Karen Pullen’s award-winning short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Spinetingler, Every Day Fiction, Crime Scene Scotland, and the anthology Fish Tales. She earned an MFA in Popular Fiction from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She runs a bed & breakfast in Pittsboro, North Carolina, where she teaches memoir writing and fiction workshops. Her first novel, Cold Feet, will be published by Five Star in January 2013. Updates on Karen and her writing may be seen at www.karenpullen.com.
I am a mystery writer who also owns a bed & breakfast. As soon as anyone hears of this professional conjunction, he or she will say, “You should write a mystery set in a B&B!”
Well, yes. And I have, sort of. Cold Feet has scenes that take place in a B&B. But I wouldn’t call it a “B&B mystery” because most of the action takes place elsewhere, and my sleuth is a cop, not an innkeeper.
But in one respect, running a B&B has fed my writing.
In the 12 years since I opened Rosemary House, approximately 10,000 people have slept in my beds. To be honest, I don’t remember most of them: pleasant, well-behaved, sociable guests don’t make enough of a long-lasting impression in the bit of time that I spend with them. I enjoy talking with them, I hope that they enjoyed their stay, and I ask them to come back soon. Then I get to work posting expenses or making muffins or responding to new reservations, and the memory of those particular guests fades as the weeks go by.
However, I do remember the few awful guests (very few, but memorable). Awful guests are painful because the customer is always. . . you know. I have to apologize and try to make things right (which usually isn’t possible). They make us feel bad and we can’t retaliate!
But I’m a writer, he he. I can put them in a story and make them suffer! Three examples:
1. A man from a never-to-be-named country was determined to be miserable; he hated the room, he hated the breakfast, he hated his wife and her relatives, he hated my B&B. Every look he shot me was filled with loathing, and I had no idea why. He seemed to have a huge chip on his shoulder about the USA. Ugh. Poor wife. This man is now an unsympathetic character who comes to a bad end in Cold Feet, my mystery to be published in January 2013 by Five Star.
2. A woman asked for my help planning her small wedding, to be held on the B&B patio. I lined up a minister, a cake, flowers, and a caterer. Many emails flew back and forth as she had lots of decisions to make. But she never sent me any deposits. Two weeks before the wedding date, she canceled, saying she’d found a better location. All my work for naught. I got even: she meets an untimely end through poison in “SASE,” my story in Fish Tales, an anthology.
3. A third guest, a man, was rude and arrogant and insulting. Now my B&B staff are two sweet women, soft-spoken, charming, and eager to please. This guy treated them like inferiors. So what did I do with him? In “Years of the Wicked,” a short story published by Spinetingler, a single punch does him in. Sweet dreams, Roman!
If you’re a writer, have you ever inserted a real person into your story, just to get even? Why does it feel so good? I think it’s because in real life I have no control over these people. I have to smile and apologize and just submit to their bad behavior. But when I make them into characters, I have total control. Their unfortunate destiny is MINE.
So the two professions have synergy. Be a good guest, or I’ll kill you off in my book!