I love to write. I write/think about writing most of the day, every day. When I was in college, my aspiration was to become a travel writer. I thought that it would be the ultimate job to travel the world at someone else’s expense and to get a paycheck for doing so. I thought spa critiques might be my specialty. Ah, but then came young love, marriage, life, and four kids.
I homeschooled/unschooled all of my children. When my first two left the nest, I thought, at last! Now the house is quiet enough for me to do some serious writing. I sat down to write about unschooling, since I was one of the pioneering families. I started unschooling almost two decades ago, before there were any resources available. But characters kept popping their heads out and getting killed, so I thought I’d better ditch the non-fiction and stick to romantic suspense and mysteries.
One of the reasons I unschooled my kids was to instill in them a toolbox philosophy. My toolbox philosophy in a nutshell: You never know what life is going to hand you in the way of emergencies or opportunities. Therefore, it’s important to always add new tools – competencies – to your toolbox. That way you’ll be ready. This might mean a new language, or a handy math formula. It might mean a car repair or a self-defense move. It could be learning to listen with empathy. Learning possibilities fill each day. I look for them and embrace them. I tried to give that as a gift to my children. As we say in our family (and my kids will correct me, “No, only you say that, Mom.”) “We are life-long learners.” That means school is never out.
In my writing, I apply many of my tools. Sometimes in a scene, I’ll come upon something I don’t know about. I will often try to experience the situation – or minimally, talk to someone who has hands on experience.
I have a scene coming up where I need to write about my heroine fleeing the bad guy through the wilds. I wanted her to confront rain, and slick wet clay. What would that be like for her? To find out, I just ran the Mudderella – a five-mile race with thirteen mud obstacles. Awesome fun, by the way. Now, I know how tiny pebbles will crowd her toes. She hasn’t got time to stop and untie her mud caked shoelaces to clear out the debris, so her feet are scratched, blistered, and bruised. I know how she’ll strain her back muscles and grip the tiny pieces of vegetation as she tries to claw her way up the steep embankment. And what it feels like to have grit crunching between her teeth.
All of my writer “try-its” make life interesting. Hubby sometimes wonders if I formulate my plots based on what I want to attempt next. He’s an astute man.
You can read about Fiona Quinn’s research on ThrillWriting.blogspot.com
And learn more about her and her writing at FionaQuinnBooks.com
An excerpt from “MINE” a novella – part of the UNLUCKY SEVEN COLLECTION
Her mind wandered back to Tuesday and the awkwardness of her goodbye as she left her husband. His decision not hers.
“I need you to leave, for your own damned good,” Ryan had argued.
It killed Kate to drive away. It was her place – no, her right to be by his side, supporting him. But he had said go, and she was afraid of what he might do if she didn’t comply. Thank goodness the school year at John Adams High had wrapped up, and she’d already handed in her student’s final grades. Thank goodness Aunt Emma had welcomed her with open arms. And thank goodness for Tim. Just as his name bubbled up, Kate turned to see Tim walking toward them.
Aunt Emma was on her feet, opening her hands to welcome him. “How kind of you to stop by tonight,” she said.
“How are you holding up, Mrs. Jenkins?”
“Kate’s here,” Aunt Emma gestured in Kate’s direction. “She’s such a blessing. I was so glad she decided to come visit for the summer. And then this happened.” Aunt Emma fingered her cross pendant. “I can’t say this will make her stay any worse, though. I expect it might improve it considerable with Owen gone.”
Tim nodded, “He was a hard man to like, but you stayed with him – it speaks of the depth of your love.”
Shame and resentment filled Kate – as horrible as Uncle Owen had been, he never threw Aunt Emma out.
Aunt Emma reached out and grasped Tim’s forearm; her serenity crumbled. “Some men, they lost their legs or their sight in the war. Owen lost his goodness. He came out of the war crippled and broken. His ugliness was not his fault.”
Kate rubbed her hand over her aunt’s back, but her gaze fastened on Tim.
Tim was taller than in high school. The laugh lines that crinkled the corners of his eyes when they were younger, now permanently etched his tanned skin. The fifteen years that Kate lived in Boston hadn’t really changed him. This was trouble, and Kate knew it as sure as she knew that the next thing he’d say would be…
“Look at you, Katydid.”
“Not much to see.” She swiped a smile into place and pulled the cardigan tighter around her.
“Boston agrees with you.”
“It does, indeed.”
“Welcome home. Glad to have your help at the station. Though, I’m afraid you’re going to end up bored. Not a lot happens here. We still roll up the sidewalks come dark.”
“Good. I could use a little boredom.” As soon as the words popped out of her mouth, she regretted them. Tim’s gaze locked on hers, and he seemed to reach right in to pry her secrets loose. As the lead detective on the small town police force, Kate imagined Tim Gibbons had honed his dowsing skills – sharpened his people-reading acuity. It was a skill that Kate loved about him. One of the many things she’d loved about him. Now, it felt invasive, and she took a step back.