Ute: One of the wonderful things about the Claire Marshall series is the setting. New Orleans provides a perfect backdrop for these stories. Why did you decide to set the series in the Big Easy?
Patricia: I love New Orleans: the people, the music, the food, the attitude, the murky, sexy ambiance. It is, IMO, a terrific setting for any kind of drama. If a good fairy snatched you out of your bed and plunked you down in New Orleans, you would quickly figure out where you were. That's not true of many cities. Beyond that, the setting is pre-Katrina. New Orleans is recovering and may be in some ways be better, but that was a devastating event, on a scale that had to be seen to be believed, and I did not want to deal with it in my books.
Ute: I agree New Orleans is a place like no other. I can see why you'd want to set the book pre-Katrina. You go further back, though—the books are set in the early 1990s, not quite historical but not quite contemporary. What were the challenges of setting a book in, for lack of a better phrase, 'near history'?
Patricia: It wasn't a challenge; it was a necessity. The plot of A Perfect Victim was inspired by something that happened back then. If everyone had a cell phone, things would have gone very differently. I remember the 1990s, of course, but to be sure things were accurate, I researched the events of 1993 and 1994 - thank you Wikipedia. This proved extremely useful. A House of Her Own is organized, in part, around the 1994 Formula One schedule. Without that horrific racing season, it would not be the same book.
Ute: I hadn't realized the Formula One portion of the story was based on actual events, it's seamlessly done. I'm always fascinated by the way fiction imitates life or sometimes, life imitates fiction. Did the idea for making Claire's love interest, Tony, a race car driver come first or was it the research into Formula One, which gave Tony such a great story line—and Claire another person to worry about?
Patricia: Tony is a racecar driver because I wanted a glamorous profession that put plenty of temptation in his path. The way the Formula One thread worked out was serendipity for the story, but I wish it weren't true. That season was carnage.
Your question suggests organization. I wish. I write with a vague idea how the book will end and not a clue about the sequel--or even if there will be one. This didn't start out to be a trilogy, but when I finished A Perfect Victim, I realized that Claire's story wasn't finished. Ditto when I finished Secrets, Lies & Homicide. A House of Her Own completes Claire's story. And I did not how it would end until I was writing the ending. But once I figured it out, I knew it had to be.
Ute: It's good to know I'm not the only one who writes without knowing where I'm going. The three books follow a single character and could be thought of as all of a piece, yet each novel could be read as a standalone as well. Writing a series presents its own set of challenges, though. How is writing the same main character easier than using different characters each time? How is it more difficult? And would you—or will you—write another series?
Patricia: I'm beginning another book with a very different, although still female, protagonist.I can see this character, who is still only partly formed, developing into someone who could go for more than one book. I hope so, because I get fond of my characters. I am going to miss Claire--and Bea and Mike and Tony, etc..
A trilogy suits me. Following the same characters for three books lets you get to know them better, which makes it easier to write about them. And I can keep track of three books. More than three--and some series go for twenty--is harder. You have to remember everything that has happened in all those books. I'd need a chart. A lot of writers create a "series bible" for that very task.
Ute: A series bible is a great idea. Even in a standalone novel, it's sometimes difficult to keep minor characters and incidents straight. I'm intrigued by this new character. Can you tell us a bit more about the new book?
Patricia: The new character, who I'm hoping will be worth more than one book, is a divorced woman in her late forties. Susan lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan, doing research for a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in capital cases. But the case in this first book is very personal.
I'm still at the beginning, which means I'm still getting to know Susan and not too sure what's going to happen. I hope to finish the first draft by participating in NaNoWriMo - for non-writers, that is National November Writing Month where writers encourage each other to produce at least 50,000 words in the month of November. Which is a lot of words, and I'm clearing the decks for a writing marathon. Have you ever done NaNoWriMo, Ute?
Ute: i have started, but never finished. I tend to write more slowly, and 50k in a month is a bit much for me. That said, I think it's a great idea and I'm cheering for all the nano participants.
Thanks so much for coming to the garret today Patricia!
As a child, Patricia Dusenbury read under the covers when her parents thought she was asleep. (She still reads into the wee hours but now uses a Kindle.) Despite sleep deprivation, Patricia managed to get through school and a career as an economic analyst/strategic planner. Now retired, she hopes to atone for all those dry reports by writing stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, won the 2015 EPIC (Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition) award for best mystery. The sequel, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, was a top ten finisher in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll. A House of Her Own is the third and final Claire Marshall novel. Learn more about Patricia and her writing at PatriciaDusenbury.com