Creating a Story

I’m excitedly awaiting the arrival of my author copies of A Killer Past. They are in the mail and should arrive the first of next week. (Maybe even Friday or Saturday of this week.) This will be the first time I’ve seen the story in book form. These hardcover copies are from the ones that will be released in the UK on March 31st. ( It won’t be available in Canada or the US until June. (Though the e-book version is supposed to be out in April. I’m not sure how that will work.)

As with most of my mysteries, this story took a long time before it came together in my mind and on paper. The initial idea of a woman in her seventies who lives in a small Michigan town where no one knows about her past, not even her family, came to me while out walking with my husband. What if she was attacked, but rather than being a victim, she put her attackers in the hospital? How could she do this?

Slowly Mary Harrington took shape. I had to give her a background where she’d learn the tactics that would give her this ability. And since most older people, men and women, lose muscle strength as they age, I had to find real-life evidence that would support her abilities.

We writers nowadays have it so much easier than those just thirty years ago. On-line I found articles about men and women in their seventies, eighties, and nineties who exercise on a regular basis (not sporadically as I do) and participate in physical endeavors (gymnastics, marathons, weight lifting, etc.) that minimize their muscle loss. I watched YouTube videos. I Googled and listened to interviews with older athletes. (for example:

So Mary Harrington became a regular at the gym. And even though she didn’t practice most of what she’d learned in her teens and twenties, the abilities were still there, though a little rusty.

At first I was going to make Mary 78, but when I described my concept to a friend in her late seventies, she said that might be pushing it and suggested I make Mary younger. I compromised on 74. Not that all 74-year-old women could do what Mary does in the story, but some could.

Once I had an image of Mary, I needed to give her a reason to use those abilities, and from that came the need for conflict in the story. If Mary simply overcame her attackers, told the police department what she did and why, the story would be over. But what if she wouldn’t admit she was the one who dislocated one gang member’s shoulder and another gang member’s knee? And what if, as the sergeant investigates the incident, he discovers he can’t find any information about Mary prior to her move to the town, forty-four years earlier?

And that’s how A Killer Past came to be. If you’d like to read an excerpt, please visit Pam Thibodeaux’s blog on Saturday, March 28th.

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10 Responses to Creating a Story

  1. What an intriguing concept. Now I’ve got to find out what’s up with Mary.

  2. Janice Hickly says:

    This post was really great, just what I needed now, I am in the process of writing a story that includes some events that I have no present time knowledge for. I was able to get info off the web that helped me develop the situations in the story that would bring my two main characters together and would build the circumstances for the whole story. yes the web is a great thing for writers.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Janice, considering how remote it is where you live, especially in the winter, the Internet is going to be a blessing for you. Just be careful. Not all information on-line is correct. That’s the weakness of having it open to everyone, even those who might not have all their facts right.

  3. So interesting that you got the idea for this novel while walking. That often happens to me as well. Best wishes!

  4. Melissa Keir says:

    Isn’t it fun how some stories come into being. I love hearing that other authors also come up with great stories in fun ways!

    All the best!

    • Maris Soule says:

      Melissa, I always enjoy talking to other writers. We see life in a different way. Tragedies become material for a story. I’m sure non-writers think I’m a bit crazy. Hmm, maybe I am.

  5. Elorise Holstad says:

    Maris ~~ I’m intrigued by your concept, and am looking forward to reading ‘A Killer Past.’ (There really should be more … ahem … mature female protagonists. I can relate, as they say.)

    • Maris Soule says:

      Elorise, I know what you mean about “relating.” What’s so great about some of the smaller publishers is they’re willing to publish books that may not appeal to the 20s and 30s crowd. With our aging populations, it’s really ridiculous to think readers only want to read about young heroes and heroines.