Everyone, please welcome Catherine Dilts to the blog today! She’s here to chat about reality in murder mystery fiction, fingerprinting, side characters, and plenty more! If you want to find out about the GIVEAWAY, then scroll to the bottom. Both this interview and giveaway are brought to you via courtesy of the rogercharlie.com blog tour!
Are minions/sidekicks just throwaway devices in a tale? Can they become more? Do they need to become more?
Minions and sidekicks make a story more dramatic or funny, depending on the type of story. Sometimes they are so great, they earn their own standalone stories, like the Minions from the children’s movie Despicable Me, or Joe Pike from Robert Crais’ Elvis Cole series. I’ll admit that I find Samwise Gamgee a much more endearing character than Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings.
My secondary characters often threaten to take over the story. They are fun because they can be a little more “out there” than the main character. I try to create sidekicks who contrast pleasantly with the main character, either by age, attitude, appearance, or all of the above.
In Stone Cold Case, I based Delano Addison on some of the gentlemanly older cowboys I’ve known. He looks a little like Sam Eliot, and speaks with a laid-back drawl. He offers middle-aged Morgan the down home common sense advice that helps her adjust to life in the small mountain town of Golden Springs. His survival tips feel overprotective and paranoid at first, but Morgan quickly realizes the old cowboy knows what he’s talking about. Especially when she has to put his survival lessons into practice.
Every scene should contribute to the story. Skipping over the mundane business of life doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. The reader understands that no one’s been doing the potty dance for the last fifty pages just because a bathroom break wasn’t written into the story.
My characters only go to the bathroom when it adds to the plot. Otherwise, I trust the reader will assume they take care of business off stage. In Sue Grafton’s alphabetically titled series, main character Kinsey brushes her teeth a lot. This is a character quirk, and showing the reader private investigator Kinsey’s dedication to dental health gives a humorous touch to the story.
When editing, I notice I can drag on getting characters from one place to another. I typically cut these scenes, and use a scene break instead. Of course, if a travel scene can do double duty, then it stays. Maybe characters need to review clues during a drive to town. Or, maybe something unexpected happens on the trip, like witnessing a car wreck that involves another character. Now that from-here-to-there moment has meaning.
I limit the bad language in my fiction. Sometimes characters do curse, but the reader doesn’t need to hear every foul word. “When Henry struck his thumb with the hammer, he erupted in words Maggie hadn’t heard since her days tending bar on the rough side of town.” Instead of listing Henry’s naughty words, this sentence tells me he doesn’t often curse, and that Maggie knows the words, but is no longer in an environment where they are used frequently.
They’re all so interesting. As an author of murder mystery, I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about poison, decomposition, stomach contents, and the list goes on. Today’s gross fact is that fingerprints can be taken from dead people, but sometimes their fingers have to be cut off to get a good print. Yuk.
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
The worst job I had was a shoe salesperson at a chain retail store. Hint – they offered blue light specials. I was supposed to prevent shoplifting by cheerfully being present at all times. The darn thieves got me repeatedly. I could tell because a pair of ratty shoes would be on the shelf where a new pair had recently resided. One time, I caught the thief in the act. A smelly homeless man was trying on a pair of work boots. I did not turn him in. a) I felt sorry for him, and maybe he was going to try to get a job in those boots b) I would have to touch the boots to bring them back to my department, and I had seen his bare feet.
A bad day of writing is better than a good day at work, to borrow the fisherman’s line. Some days, though, it feels just as challenging as any of the bad jobs I’ve had. Instead of wrestling with people and situations, you’re battling internal demons. Writing can be lonely and emotionally draining.
What does your Writer’s Den look like? Neat and tidy or creative mess? can you write anywhere or do you need to be holed up in your author cave?
I love writing on my deck on a summer morning. Obviously that ideal is limited by the season and my schedule. Waiting for my muse to arrive is not an option with a full time day job. The more diligently I apply myself to writing, the more frequent appearances the muse makes. By preference, early morning is my most creative time. My writer’s den constantly moves from the dining room table to an easy chair to the bedroom, and very rarely the home office. I call it a creative mess, while my husband just calls it a mess.
About Catherine Dilts
To Catherine Dilts, rock shops are like geodes – both contain amazing treasures hidden inside their plain-as-dirt exteriors. Catherine caught mountain fever after a childhood vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park. Determined to give up her flat–lander ways, she moved from Oklahoma to Colorado. Her husband, a Colorado native, proposed to her as they hiked Barr Trail on Pikes Peak. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. In her spare time, she attempts to lure wild donkeys to her property in the mountains.
Find Catherine and Stone Cold Case online:
Synopsis of Stone Cold Case
Rock shop owner Morgan Iverson’s discovery of human remains reopens a cold case and unhealed wounds in a Colorado mountain town, while her find of a rare gemstone sparks a dangerous treasure hunt.
Sixteen years ago, prom queen Carlee Kruger vanished. When Carlee’s mother asks Morgan to investigate her death, the clues seem as convoluted as the coils on a fossilized ammonite. The hunt for the truth heats up as the local newspaper editor helps Morgan uncover the past. The rock shop’s mascot donkeys and an elderly cowboy chase after a Sasquatch look-alike who may hold the key to Carlee’s death. Whoever knows what happened to Carlee will do anything to keep the truth buried.
In book two of the Rock Shop Mystery series, amateur sleuth Morgan Iverson digs into gemstone prospecting to solve a Stone Cold Case.
Kirkus review for Stone Cold Case
Stone Cold Case – A Rock Shop Mystery
ISBN # 9781432830991
Release date September 16, 2015 by Five Star – Cengage
Catherine Dilts is graciously offering up 1 print copy of Stone Cold Case to a winner with a USA mailing address. To enter, do the Rafflecopter thing below, or answer the following in the comments: 1) What country do you line in? 2) What is the most interesting gross fact you know? 3) Leave a way to contact you (email or twitter or facebook). Giveaway ends midnight October 15, 2015.