To tell you the truth, I have no idea where the plots of my books originate. Not really. Not even when I’m writing them. For me, a book comes together in chunks. These chunks are of different sizes, ranging from huge (the identity of the killer, say) to very small (the name of a new restaurant in town).
The other thing that keeps me from remembering where I get my ideas is my incredibly poor memory. Case in point: a couple of months ago I was talking to some nice ladies who knew I also wrote the PTA Mysteries under the name Laura Alden. They asked about the motive of the killer in that book and—please believe me when I say I am not making this up—I had no idea who killed the victim, let alone why.
It was not a proud moment in my life, and I’m sure those nice ladies think I’m a nutcase (“You wrote the book and you don’t remember?”) but I truly could not summon up the killer’s name. And I never remembered to go back and look so I still don’t know.
Anyway, CAT WITH A CLUE started with the following idea: What if, one morning, Minnie found a murder victim in the library? Okay, that would work. Now what? Well, then I had to figure out why anyone would be killed in a library in the middle of the night. So it most likely had something about books, right? What on earth could that be?
That’s pretty much how it went for the entire outline. (Yes, I outline my books. I didn’t always, but in the interest of less time spent rewriting, I moved to detailed outlines a number of books ago.) I figure out one thing, which leads to another thing that needs to be figured out, which leads to another thing and umpteen hours of hair-pulling later, the outline of a book is complete. Ta-dah!
I do, however, remember the origins of a couple things in CAT WITH A CLUE. One particular character came out of an information-gathering spurt I’d undergone while working on a book proposal. The main character of this particular novel featured a female conservation officer who had Asperger’s Syndrome. She was on the functional end of the autism spectrum and had never been diagnosed, but developed a friendship with a teenage boy who also had Asperger’s.
To develop those characters, I read up on Asperger’s, talked to a number of people, etc., and learned a tremendous amount. Then I wrote character studies of the main character and her young friend, incorporated their personalities into a detailed synopsis, wrote fifty pages of the book, and sent it off to my agent, who was excited about the whole concept.
Sadly, no publishing house agreed, and the novel was never completed. But no research is ever wasted, right? When CAT WITH A CLUE needed a secondary character who happened to have a bizarre amount of knowledge about a particular thing, I knew exactly what kind of character to create. Hooray!
The other thing I know for sure about CAT WITH A CLUE is where I got the idea for the layout of the historical museum. Though it isn’t exactly the same as the museum in the small northwest lower Michigan town in which I work, there are a tremendous number of similarities.
Bottom line, as I said at the beginning, I basically have no idea where I get the ideas for my books. I spend a lot of time staring at the computer and thinking and, with any luck, something that isn’t complete crap will transfer itself from my head to the laptop.
In many ways, the act of writing is itself an adventure. Every single time you sit down to write you never know exactly what’s going to happen, not for sure, and that’s a big part of the fun.
The national bestselling author of Pouncing on Murder returns as librarian Minnie Hamilton and her rescue cat Eddie discover there’s a true
crime story unraveling in their own nonfiction section. . . .
Early one morning while shelving books in the library, Minnie stumbles upon a dead body. Authorities identify the woman as an out-of-towner visiting Chilson for her great-aunt’s funeral. What she was doing in the library after hours is anyone’s guess . . . but Minnie and Eddie are determined to save the library’s reputation and catch a killer.
As rumors about the victim circulate through Chilson, the police are in a bind over a streak of baffling break-ins. Luckily, Minnie and Eddie are traveling the county in their bookmobile, and they’ll stop at nothing to find the spineless killer before the final page is turned on someone else.
About Laurie Cass
Laurie Cass grew up in Michigan and graduated from Eastern Michigan University in the 80’s with a (mostly unused) Bachelor of Science degree in geology. She and her husband live on a lake in northwest lower Michigan. When Laurie isn’t writing, she’s working at her day job, reading, yanking weeds out of her garden, or doing some variety of skiing.