What Do You Know?

Catherine DiltsCatherine Dilts writes amateur sleuth mysteries set in the Colorado mountains. In her debut novel Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery, business is as dead as a dinosaur, but when Morgan Iverson finds the body of a Goth teen on a hiking trail, more than just the family rock shop could become extinct. Catherine works as an environmental scientist, and plays at heirloom vegetable gardening, camping, and fishing. Her short fiction appears in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Visit her at http://www.catherinedilts.com/


I’ve been writing stories since I was old enough to hold a crayon in my fist. Dreams have come and gone, but the one that stuck with me through life was to be an author. Now that I’m published, I ask myself, why did it take so long?

One of the first bits of writing advice I heard was to write what you love to read. Cut me a little slack on this one. I read most genres as well as the occasional lofty literary novel.

During my pre-published years, I attempted science fiction and speculative fiction. Friends will remember my infamous lizard-woman tome. I once wrote a romance that people told me was a nice enough book, but it was obvious I knew nothing about romance. I tried to write the Great American Novel. It was all good practice, but none received the coveted publishing contract.

Stone Cold DeadOne day it hit me. The first series I fell in love with was Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax. When I want to curl up in a chair with a good book, just to relax and be entertained, I grab a cozy or an amateur sleuth. Elaine Viets, Ellen Byerrum, Katherine Hall Page, and Catriona McPherson, to name a very few, write intelligent stories that are fun to read.

Now I knew my calling. To write the kind of story I liked to read.

The second bit of writing advice drilled into aspiring authors is to write what you know. I would like to suggest this is highly overrated. At least, I hope Jeffery Deaver is not writing his grisly thrillers from experience!

I was determined to give writing what I know a try. I had to think long and hard about how to make a story set in a factory interesting enough that someone else would care to read it. Then it occurred to me, not many people work in factories anymore. People might find it an intriguing setting.

I wrote a short story, an amateur sleuth murder mystery loosely based on the factory where I have worked for many years. I made my first sale. “The Jolly Fat Man” appeared in the April 2013 issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

Shortly after that, Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery sold to Five Star-Cengage. My novel is an amateur sleuth mystery, this time set in a Colorado Rock shop. I’ve never worked in a rock shop, but the trails my protagonist Morgan hikes are the same Catherine Dilts Alfred Hitchcock Mystery MagazineColorado mountain trails I know and love. The tourist town of Golden Springs is loosely based on several Colorado towns I have visited. And I love rock shops.

My most recent sale was another short story, “Tweens,” to Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, May 2014. This story taps into my experience as an environmental scientist, and as a grandmother.

Number One: Write what you love to read. Number Two: write what you know. I was slow to learn these lessons, but I finally learned how to apply them to my writing.

Stone Cold Dead – A Rock Shop Mystery is available through independent bookstore The Tattered Cover – http://www.tatteredcover.com/ and Barnes & Nobel and Amazon.