Dorothy Hayes, a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, taught Language Arts in Connecticut schools, was a staff writer for the “Wilton Bulletin”, and “The Hour” and received an honorary award for her in-depth series on Vietnam Veterans from the Society of Professional Journalists. She also worked as a staff writer for a national animal protection corporation, and wrote Animal Instinct published by iUniverse in 2006. She writes for womenofmystery.net, and criminalelement.com, and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Tri-State Chapter.
One question often asked a writer is: “Who inspired you?”
Before I knew I was a writer, I wanted to be a writer. I turned to the best to learn and found myself blown away by their talent.
I was crying sitting in a beauty shop while reading Homer’s description of Hector’s death. His dead body was being pulled by Achilles’ chariot and Andromache was watching from the castle, her heart broken, tears running down her cheeks, … and mine.
The passion in the Iliad was an epiphany. Why was this the only book that made me cry like that? There should be more.
Years later, when I wrote features for my local newspaper, my editor often said, “Why do I always cry when I read your stories?”
In bed one sleepless night and reading Hamlet’s soliloquy, for the first time, “To be or not to be: that is the question:” The angst and the passion so amazed me that I started to memorize it immediately. The pacing of Shakespeare’s words grows to demonstrate the building emotion. He starts with a question, so profound, but so simply stated and the words build to an almost unbearable crescendo:
“Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them? To die: to sleep: No more…;
Too many decades later, I noticed that same kind of rhythm and building of emotions in my first book, Animal Instinct, I humbly state, not feeling at ease having my name in the same paragraph as Shakespeare’s, but to demonstrate his influence on writers, I’ll risk it. He wrote the monologue in iambic pentameter, or blank verse, which I knew nothing about at the time, and know very little now, except that it is a rhythm that I managed to pick up.
The Ballad of Reading Goal by Oscar Wilde takes us inside a jail where a man has been sentenced to death. I felt the cold chill of fate and Wilde’s empathy for a convicted murderer. I started to memorize: “I never saw a man who looked with such a wistful eye upon the little tent of blue which prisoners called the sky or every drifting cloud that went with sails of silver by.”
Wilde is advocating for prison reform, but as a young woman, I had no idea. What Wilde taught me was that writers take readers places unreachable by any other vehicle. This poem delivered me to the last moments of a man’s life, inside a jail, just before he was to be hanged in France in the late 1800s. Remarkable.
I aim to take my readers to an original place.
In Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the dialogue was so succinct that I didn’t have to read the names of the characters speaking. It was distinctly them by their choice of words, their status, rhythm, their politics, and attitude:
“If you have nothing better to do, Count,(or Prince) and if the prospect of spending an evening with a poor invalid is not too terrible, I shall be very charmed to see you tonight between 7 and 10- Annette Scherer.”
Little dialogue, however, is used by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Only a few words like a punch line at the end of a joke. Yet, his narration is so addicting, you can’t stop reading.
“At the time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built at the bank of the river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.”– One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Before I started my first mystery, I read all of Edgar Allan Poe’s work, since he is the man credited for creating the genre. After reading Murders in the Rue Morgue, with his character, Dupin, I went directly to A Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes stories; Holmes, of course, plays the same role as Dupin.
My character in Murder at the P&Z, Carol Rossi, is a local reporter. When the secretary to the town planner is murdered, Chief Dominic Romano, of the Wilton Police Department, rejects her crime theory. The Chief is much like Doyle’s Inspector G. Lestrade, who is normally out of his depth.
For present day character driven novels, I turned to Henning Mankell. His character, Kurt Wallander embodies the human condition perfectly, having a father he argues with, a job that often keeps him working long hours so that he neglects to shower, eat well, or clean his house. Wallander is honorable, however, and one of the best crime solvers of this genre. So I study his crime solving techniques. There is often a message in his stories, as well. In The Fifth Woman, violence against women is at the heart of the crime, for instance.
Stieg Larsson, also focuses on an issue, such as in The Millennium Trilogy, in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
“An estimated 600 women served during the American Civil War. They had signed up disguised as men,” he writes in the first line.
Of course, Larsson creates one of the most memorable heroines ever, according to literary experts, in Lisbeth Salander. Women are also the victims of vicious men in his series.
Murder at the P&Z has its own message.
I can still see Victor Hugo’s revolutionary scenes in Les Miserables, the candlelit opera house in Emile Zola’s Nana, so many more inspired, Agatha Christie, Guy de Maupassant, Dostoyevsky, Daphne du Maurier… Each time I prepare to write a new book, I reach into the font of inspiration and feel that tingle of excitement and I am, again, grateful to all of them.
Murder at the P&Z
A local reporter, Carol Rossi, turns amateur sleuth when the secretary to the town planner is murdered. The police suspect that it is a random crime. Rossi, however, suspects that the murder is connected to a real estate project that was approved by the Wilton Planning and Zoning Department. She launches her own investigation and is soon in over her head. She’s being stalked and her life is threatened, but she doesn’t know why. Then the recently retired town planner is found dead in his Bimini swimming pool. Her new romantic interest, police detective, Jerry Stevenson starts working with her. But it is Rossi who solves the crime in this cozy turned thriller.