One of the many things I enjoy about writing the Library Lover’s Mysteries is that I get to flex my librarian research muscles. As I devised the plot for ON BORROWED TIME, I knew that Lindsey’s brother Jack was going to be a globetrotting economist. But when it came to the business crisis that would cause him to be on the run, I was stumped.
This happens frequently during the plotting stages of a novel. I’ll have a kernel of an idea but no idea how to make it pop. There are a variety of methods to try and get a lock on the idea. I walk my dogs a lot. Sometimes inspiration hits during the pooper scoop portion of the walk and sometimes it hits when my girl dog launches herself off the sidewalk in some crazy attempt to take down a passing bread truck. She has issues.
If the dog thing doesn’t work, I move on to baking. I will bake myself into a three pies, two rounds of cupcakes, several batches of cookies sugar coma in an attempt to get my ideas to blossom. When that doesn’t work, it’s back to walking the dogs, because by then I really need the exercise.
Not being a patient person, I am like the farmer who goes out and pulls on the roots of the carrots trying to get them to grow. This is accomplished by sitting with a pad and pen, trying to scratch out a plot over and over and over again. Needless to say there are a lot of crossed out sentences, some rough language, and many crumpled up wads of paper littering the floor during this process. Yes, the pad and pen is rolling old school, might as well be a clay tablet and a chisel, but sometimes the tactile scratch of the pen on the paper soothes the madness.
The one thing I have learned is that as much as I pull on the carrots or scratch on the pad, the idea will come when it’s ready and not a second before, much like the kernel will pop only when it reaches optimum heat. So, I listen to the universe and wait. And sometimes, the idea comes in an unexpected place, like a story on the radio, which is where ON BORROWED TIME was born.
I was doing my motherly carpool duty, and listening to NPR, when they did a report about the coffee rust fungus that was destroying the world’s coffee crop. This got my attention for two reasons, first, because I am a coffee addict and this was terrible news, second, it struck me as an excellent solution to my plot problem. When I got home, I went into librarian mode and spent the day researching coffee as an industry and the mysterious fungus that was decimating plantations all over the world. In short, a plot was born! Huzzah!
Here’s a brief description of ON BORROWED TIME, so you can get an idea of the plot at work:
Loving a good cup of coffee runs in the family for Briar Creek library director Lindsey Norris. But when her brother, Jack, a consultant for a coffee company, goes missing, her favorite beverage becomes a key clue in a dangerous mystery.
Between preparing the library for the holidays and juggling the affections of ex-boyfriend, Captain Mike Sullivan, and her new crush, actor Robbie Vine, Lindsey has her hands full. But the mysterious disappearance of her world-traveling playboy brother takes precedence over all.
Afraid that involving the police could brew trouble for Jack, Lindsey takes matters into her own hands. But as her quest for her brother embroils her in a strange case involving South American business dealings and an enigmatic and exotic woman, it’ll take the help of both her library book club—the crafternooners—and her eager-to-please suitors to keep Jack from ending up in hot water…
I hope you enjoy reading ON BORROWED TIME as much as I enjoyed writing it and if you’re a coffee lover like me — Cheers! For more information about me or my books, you can go to my website www.jennmckinlay.com or find me on Facebook or Twitter.