by Carolyn Hart
When I have a new book out (Dare to Die will be published March 31), it is time for book signings and library events. Often I am asked by readers: Where do you get your ideas? This is an excellent question. Every book has its reason and many of the scenes spring from a particular event.
Dare to Die is the 19th in the Death on Demand series. All of the books are set on a sea island off the coast of South Carolina. Why would a born-and-bred Okie set books by the seashore? In the mid-1970s, we first vacationed on Hilton Head island. I fell in love with the Lowcountry, Spanish moss dangling from live oaks in dusky lanes, somnolent alligators on a sunny bank, sea oats rustling in an ocean breeze. I set Death on Demand on my fictional sea island and the first editor who saw the manuscript loved the Lowcountry and it was the start of a grand adventure for me.
Many pieces of the series flow from past knowledge or experience. Max is named Max as a tribute to Agatha Christie’s second husband and Darling as a tribute to the wonderful Mets pitcher Ron Darling. ( I am a longtime baseball fan. I love the Cubs, Rangers, and Astros – and almost everybody else as well.) Annie Darling’s beloved bookstore – Death on Demand – was inspired by a visit to Houston’s premier Murder by the Book in 1985.
In Dare to Die, one scene had its genesis more than sixty years ago. When my husband was in second grade, the teacher divided the class readers into blue birds, red birds, and yellow birds. All the kids understood. My husband was a blue bird and that was the select, favored group. The red birds were okay, nothing great. The yellow birds . . . In the particular scene, a young man recalls his little friend Iris in second grade. They were yellow birds. One day a wonderful thing happened. Each student was called upon to sing a bar alone. When it was Iris’s turn, her voice soared like an angel’s. There was absolute silence. Iris began to cry, thinking she was in trouble. The teacher came and hugged her and said they should have known a yellow bird would have a beautiful voice. From that point, Buck and Iris reminded each other that yellow birds could soar.
MERRY, MERRY GHOST, a Christmas title, will be published in November. It is the second in my series featuring the late Bailey Ruth Raeborn, an impetuous redheaded ghost. GHOST AT WORK came out last fall in hardcover and will be out in paperback in November. Bailey Ruth Raeburn grew out of my delight in entertaining ghost stories, especially the Topper books by Thorne Smith. In the Topper books, the spirits of funloving Marian and Georfge Kirby add spice to the life of the staid banker Cosmo Topper. I thought it would be more fun to have everything seen from the perspective of my ebullient redheaded ghost. So far as I know in the current books with ghosts (and I started mine before ghost books were the rage), the ghosts are secondary characters who assist a living character. Bailey Ruth is the protagonist. Some of the tension in the book grows out of her struggles to follow Heavenly rules while on the earth, not an easy task for her. After Ghost at Work was finished, I was asked who inspired her character. I actually don;t know. She jusr came. However, there is a famous Oklahoman who typifies Bailey Ruth’s spirt and that is Reba McEntire, a gorgeous redhead. Bailey Ruth loved to sing, too!
Best Wishes – Carolyn Hart
Carolyn is offering a signed copy of both Ghost at Work and Dare to Die. I have reviewed both books. They are wonderful. My review of Dare to Die will be posted next week. The contest closes in two weeks.