on your Holiday Gift List who loves a good mystery:
In Bears With Us, Deputy Tempe Crabtree has her hands full when bears turn up in and around Bear Creek, a young teen commits suicide and his parents’ actions are suspicious, a prominent woman files a complaint against Tempe and her preacher husband Hutch, a love affair from long ago comes to light, and a woman suffering from dementia disappears.
A final note from John: During the Mystery We Write Blog Tour, I will be keeping track of the comments left for the guests on my blog. After the tour, I'll draw one name out of a hat, and that lucky person will be given a copy of my new book, Behind the Redwood Door, as well as a copy of my short story collection, Generous Helpings. But I'll need to contact the winner, so if you're interested, leave your email address at the end of your comment.