This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Diane Weiner. Weiner is a former teacher turned mystery writer who is the author of eight Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries and three Sugarberry Falls Mysteries. Her latest book, Clearing the Course, was released in June. Weiner was our featured author on March 2, 2018.
As an author, one question I’m often asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” I have to admit that when I started writing the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse mysteries, I feared the well running dry. Fortunately, twelve books later, the ideas are still flowing.
My first book, Murder is Elementary, started with an image. At the elementary school where I taught, an administrator wanna-be, plied our principal with baked goods (you know the type). He’d often come into her office bearing the likes of Black Forest Cake. What if he tried to poison her and get her out of the picture? Hmmm… a frosted cupcake with fun-fetti sprinkles on the principal’s desk… tooth marks in the frosting…a body collapsed on the floor. What if the newly retired music teacher attended the school’s holiday concert and the principal went AWOL? Knowing as all music teachers do that the show must go on, she hunts for the missing principal, making her way into that office.
Throw into the mix the fact that the principal’s daughter was one of Susan’s favorite students. Add a detective daughter into the mix for conflict, and oh, remember the wanna-be baker? A prime suspect. Now I had the backbone of my story.
Other images became seeds for subsequent books. A dead bookkeeper with papers strewn all over the floor of her office was the start of Murder in the Middle. Being a runner who is often out before the sun comes up, I scare myself. A lot. By the way, this is why I write cozies and not thrillers. Listening to spooky ads for Halloween Horror Nights on my antiquated Sony headphone radio left me imagining stumbling over a dead body (or becoming one), as in A Deadly Course.
If I’m stuck for an idea, I look to the news. After all, I do live in Florida! The Stand your Ground law factored into Murder is Private. A story about babies taken from teen mothers and sold on the black market was the impetus for the Georgia Babes storyline in Murder is Legal.
Finally, I believe that places we’ve been and experiences we have are woven into us. I was inspired to write the Sugarbury Falls series because while in high school, my best friend’s grandparents lived in a log cabin in Vermont. Visiting them with her family made a lasting impression. I still visualize the lake and the barn and remember that her grandmother snow- shoed in the winter.
I grew up in Highland, New York, a small town not far from the big city. Westbrook is a resort style version of my hometown with a house that looks like my former home in Tamarac, Florida. Oh, and that town sprouted a Starbucks and a giant Barnes and Noble when I needed them.
Favorite spots are fun to incorporate into writing, even if they become a juxtaposition of several places. When I was younger, I dreamed of opening a school for performing arts. One of my favorite Florida spots is City Place in West Palm Beach. The Dreyfoos School campus is the model I used for the performing arts school in Murder is Private, except in the book it is right on the ocean, with a pier and a light house! It’s fun writing in a world that you love and can keep tweaking until it’s exactly where you want it to be.
Currently I am writing Murder is Medical, which takes place in St. Louis. My son lives there. When I’m writing about Forest Park, the cat café, or Match Day at Washington University Medical School, it makes me feel closer to him.
Growing up, reading transported me to so many places and experiences. Now, writing does the same. Ideas are all around us, ready to be woven into stories uniquely crafted through our own set of eyes.
For more information, visit the author's website at www.dianeweinerauthor.com