Friday Speak Out!: All’s Fair In Love War and Writing the Modern Mystery Novel

Friday, April 10, 2015
by Nancy Cole Silverman

As a writer I get asked all the time where do you get your ideas? For me it’s easy. I steal them. Now let me explain, for years I worked inside a busy newsroom and saw stories, the likes of which you just can’t make up. Fact is stranger than fiction. So when I retired and the cuffs-were-off, and I no longer had an editor over my back yelling at me to stick-to-the-facts, I decided it was time to play. Let it rip! Blend fact with fiction and let the bodies fall where they will.

I was lucky that Henery Press picked up my first book and with very little pressure – believe me I was used to a whole lot more in a newsroom – convinced me to make it a series.

In my first book, Shadow of Doubt, Carol Childs, a middle-aged mom, is embarking on a new career as a reporter, when her friend and next door neighbor knocks on her door and tells her, her aunt, a top Hollywood agent, has died suspiciously in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills home. Poisoned. Where did the idea come from? A news story of course. The day after an Academy Awards show here in Hollywood, I read an article about a Hollywood Agent who had been shot and killed as she drove home from the awards show. That in itself was terrible, but what followed in the paper was even more intriguing. The agent had twin nieces and had left a will in which one niece inherited one-million dollars and the other niece just one dollar. One dollar! I couldn’t let that pass. The story just wouldn’t let go of me.

In July, the sequel, Beyond a Doubt, will be released and as I sit here and write, I find myself rubbing my hands, hoping my readers and reviewers will enjoy my second book as much as they did the first. But I have a confession at make. I stole ideas for that book as well.

Beyond a Doubt opens with a body dump. Is the idea original? Not entirely. Years ago I woke up to the sounds of helicopters above my house in the hills where I live. Commuters had spotted a body and called the police. The story stuck with me, the emotion of seeing a body airlifted from the canyon, not easy to forget. Am I guilty of theft? Absolutely. The idea of a body being pushed from a helicopter isn’t exactly original, but it certainly is gripping.

My point is that as writers we’re like emotional sponges. We soak in all that we see and hear around us. We have to. To be authentic on the page, one has to be able to recall a similar experience from within ourselves, or that we’ve experienced vicariously through others. Whether it’s a scene we’re writing or the same gut feeling we need to show our character experiencing, we have to pull it from somewhere. To do that a writer must steal from all around him, blur the lines of fact and fiction, then wrap it up in from of a novel or a short story. It’s a larceny I can live with. I hope you can too.

* * *
Nancy Cole Silverman’s new series with Henery Press is available in bookstores and online. For more information about Ms. Silverman, please visit her website; or her publisher

Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!



Angela Mackintosh said...

"As writers we’re like emotional sponges." Nancy, this is so true. Great post!

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top