Ready for Something Different?!

Peg Herring reads, writes, and loves mysteries. As an educator she once set the school stage on fire. As a driver she’s been so lost that she passed through the same town in Pennsylvania three times in one day. Family and friends have lost count of how many times she’s locked herself out of her house. It’s much safer if she sits in her office and writes, either as herself or as her younger, hipper alter ego, Maggie Pill. on Amazon: Coming soon to other retailers.
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That’s both a question (for the reader) and a comment (from the writer).

Many readers love mysteries, but once in a while we need a change, something where the question isn’t “Who did it?” but more like “She did it, but will she get away with it?”

I enjoy writing mysteries as much as I enjoy reading good ones from my favorite writers (Michael Connelly, Charles Todd, Laura Lippman, and Anne Perry, to name a few). Still, when an idea came along that was more caper novel than whodunit, it was too much fun to ignore. I began with a “What if?” question, as Lee Child does with his Jack Reacher books. My version was “What if someone got so fed up with wealth and power translating to immunity from punishment that she decided to do something about it?” That led to: “What might people with no money and little power do to counteract crooks with lots of money and great power?” A hint to my answer comes from the title:

As a reader, you might be interested in a book that has fun with the concept of the little guys getting back a bit of their own. You might want to know how an oddball group of well-meaning vigilantes forms an operating anti-crime unit. It’s different, it’s funny, and it’s immensely satisfying.

For the writer, creating the “gang” was somewhat delicate. Writers never want people to think we advocate crime, because we don’t. But we’re interested in crimes: why people commit them, what goes into their decisions to continue the practice, and how they deal with their status as people outside the law. My protagonist, Robin, has a criminal background (sort of). Her companions join her crusade for justice for various reasons, and while none of them is what we’d call an average citizen, each has a contribution to make and a purpose to fulfill.

The characters came naturally to my mind: the “odd” neighbor who takes everything literally and wears different versions of the same outfit every day. The ex-FBI agent who’s bored out of her skull in retirement. The former slave with nowhere else to go. And the dog, for whom crime isn’t a concern. Regular meals and shows of affection are more than enough to make him happy.

When the first draft was finished, I thought I was satisfied with just telling about the group’s capers, but my editor wanted more. (Don’t they always?) I’d hinted at Robin’s background but hadn’t “visited” it in the story. Ms. Editor ordered, “Visit!” so I did. In the present version, Robin’s reasons for leaving behind her normal life strengthen the book, making it less “Here are some funny things these people did” and more “Here’s a hero’s journey to self-realization with funny moments and the theme that justice is good for everyone, even the crooks.”

Like every book ever written that’s any good at all, it was harder to bring all this together than it seemed at first. Still, I like a lot, and I hope my readers do too.