Marilyn Meredith, a prolific mystery author, is my guest today, sharing a post to which most writers can relate. We’ve all wandered down that research path and found new plot elements to explore in our stories.
I reviewed her latest release, Spirit Wind, here last Sunday.
Let’s have a refreshing glass of lemonade and enjoy her post.
HOW RESEARCH CONTRIBUTED TO THE PLOT
First I want to thank Maryann for the review of my latest book and for hosting me here on her blog today.
A friend suggested I set a Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery in Tehachapi, a small mountain town. I’d visited Tehachapi several times in the past, and as it is the route we take to go to Las Vegas to see my sister, and also to attend the Public Safety Writers Association’s Annual Conference. I knew a few facts about the place.
I’ve always been fascinated by the many railroad tunnels in the mountains, and of course the famous Loop, where the engines of long freight trains pass their ends as they go around a large hill. There is a wide spot on a narrow winding road where anyone can observe this engineering magic. Many tourists from all over the world come to observe this phenomenon.
What has attracted my attention even more are all of the enormous wind turbines scattered over the hillsides—the largest wind farm in California.
To learn more about Tehachapi, I began do some research. I found two great books about the area and from them I learned a lot about the history and the first people who occupied the area—natives and the pioneers.
Because my heroine is an Indian, of course I was fascinated by the Kawaiisu, who called themselves “the people”, and their history and their lore. And of course, what I learned gave me more plot ideas.
Through the Internet, I found out that a state-of-the-art women’s prison was located in the area. One of the prisoner’s was a movie starlet, who was later released by the governor. And yes, of course, more ideas began to form.
One of the most devastating and intriguing events in the history of Tehachapi was the 7.7 magnitude earthquake in the pre-dawn hours of 1952, followed by 50 aftershocks. Homes, businesses, churches and restaurants were demolished or had major damage. Fissures opened up in various places. Eleven people were killed. Railway tunnels were damaged, railroad tracks twisted. The damage to the main highway was so bad; no one could get in or out.
The women’s prison was destroyed, and once it was possible, the inmates were transferred elsewhere. Then the prison was no more.
I learned so much about Tehachapi, plot ideas came flooding in.
Once I had the story written, I decided I needed to make another trip to Tehachapi and make sure I’d gotten things right. My daughter and I tool a self-guided tour of the wind-farm and learned more about the huge turbines and all that surrounded them. We also found out about the Pacific Crest trail that begins in Mexico and ends in Canada. Tehachapi is one of many official rest stops along that trail. We met a hiker and gave him a ride into town. And no, I didn’t include him in the story, though I did use something about the trail.
We re-visited all the places Tempe and her husband, Hutch, went to make sure they worked for the plot—both the real spots and the fictional ones. The trip was not only helpful, but turned out to be great fun.
It is amazing to me, even after writing so many books, how plot ideas flow and come together.
BOOK BLURB: A call from a ghost hunter changes Deputy Tempe Crabtree’s vacation plans. Instead of going to the coast, she and her husband are headed to Tehachapi to investigate a haunted house and are confronted by voices on the wind, a murder, and someone out to get them.
Available as a trade paperback and for Kindle:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Meredith is the author of 40 published books, including two mystery series, two family historical sagas, a romance with a touch of the supernatural, other fiction titles, and a popular cookbook. She lives in the foothill community of Springville with her husband and other members of her family. She’s been writing nearly her whole life, but didn’t get published until she was a grandmother.