Thursday, April 11, 2013

Please Welcome Mystery Author Dorothy H. Hayes

Omnimystery News: Guest Author Post
by Dorothy H. Hayes

We are delighted to welcome author Dorothy H. Hayes as our guest.

Dorothy's new mystery is Murder at the P&Z (Mainly Murder Press, February 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats).

Today Dorothy tells us why writing matters.

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When did I know I was a writer, I'm often asked. As a kid, I didn't consider myself a writer. I'd sit down at a table to write a story and couldn't do it. But, now as I look back, I realize that I was always writing. When anything of importance occurred, such as our cat having kittens, I had to write it down.

Dorothy H. Hayes
Photo provided courtesy of
Dorothy H. Hayes

As a young adult, and a mother of four, I read the best authors, from Homer to contemporary writers. Each taught me something, Tolstoy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Shakespeare, Hugo, Wilde, on and on, I was so stunned by their talent, I memorized monologues, and studied style. It was part of the major plan to some day write my own novel, even if I didn't know it at the time.

Now, I am surprised at the creativity I have, since I couldn't think of a story when I was a kid. I find that my characters make up their own minds about what might happen next, and plots evolve organically. And, I can recreate in words, atmospheres and personalities drawn from all the people I've met, and places I've been.

I've been asked what inspired me to write my new mystery Murder at the P&Z? I have to blame it on a giant black spruce tree, hundreds of years old in my backyard, when I lived in Wilton, CT decades ago. I was outside looking under its wide brim one winter morning and thinking, it's so deep, a body could be hidden under here.

The dead body of a woman is found under a giant black spruce in the second chapter.

Later, still living in Wilton, when I read an ad in the newspaper for a stringer, I almost jumped out of my skin. Here, I would have the opportunity to learn the craft of writing by working as a reporter.

And getting paid for it.

I was given a full-time staff writer position, a year later. I covered the Wilton Planning and Zoning Department. The moment I met certain people at P&Z and town hall, I thought, what great characters for a book. Although, it seemed almost a silly thought that would come to nothing, I stored them away, however, until a couple of decades later. They inspired my characters. Characters are bits and pieces of many people.

My protagonist, Carol Rossi, drives the plot of Murder at the P&Z, she has some aspects of my life and personality, but she's very different. Rossi writes for the Wilton Weekly, I wrote for the Wilton Bulletin. The story takes place in Wilton, CT, in December of 1983. That was when I lived there and worked as a reporter. The editor in the story is inspired by my former editor.

So what's the difference?

No one got murdered, for starters.

Rossi, 47, has a new romance going on with a police detective, Jerry Stevenson, when the story opens, and he's 11 years her junior. She's living in her parent's home. They both died in a year's time, she's overcoming her grief. The light at the end of the tunnel for her is Jerry and her job at the Weekly.

I was about the same age, but I had four children when I worked at the Bulletin and my parents were both alive. I didn't have a sweetheart on the police force.

The whole plot is made up. But the meat of the story is garnered by what I learned as a reporter. For instance, real estate projects were approved by the P&Z commissioners and the town planner. I thought this was a fertile place to start my story. Just a little corruption will lead to murder.

The plot, however, refused to stay within the confines of my original idea. Soon it thickened and grew far more deadly and before I knew it, the secretary to the town planner was murdered and then the recently retired town planner. Then Rossi is being stalked and her life is in danger. My cozy turned into a thriller.

Not only the culture of the newsroom, added to the narrative. Wilton is a colonial town so its history also enriched the novel. It was founded in 1726, 50 years before our Independence Day. Then in comes a corrupt influence that attempts to infiltrate Wilton, which I made up.

But how do I know I'm really a writer? I've asked myself this question. Never mind writing for a living for eleven years, teaching language arts for three, writing four books, two of which are stored in a closet.

It took six years to live Animal Instinct, my first published book, and six years to write it. I had to self-publish because I couldn't find a publisher.

I thought long and hard about writing another book. I had decided that I wouldn't again self-publish. So there were no guarantees that my next book would ever be read. It might find a home in the closet with my other two books.

So several months went by without writing. Then I came to realize that I had to write. It didn't matter whether anyone was going to publisher it, or read it. I got smarter about it, however. I chose the popular mystery genre for a better chance of finding a publisher. I joined Sister In Crime for access to advice, and the total picture of the publishing business. I have my sisters and other readers read my work, and I found a wonderful editor, thanks to SinC. I now write for Women of Mystery and Criminal Element, two popular mystery blogs, those connections were also made through SinC.

The fascination of writing has been with me from the start. It just took years to realize that it wasn't a fleeting interest, or a silly whim to write the great American novel and become famous. It was none of that. Writing for writers is plainly a natural habitat.

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Dorothy Hayes has been a teacher, a journalist, a staff writer and a public relations director for a national animal protection organization. She and her husband live in Stamford, Connecticut.

For more information about Dorothy and her work, please visit her website at DorothyHayes.com.

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Murder at the P&Z by Dorothy H. Hayes

Murder at the P&Z
Dorothy H. Hayes

Scratch the surface of a small town planning and zoning department, and you'll uncover a story. That's what Carol Rossi counts on in the winter of 1983, and she's right.

A former teacher, age 47 and romantically involved with a much younger police officer, she needs a big story to make a success of her new career as a reporter for a Wilton, Connecticut, weekly newspaper, but murder isn't what she had in mind. When the victim turns out to be a woman on Rossi's beat, writing a story no longer seems enough, and she vows to find the killer.

Stalked and terrorized, Rossi soon finds herself in over her head, professionally and romantically.

Amazon.com Print and/or Kindle Edition  Barnes&Noble Print Edition and/or Nook Book  Apple iTunes iBookstore  Kobo eBooks

1 comment:

  1. Congrats, Dorothy, on the release of MURDER AT THE P&Z. So happy for you and all that you have accomplished. You used your writerly instinct over the years to squirrel away your ideas about plot, characters, setting, etc. ~ it's all grist for the mill, as they say. Thanks for sharing your story; it's always an inspiration to discover how a writer overcame the obstacles to achieve his/her goals. The common denominator is persistence and the love of writing. Wishing you much success!

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