Guest Blogger ~ Nancy Raven Smith

Which Comes First – The Protagonist or The Situation?

Every author arrives at the protagonists for their books from a different direction.

When I decided to write my Land Sharks series I knew I wanted to write cozy mysteries about fraud, scams, and white collar crime A land shark is a nickname for a scammer, con man, or fraudster targeting people to steal money and other valuables.

The hardest part of planning the series became choosing the employment of the protagonist. They had to deal with frauds regularly or I wouldn’t have a series. That meant it couldn’t be a normal person because, even though the numbers are high for the victims of those crimes, a series couldn’t be based on one person being constantly the victim without them appearing unintelligent. I already knew my protagonist needed to be fairly smart.

Naturally, I thought of the police. A policeman/woman might sound logical, but it actually isn’t. I found that out the hard way when my checking account was crashed with bogus checks. I had to insist to get my local police department to file a report. The same is true for victims of identity theft and credit card fraud. It turns out that police departments rightfully give priority to ‘crimes against persons,’ not ‘crimes against property.’ They simply don’t have the time or budget to do anything else. So a protagonist who was a policeman/woman was out.

The next stop to get my checking account straightened out was the bank. I met with the manager. I brought the right proof to get the stolen money returned to my account. As I left the bank, the manager made a comment that “I might be contacted by their fraud department.” I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

I continued to consider and discard several other possible employments for my protagonist such as stock broker and Interpol. But then the bank manager’s words came back to me. The bank had a fraud department. Who deals with more financial fraud on a daily basis than a bank? An employee in an international bank’s fraud department was perfect for my new protagonist.

With my protagonist’s employment settled, I moved on to other character choices. This is always a fun part for me. Here are some of my final decisions. I wanted a woman. Although my first choice was to make her black, I had to discard that because, as a white woman, I didn’t have the personal experience to write from another race’s POV. So my character became white from necessity. I named her Alexis ‘Lexi’ Winslow. She became a diplomat’s daughter, which allowed a natural affinity for travel, languages, and unusual situations. I put her in her mid thirties, so physicality wouldn’t be a problem.

 I also decided she’d be a rising star in international banking fraud, until one con man left her with a broken heart and a destroyed reputation. As book one, A Swindle in Sumatra, opens, she’s been fired from the big New York bank she’s been with because of the situation with the con man, and is employed at a small, privately owned bank in Beverly Hills where the other employees are suspicious of her.

As a reader/writer, I’d love to hear how other writers have developed their protagonists. And which came first – their protagonist or the situation.


“If you can’t follow the money, follow the body.”

Lexi loves her job as a Beverly Hills bank fraud investigator. It lets her pursue scam artists and con men – known in the business as land sharks.

Sadly, one crook left her with a broken heart and a destroyed reputation. And the bank’s president is looking for any excuse to fire her.

Yet she risks everything when she follows a dead embezzler’s casket to Coober Pedy in the Australian outback. She knows it’s a gamble, but it’s her last hope to recover the bank’s stolen money. Unfortunately, she’s persona non grata in that country. She needs to get in, find the money, and get out before the Australian police discover her presence. But will the unexpected appearance of an ex-lover make her linger too long?

If you like cozy mysteries in exotic locations with deadly secrets and touches of humor, then you’ll enjoy the multi award winning Land Sharks Cozy Mystery series.

Available on at

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia, where she ran and participated in horse sport events. On their farm, she rescued horses, dogs, and cats and is an advocate for animal rescue. Later in California, she traded her event experience for film work. Her screenplays and novels have won numerous major awards. Her first mystery, A Swindle in Sumatra was chosen as an Amazon Kindle Scout Program Selection. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, and Mystery Writers of America.

When not writing, Raven Smith enjoys her family and friends, reading, travel, art, movies, and white water rafting.

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