Omnimystery News is delighted to welcome Lauren Carr, whose second mystery in the Mac Faraday series is Old Loves Die Hard (CreateSpace, April 2011 Trade Paperback, 978-1-4609-3513-2).
Today Lauren is writing about what goes into creating a detective or hero in a mystery novel. And she's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of both books in the series. Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Lauren Carr: Old Loves Die Hard" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (5017) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends 06/09/2011.)
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Photo provided courtesy of Lauren Carr
Similar to the way several elements come together to turn a meal into an exceptional dining experience, there are many different ingredients that go into an interesting detective in a mystery.
The protagonist is the reader’s tour-guide through a mystery novel. It is second only to the plot in importance for writing your book. Even if the trip was to Paris or through Disney World, would you want to go if you had to spend it with an obnoxious or boring tour guide? I can’t count how many mysteries, while intriguing, I didn’t finish because I didn’t care or even despised the detective.
Joshua Thornton, the protagonist in A Small Case of Murder and A Reunion to Die For, was the widowed father of five children. A JAG lawyer, he had left the military after his wife’s death and returned to his childhood home in Chester, West Virginia, the same small rural town where I had grown up.
I’ve been surprised by how many authors have admitted to putting a lot of themselves into their protagonists. I didn’t realize until after A Small Case of Murder came out that I had put a lot of me into the single father escaping from parenthood by diving into solving mysteries. A new mother when I wrote A Small Case of Murder, I had come to discover that mystery writing was my escape.
After my second Joshua Thornton book, A Reunion to Die For, was released in 2007, my sister-in-law asked me to write a mystery placed at her vacation home in Pelican Lake, Wisconsin. I had another mystery in mind, but the plot required a detective more than it did a lawyer. Plus, my single father Joshua was housebound by his five children. There was no plausible reason to place him in Wisconsin to solve a case.
I had to come up with a new mystery protagonist.
By the time I had begun to think about the protagonist for the Mac Faraday mysteries, my son was nine years old and more independent. Maybe subconsciously I was looking to reflect my feeling of independence because I was looking to create a detective more independent than Joshua Thornton.
Yet, my protagonist had to be a family man. I didn’t want a womanizing, love ‘em and leave ‘em detective. By him being in a committed relationship for several years and raising children, then the reader would see him as a solid dependable character.
With all that in mind, I made Mac a detective who was starting Chapter Two in his life. His marriage has ended. I chose for him to be divorced because someone once noticed that I keep killing off my men’s wives and loved ones. However, because Mac is a good guy, I had his marriage end because of her, not him.
Both of his children are grown and off to college. So he is an empty nester, who has been kicked out of his own nest.
Logically, with that much past behind him, Mac couldn’t be twenty-something. So, I made him a distinguished, handsome forty-seven year old with auburn hair that’s gray at the temples, and blue-eyes that remind people of his late birth-father, who he had never met.
Chapter Two in Mac Faraday’s life starts off with a bang.
The day his divorce becomes final, a lawyer chases Mac three blocks to inform him that the birth mother he had never known had died and left him $270 million dollars and an estate on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. (In the meantime, the setting moved from Wisconsin to Maryland, but that’s another post.)
Why, you may ask, the back story? Why not simply have a millionaire detective living at an estate in Deep Creek Lake who solves mysteries to pass the time?
Every incident, every person we encounter, every experience contributes into making us who we are. Likewise, so does the back story of your protagonist. Even if I don’t tell the reader my protagonist’s life story, I have one that goes into creating his character, which dictates the action in the plot.
In It’s Murder, My Son, Mac Faraday and the Spencer Inn, the five-star resort he had inherited from his birth mother, get sued. His lawyer suggests that they settle and pay off the ambulance chasers to make them go away, even though Mac and the Inn did nothing wrong.
Detectives who have had shoot-outs with homicidal maniacs don’t roll over and play dead. It is not part of Mac’s personality to toss millions of dollars to ambulance chasers to go away. His reaction is to tell them, “Bring it on.”
Mac’s past life contributes directly to his reaction in Old Loves Die Hard when the same lawyer advices him to keep his blossoming relationship with Archie Monday secret. With the public and media suspecting Mac of killing his ex-wife and her ex-lover after their bodies are found in his penthouse suite, Mac’s lawyer suggests that he sneak around with his new love interest until things cool off for the sake of appearances.
Mac made it only halfway across the dining room before he turned back to the table of his lawyer and hotel manager.
“Ed,” Mac began, “you’re without a doubt one of the best attorneys in the world and I pay you a very hefty retainer for your advice. It’s because you know what you’re doing. And Jeff, if it weren’t for you, the Spencer Inn wouldn’t have kept its five-star rating all these years. But, you two have to understand, I have a problem.”
“Mac—” Ed tried to say.
Mac held up his hand. “Ever since I can remember, people have been telling me that I need to learn to do what I’m told. My adoptive parents, teachers, bosses—everyone. When I was a cop, officers I trained would get promoted over me even though my record was way better than theirs. My supervisors would tell me that I would go far if I’d just learn to do what I’m told to do.
Ed and Jeff exchanged glances.
“What I’m telling you, gentlemen, is that I respect your advice. You mean well and one of the things I pay you for is the benefit of your vast experience in these types of matters. But I wouldn’t do what I was told before I was rich and famous; I’m certainly not going to start now.”
If Mac Faraday was a twenty-something millionaire playboy who grew up on Deep Creek Lake, snow skiing in the winter and jet skiing in the summer without a care in the world, then he would have a different character make-up.
We would not have the same ingredients to create an interesting protagonist who refuses to roll over and play dead; who won’t do what he’s told; and who prefers jumping into solving murder mysteries to golf with the rich and famous.
In which case, we wouldn’t have the Mac Faraday Mysteries.
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Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. From murderous bedtime tales, she grew up to write mysteries for television and the stage. She wrote her first book after giving up her writing career to be a stay-at-home mom. For more information about the Lauren and her books, visit her website.
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About Old Loves Die Hard: Old loves die hard … and in the worst places. Mac Faraday, an underpaid homicide detective who inherits two-hundred-and-seventy million dollars and an estate on Deep Creek Lake, Maryland, from his birth mother on the day his divorce becomes final, is settling nicely into his new life at Spencer Manor when his ex-wife Christine shows up — and she wants him back! Before Mac can send her packing, Christine and her estranged lover are murdered in Mac’s private penthouse suite at the Spencer Inn, the five-star resort built by his ancestors. The investigation leads to the discovery of cases files for some of Mac’s murder cases in the room of the man responsible for destroying his marriage. Why would his ex-wife’s lover come to Spencer to dig into Mac’s old cases?
With the help of his new friends on Deep Creek Lake, Mac must use all of his detective skills to clear his name and the Spencer Inn’s reputation, before its five-stars — and more bodies — start dropping!
Old Loves Die Hard is available in Trade Paperback and popular eBook formats (see icons below book cover above).
For a chance to win a copy of It's Murder, My Son and Old Loves Die Hard, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Lauren Carr: Old Loves Die Hard" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (5017) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends 06/09/2011.)
Read the first chapter of Old Loves Die Hard below; use the Aa settings button to adjust font size, line spacing, and word density.