The Writer as a Mollusk by Molly MacRae

My last guest post for Debra’s blog was about being a vagabond writer—one who likes the adventure of taking her characters from town to town or starting over with new stories in new locations. I’ve set stories in towns from the east coast to the west and especially in one place between the two—northeast Tennessee. I also hopped the Atlantic to set stories in the Scottish Highlands. I’m partial to the Tennessee and Scottish settings because I lived in both places and love them. The stories are my way of stopping by for a visit. 

Now I’m on the road again. My new series, the Haunted Shell Shop Mysteries, takes place on Ocracoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. I’ve never lived in Ocracoke, but my family and I have taken the ferry there many times starting in 1979. Again, I love the place, and this is my way of getting there more often than I can in real life. 

What do mollusks have to do with any of this? Mollusks are the amazing creatures who create the seashells that people have, for at least 160,000 years, collected to use for money, food, tools, ornaments, and for the sheer pleasure of holding something so astonishing in their hands. Maureen Nash, main character in the Haunted Shell Shop Mysteries, is a  scientist who studies mollusks. Her focus is freshwater mussels, but in Come Shell or High Water, book one in the new series, she’s in Ocracoke to find out why the guy who owns the shell shop there has been writing intriguing but scammy-sounding letters to her late husband. 

How are writers like mollusks? Both creatures create something that attracts strangers—stories and shells. A shell is the mollusk’s skeleton. An outline or first draft is the writer’s skeleton for their story. For some, writing a novel goes at a snail’s pace. Who else is slow? Actual snails. Land and sea snails are mollusks. Some types of mollusks create shells with elaborate shapes and beautiful symmetry. Writers, mystery writers in particular, create elaborate plots, and there’s satisfaction in the symmetry of a story where a crime disrupts a peaceful community, an investigation follows, and order is restored.  

Not all mollusks create seashells. Octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish, for instance, are mollusks that don’t. They do have ink, though. So do writers. And think about the people who write while also raising a family and working full-time, and those who write multiple books a year. Can’t you picture them as octopuses with their arms conducting business meetings, stirring something on the stove for supper, reading bedtime stories, folding laundry, feeding the cat, and tapping away at the keyboard?

 Here’s one more thought. My family and friends often call me Moll. Short for Molly, of course, not mollusk, but I like the connection anyway. Mollusks and I have a lot in common. Now here I go, sentence by sentence, inch by inch creating my next story.

You can find or order Molly’s books wherever books are sold or lent. Come Shell or High Water comes out June 25, 2024. You’ll find buy links and can connect with Molly at her website.

The Boston Globe says Molly MacRae writes “murder with a dose of drollery.” In addition to the Haunted Shell Shop Mysteries, Molly writes the award-winning, national bestselling Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries and the Highland Bookshop Mysteries. As Margaret Welch she writes books for Annie’s Fiction and Guideposts. Molly’s short stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and she’s a winner of the Sherwood Anderson Award for Short Fiction.

16 thoughts on “The Writer as a Mollusk by Molly MacRae”

  1. I think you missed a similarity, Molly.
    Like oysters. writers worry away at troublesome intruders into their planned stories to create multi-layered pearls.

    We met years ago at my very first Malice. I’ve missed seeing you since!

    1. That’s excellent, Mary! I remember meeting you but we’ve been like mollusks passing in the night since. Nice to see you here.

  2. Such a cute analogy. You are always so clever. My favorite writer by far. I can’t wait for your new book!! I hope you’ve got the next one growing in your imagination.

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