I’m often asked how I come up with stories. This is difficult to answer considering I can’t pinpoint one moment in time. Usually, something plants a seed and then I’ll stumble onto a news story or overhear a conversation and an idea starts to grow. My upcoming release, Claudia Must Die, raises a few eyebrows when I mention the title. People want to know more right away, and I explain it’s about a wanted woman who plots to have her look-alike murdered in an attempt to escape her past. That spurs the typical question, “How did you come up with that?”
Several years ago I was on my way home from work, and I popped into the library to pick up some books I had requested. As I entered the building, a man followed me in. At the time I didn’t pay much attention. I checked out the books and chatted briefly with some of the staff members. When I left, the man who arrived at the same time exited with me.
I didn’t notice him looking at anything in particular inside, and my visit had been short, so I was surprised he was leaving already. I then noticed he was taking the same route as me through the South End of Boston. Each night after work I walked through the neighborhood and varied my route so I could enjoy the different streets and their gardens. That night, feeling uneasy about the man behind me, I purposefully crossed the street and took a street that led me out of my way. The man followed.
There was nothing overtly threatening about the guy. He wore jeans and a gray sweatshirt. However, he was following me pretty closely, even when I intentionally paused to see if he would pass. He didn’t.
This was getting creepy. There was no rhyme or reason to my route to Hynes Station. Its location on Massachusetts Avenue and Newbury Street was about twenty minutes away on foot. Now that I felt like I was being followed, I made a beeline towards Mass Ave. It was usually crowded as opposed to the streets we were on. Again when I turned, so did he.
By the time we reached The Christian Science building ten minutes later, the man suddenly veered to the right and I continued going straight. I felt silly about my paranoia, but it did take several moments for my heart rate to return to normal.
A couple of weeks later I read an article about Mexican drug cartels hiring children in border towns in Texas and using them as assassins. I found it appalling. Yet it did give me an idea, and I started to create two characters for a novel. The assassins in Claudia Must Die are brothers from a small, dusty Texas town. They fall into the line of work since there are no other job prospects. They’re young, but not as young as the children in the article I read. I didn’t have the heart to create twelve-year-old killers.
Remembering how I felt when I thought I was being followed started the story’s formation in my head. However, I didn’t want it to be overly simple. I wanted the woman who was being pursued to have no idea she was a target. I had to stew about this for several weeks before I had a clearer picture. That’s when the idea of Claudia Must Die was born.
Coming up with an idea is a process and it can take weeks, if not months, to germinate. When it does, I sit at my computer and type. Usually the story changes drastically, but the seed remains the same.
Divorce is not an option. Instead, she has stolen a bunch of her man’s money to disappear into another life.
In order for Claudia to live, someone else must die. A lookalike college student becomes the target capable of freeing her from an awful marriage.
The plan goes horribly awry. Instead of murdering Claudia’s double, the assassins shoot the woman’s lover who is the cousin of a powerful Irish mobster. Claudia becomes hunted by all involved. Can she survive? Should she?
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