Nemo came into our lives the way the best ideas for novels often do. One morning my husband and I had no dog. We had memories of two who had aged and died, dogs we had loved for years and mourned with a startling intensity. We also had vows that we would not get another pet while our lives were so busy. Then we got the phone call.
“Mom,” our oldest son, the lawyer and country gentleman began, “we found a puppy dying in the grass off our road. Jim–” their neighbor, “nearly ran him over with a bush hog. If I hadn’t stopped to talk to him, and he hadn’t turned off the tractor. . .”
We didn’t need a dog. “What kind of puppy?” I asked, because like any mom I wanted to keep the conversation going. “Who knows. Spotted, starving and sick. I’m not sure he’ll make it.”
He did make it, of course–or why would I tell this story? My son and daughter-in-law carefully nursed the foundling back to health. Then puppy came to visit one afternoon and simply never left. I couldn’t bring myself to name him for days, not until my husband returned home from a conference and saw the baby blue tick beagle with his own eyes. “Nemo,” we decided together, because our dog had been lost, then found.
Tonight Nemo is sleeping in his bed beside me. Months later, he is thirty-five pounds of healthy energetic adolescent. He’s adored and adorable, the quintessential happy ending. But it occurs to me that Nemo came into my life the same way my idea for a new mystery series did. I had other plans. I knew what was best for my career. I knew from experience that one impulsive detour would take me so far from my planned route that I might never find my way back. And somehow, none of that mattered.
That’s how my series arrived. I was happily writing women’s fiction, one book a year, then wham, out of nowhere, an idea about a minister’s wife who finds murderers appeared at my doorstep. I told myself I was too busy. I told myself this was too far removed from what I was known for. Apparently telling myself anything is a waste of time.
The Ministry is Murder series for Berkley Prime Crime debuted in 2005, and in November of 2007 the third book, Beware False Profits made its debut. I’ve given up worrying about how sensible an idea is or how much attention I should pay to it. If it wags it’s little tail and licks my hand, I’m hooked for life. I’ve learned that the best books, and the best dogs, are found in the least likely places. They are the gifts we aren’t expecting, the joys we only have to reach out and embrace. Nothing else is required.
Please visit my website at http://www.emilierichards.com/ for more information on both my Ministry is Murder and my Shenandoah Album series. And watch for my updates and the new blog coming sometime later this month. Nemo will appear, I can guarantee it.