Omnimystery News is delighted to welcome Sharon Henegar as our guest blogger. Sharon's first book in her Willow Falls series is Sleeping Dogs Lie (Saturday Books, August 2010 Trade Paperback, 978-0-9840648-4-7).
Today, Sharon writes about Slow Book Cookery.
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Readers sometimes ask me how long it takes to write a book. I blush to admit that the initial idea for Sleeping Dogs Lie, the first in my Willow Falls series, occurred to me over thirty years ago.
You don’t want to rush into these things. Really.
I sat in the car one night waiting for my husband to come out of the grocery store. The place: Eugene, Oregon; the year: 1977. I thought, what if Steven came out and got into another car and drove away? Would he be a spy who’d been leading a double life during the five years we’d been married? Had someone for some unknown reason handed him their car keys and begged him to drive the car somewhere? Had he robbed a cashier, stolen the car keys from another shopper, miraculously found that person’s car without hesitation, and made his getaway? I played idly with several scenarios. A few minutes later Steven came out of the store, got calmly into our car, and drove us home.
I was a little disappointed.
The years flew by. I wrote this and that, and sometimes I'd think about that what-if. It stubbornly refused to leave my head—or get any further. What I needed (and didn’t know I needed) was a writing group.
Part of my philosophy of life (if I can give it so grand a name) is that things happen when they are supposed to. I moved to Southern California in 2001, where I knew no one except my husband. I saw a notice for an evening class at one of the local universities on getting started as a writer. Maybe this was what I needed. But I felt intimidated at going by myself—and I had no idea where the campus was. So I dropped by the office of one of my new colleagues. Though I barely knew her I asked if she’d like to take this writing class with me. To her own amazement she said yes.
The class turned out to be okay but not great. I'm unimpressed by teachers who begin a session with the words, “So what do you guys want to know about?” (My translation: “I'm completely unprepared and hope you won’t notice I'm winging it.”) We both enjoyed the process of free writing as a kick start, but the lasting benefit of the class was that we met two other writers we liked. We started a writing group. And we were off.
We agreed that we’d each bring something we’d written to our first meeting, and you know what I pulled out of mothballs. I knew that an idea I hadn't been able to shake for thirty years was compelling. I began to write in the first person, and discovered someone named Louisa had been hanging around waiting for me to tell her story. Unfortunately Louisa and I were equally clueless about what happened next. Fortunately I had three creative plotters in my group.
We brainstormed. They asked questions about the two characters in the scene. Answers at the time: I don’t know—but this time I knew I'd be able to find out. We all made wild guesses about who these people were and what might happen next. I made notes and wrote another section in time for our next meeting. Each month I got further. I wrote myself (and Louisa) into corners. The group helped us out again. We surged forward, backtracked, sidestepped, tripped once or twice, and kept writing. And then something magical happened.
I got to type the words “The End” on my page. (They come right after Louisa explains what she’s learned on her journey through the book, which is “I bite.”)
Of course it wasn’t really the end. It was the beginning of learning about rewriting, and the realization that Sleeping Dogs Lie was the first in a series. Louisa had a lot more to say, which I wanted to find out about because quite frankly the woman cracks me up. Luckily for me I'm not the only one who’s found her funny, or who enjoys a cozy thriller.
So far I've felt the incomparable thrill of “The End” three times. Sleeping Dogs Lie is available now; In Dogs We Trust will be published in early 2011 (“The End” comes after “Rollo barked”) and The Dog Prince still faces those rewrites. But Louisa insists I get busy on it, and with the help of my writing group I will.
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Sharon Henegar is a children's services librarian, living in Southern California with her husband, mixed breed dogs Lizzie and Edward, and cats Noll Baxter and Mrs. Wilberforce. Visit her website at SaturdayBooks.com/SharonHenegar.
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About Sleeping Dogs Lie: On a rainy October night, Louisa McGuire waits in the car while her friend Bob makes a dash into the grocery store. Soon he comes out again—but with him is a woman in a sleek red suit. She leads him to her Mercedes and they drive away. Has Louisa been ditched, or has Bob been kidnapped?
She enlists the help of her cousin Kay, owner of an antique store, and two intrepid canines, Jack and Emily Ann, to follow the scant clues to find Bob. Find him they do—but when they learn who he really is, they find out that the stakes are high. Will they avoid being the next victims of a cold-blooded murderer?
Sleeping Dogs Lie is available in trade paperback and popular eBook formats from Saturday Books.