The Mix-Ups of Multiple Mysteries by Susan Van Kirk
Several years ago, when I spent winters in Phoenix, I heard multiple marvelous mystery writers at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore. On one occasion, I listened to a gentleman who was writing a series with four books published. Several times people asked questions about events that happened to his characters, and he had trouble remembering which book contained the deeds in question. That’s odd, I thought. You would think a person would remember what he wrote.
Nowadays, I find I must eat my words. I’ve now written three mystery series, two of them published and the third off to publishers. The first series took place in the small town of Endurance with a protagonist, Grace Kimball, age 56, dating a newspaper editor, Jeff Maitlin, during the three novels. In the second series, Sweet Iron is the small town where Beth Russell goes to find out about an inheritance. Beth, age 48 when that series begins, is interested in a police detective named Kyle Warner. The first book of the Apple Grove series isn’t out yet, but its protagonist, Jill Madison, is the youngest of all—age 30. She is a painter and curator of an art center, and she meets a young doctor named Sam Finch, but their relationship is just getting off the ground.
Today, I’m working on the plot for the second Sweet Iron series and I think I may need a coroner. That’s easy, I think. There’s Alexander P. Atkins, III, who is quite a crazy character straight out of the wild West. Oh, no, wait. TJ Sweeney talked to him. That was in The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney in the Endurance series. Well, there’s Abe Calipher, spiffy dresser and always carrying a cup of coffee from some coffee shop. Hmmm. He won’t work because he’s in Death in a Pale Hue. Did I have a coroner in the Sweet Iron series? I guess I didn’t. No coroner, so I may have to invent yet another coroner.
I also have three protagonists. Grace Kimball is most like me, a retired schoolteacher, but younger than I am. She’s a cautious woman and curious about everything. A widow, she has been single and raised three now-adult children. Grace has a circle of friends who support her, and a detective friend, TJ Sweeney, who was a former student. A trip to her downtown will elicit many humorous conversations with former students.
Beth Russell, from the Sweet Iron Series, is a bit of a loner, although she’s becoming more social as the series continues. She’s a historical researcher and genealogist, and shares Grace’s intellectual curiosity. Beth has developed a circle of friends very slowly as she becomes more involved in the life of the town. Her past has been unlucky in love, but that doesn’t seem to stop her from falling for the town detective.
In the small town of Apple Grove, Jill Madison is the youngest protagonist at 30, and I occasionally must call my daughter-in-law, who is also 30, to ask her questions about how she reacts to things and uses language from a different generation than mine. Jill deals with depression caused by a past event, but she is doing much better now that she is back in her hometown with her family supporting her. Unlike her more intellectual protagonist-cousins, she is an oil painter who takes some stupid chances when she gets involved in a murder investigation.
A different day, a different book to work on, and I work a little harder now to remember who is where with which love interest. Sigh.
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Susan Van Kirk is President of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a writer of cozy mysteries. She lives at the center of the universe—the Midwest—and writes during the ridiculously cold and icy winters. Why leave the house and break something? Van Kirk taught forty-four years in high school and college and raised three children. Miraculously, she has low blood pressure.
Her Endurance mysteries include Three May Keep a Secret, Marry in Haste, The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, and Death Takes No Bribes. Her Sweet Iron mystery is A Death at Tippitt Pond. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.