Inspiration

Edith Maxwell 3Edith Maxwell writes the Lauren Rousseau mysteries under the pseudonym Tace Baker, in which Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau solves small-town murders (Barking Rain Press). The second book in the series, Bluffing is Murder, released in November, 2014. Edith holds a doctorate in linguistics and is a long-time member of Amesbury Friends Meeting.

‘Til Dirt Do Us Part is the latest in Maxwell’s Local Foods Mysteries series (Kensington Publishing, 2014). Her new Country Store Mysteries, written as Maddie Day (also from Kensington), will debut with Flipped for Murder in November, 2015.

Maxwell’s Carriagetown Mysteries series features Quaker midwife Rose Carroll solving mysteries in 1888 with John Greenleaf Whittier’s help. Maxwell also writes award-winning short stories.

A fourth-generation Californian and former tech writer, Maxwell lives in an antique house north of Boston with her beau and three cats. She blogs every weekday with the other Wicked Cozy Authors (wickedcozyauthors.com), and you can find her at www.edithmaxwell.com, @edithmaxwell, on Pinterest, and at www.facebook.com/EdithMaxwellAuthor.

Thanks so much for having me back on the blog!

I am often asked where I get the ideas for my stories and books. Familiar events and scenes, or a chance sighting of something unusual, can inspire the imagination to take off running.

Here’s an example. Some years ago, I was driving home from work after dark. I saw a road crew digging a big hole in the ground to work on pipe or wires or something. Floodlights illuminated the area and it looked like a movie scene. All you could see were the workers in the spotlight. A few weeks after that I saw a man walking in Beverly, Massachusetts, who just did not look American. Yatshuhashi For LanceItalian, maybe, or Portuguese. Full head of dark hair, although he wasn’t young, and pants and shoes of a cut you don’t see in Macy’s or Walmart. So I combined those into a story, “The Stonecutter,” of a granite cutter from Portugal who works at night and his romance with a librarian, then made it into a crime story of middle-aged romance gone terribly wrong, which was published in Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, and which I have reissued as a stand-alone ebook.

My short story, “Yatsuhashi for Lance,” was loosely based on someone I knew when I lived in Japan. A fellow English-conversation teacher, he was deported on spurious charges. The story I wrote is fiction, but many of the scenes and descriptions stem from my experiences in my two years of teaching English there.

Melanson’s Boat Shop was a fixture in the town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, where I lived when I wrote both Lauren Rousseau mysteries. The boat shop was an abandoned business along the river with rusty chains hanging out over the water and an interior full of old tools and the huge skeleton of a ship. I was intrigued by it and walked by this decrepit, strange, mysterious place nearly every day. I wrote the boat shop, renamed Pulcifer’s, and a fictitious resident into a short story and into the draft of my first Lauren Rousseau mystery, Speaking of Murder. Then, when we were in Maine for a week, my son called and said the boat shop was burning down. You can hardly make this stuff up! So the fire got written into the book, too. I didn’t know the actual inhabitant or anything about him, except that he survived the fire, so I felt free to continue to invent his character and subsequent events.

In Bluffing is Murder, Lauren walks on Ipswich’s Crane Beach, where I used to spend as much time as I could. There is an area where the wooded hill comes right down to the sand and rocks at the edge of the water. I thought, “Looks like a great place to find a dead body.” The Crane mansion that overlooks the ocean has a long history and back halls crying out to be included in a suspense scene. And just across the cove is a small peninsula of land that was the part of the oldest land trust in the country, but that was being mismanaged by a secretive cabal of trustees. I fully expected someone to be murdered in the controversy that I read about in the papers every day, but when no one was, I decided to fictionalize the whole thing.

Edith Maxwell Crane Mansion

What experiences have sent you to the keyboard to write a scene or a story? What stories have you read that you suspect have a basis in fact?

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Bluffing Is MurderSummer promises to be anything but easy for Quaker linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau in Bluffing is Murder. Still reeling from an attack by her student’s murderer, Lauren decides to brush up on her karate and finds herself drawn to handsome sensei Dan Talbot. During a run near the sea bluffs, she discovers the corpse of her insurance agent, Charles Heard, who is also a Trustee for one of the oldest land trusts in the country. Earlier that day, Lauren had a public argument with Heard over her policy―and is now a suspect in the case.

Determined to clear her name, Lauren sets out to discover the real story behind the mismanaged land trust, the dead man’s volatile sister―and a possible link to her own father’s mysterious death more than a decade ago. But a near miss with a car, snippets of strange conversations in French and Farsi, slashed tires, and finding yet another attack victim on the beach make it clear that Lauren is also a target―and the killer is closing in. Can Lauren discover the killer before she becomes the next victim?


“In this page-turner of a mystery, linguistics professor Lauren Rousseau
uses her smarts, her Quaker faith, and her summer vacation to bring a
vicious murderer, and a secret from her own past, into the light.”
-Barbara Ross, Agatha-nominated author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries
and co-editor of Level Best Books

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