Rosemary is also a master gardener. And a world traveler. And she says:
Sometimes a girl's just gotta get away!
It's true. And if the girl is my heroine Paula Holliday - unattached, small businesswoman without a lot of disposable income - she'll take that trip anyway she can get it.
The majority of traditional mysteries featuring an amateur sleuth are set in quaint and quirky small towns where the quaint and quirky residents occasionally stumble over a dead body. (At a recent writing workshop I joked that the victim was frequently someone it was easy to dislike - like a white, male real estate developer. Apparently it was okay to kill them off. I thought it was a pretty good line until I noticed one man's face darken. Yup. White, male real estate developer. Will not use that line again.)
Even in a hotbed of criminal activity like the fictional town of Springfield, Connecticut where most of my books are set, things do slow down. And Paula was itching for a road trip. Conventional wisdom said - stay home, kill the real estate guy, or an evil local politician. Publishers think readers will be confused.
But who want to be conventional? Paula was adamant. She wanted to wear something other than painter's pants and grubby jeans. The hussy was even thinking about blowdrying her hair for a change. So I decided to send her to the big city.
Slugfest, the fourth book in my Dirty business mystery series was originally set in Philadelphia where the legendary flower Show served as the inspiration for the one in my book. I'd been a volunteer there for close to ten years, had lectured there and had prowled the floor in the early morning hours when the building's only other occupants were neurotic exhibitors taking cuticle scissors to their displays to eliminate any brown or curled leaf. I'd also decided that some of the action would take place in one of my favorite hotels which - covering all bases - has a terrific restaurant, a spa and a chocolate factory on the premises. (It's the Rittenhouse. Tell them I sent you.)
Then it hit me. If I killed off characters who bore even a passing resemblance to flower show habitués, they'd never invite me back. And what kind of welcome would I get at the Rittenhouse if I had someone drown in the hot tub - or die from poisoned chocolates? Much as I loved my research, it had to go. But Paula still insisted on a vacation. And I wanted her to rub shoulders with a better class of bad guy. That's how Paula Holliday wound up in New York at the fictional Big Apple Flower Show where more than just the plants are dying. and not only does she blow dry her hair, she borrows a red dress that gets everybody talking.
Who knows, she may never go back to the 'burbs...
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: If you write a series, do you change the setting? If a standalone--how and when do you decide where it takes place?
Rosemary Harris is a native Brooklynite like some of the characters in her upcoming book, The B-tches of Brooklyn and is the author of the Dirty Business mystery series featuring amateur sleuth Paula Holliday. Rosemary's debut novel, the Agatha and Anthony-nominated, Pushing Up Daisies (Minotaur), was followed by The Big Dirt Nap, Dead Head and Slugfest newly released in paperback ( http://tinyurl.com/6mdovca .) She is past president of Mystery Writers of America's NY Chapter and Sisters in Crime's New England Chapter and blogs with seven other mystery writers at www.jungleredwriters.com. Visit Rosemary at www.rosemaryharris.com and Like her on facebook at www.facebook.com/RosemaryHarriswriter