When I start to plan an Emily Swift Travel Mystery, I go where my amateur sleuth will go and jot down descriptions, observations, and plot ideas in my journal. Because Emily is a travel writer, I want to capture her enthusiasm for new places and describe them as well as I can. Useful as my journal is, however, I often turn to the Internet to develop my ideas in more detail when I’m actually writing. I find the combination of real-life observation and research works for me.
Sometimes I have an idea for a scene that means I must head off to a place I’ve never been. In Murder on Madeline Island, the first book in the Emily Swift Travel Mystery series, Emily is helping an elderly woman search for her long-lost Ojibwa brother. I thought her search might lead her to a Powwow. So, I drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin to see a powwow firsthand. As I always do, I jotted down detailed descriptions in my journal. But when I started to write the scene, I realized I needed more. I went on UTube to watch the Shawl Dance and Grass Dance and found out their significance. Then it was easy to imagine the scene. In the final version a snippy young girl who has been resisting Emily’s entreaties to meet with the old woman, dances beautifully, transforming herself from a girl into a crow. The character’s love of tradition gave her greater depth and made her more likeable. That was my intention anyway. If you read it, let me know if you agree.
Sometimes I see something on a trip that gives me a plot idea and then I go online to find out more. While I was in Hawaii, my husband and I visited a mountain top that had been the site of an ancient temple. Fresh fruits and flowers were placed there as if at a shrine or gravesite. It seemed to me this would be the perfect place for a body to be discovered. So, in Homicide in Hawaii, that’s where the victim’s body is found. I went online to do research and discovered there had been a resurgence of interest in the old Hawaiian religion and worship of the god Lono. Here was another lead to help me develop the story. One character – a young girl who has been adopted and is now seeking information about her Polynesian heritage becomes fascinated by the old religion.
Now, when we are all kept inside by the Pandemic, it was a particular joy to relive my last trip to England where I did the research for A Killing in the Cotswolds, the third book in the series, which has just been published by Cozy Cat Press. In the novel, Emily is writing articles about daytrips not far from London when she is drawn into a murder investigation. Like Emily, I travelled from London to charming Cotswold villages to Stratford upon Avon and Avebury and enjoyed delicious teas and visits to historic sites. But it was Internet research that gave me the idea for the long-buried secret that led to murder. I didn’t use the actual event, but it spurred my imagination.
For now, I highly recommend armchair travel. Emily Swift Travel mysteries are available in print and Kindle on Amazon.
A Killing in the Cotswolds, An Emily Swift Travel Mystery
It’s springtime in England and travel writer Emily Swift is writing about charming Cotswold villages. But when a politician is found dead in a country inn, she and her boyfriend Jack are drawn into a murder investigation. Who killed him? An actor with a talent for deception? A schoolmaster fired after a mysterious death? A tour guide at Warwick Castle bent on revenge? Over tea and crumpets, Emily’s childhood friend begs her to find out and save an innocent woman from being charged with murder. Emily can’t say no. Clues lead through the British countryside and danger lurks where Emily least expects it.
The books are available in print and Kindle on Amazon
Lorrie Holmgren is the author of three Emily Swift Travel Mysteries: Murder on Madeline Island, Homicide in Hawaii and A Killing in the Cotswolds. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, busily penning mysteries and hoping it will soon be safe to travel. She enjoys Zumba, Salsa, Bachata, aqua aerobics, gardening, knitting, and book group discussions.