HISTORICAL MYSTERY THRILLER
1901 SAN FRANCISCO
I’m obsessed with the early 1900s, detectives, female sleuths, 1900s San Francisco city life. There is something about the turn-of-the-century, about shirtwaists, black ankle boots, hats, bicycles, city streets, ports and marinas, that calls to me. I’m fascinated by women standing strong and venturing out on their own, pushing boundaries, about new technology, about the bustle and diversity of historical city life, especially a city like San Francisco in 1901. I’m fascinated by female protagonists that resemble hidden badasses. They’re underestimated and don’t have to prove anything — until they do.
San Francisco has an aura about it. There is something about California (I lived there for nearly 15 years) that brings out the noir in your imagination — it’s the way a palm frond flaps in the night breeze, the duplicitous nature of some people you meet, the great divide between rich and poor, pretty and shambles, grit and glitter… it all calls to my writer soul.
1901 San Francisco was a time of great change in the city. The Big Four barons and the ‘49ers gave way to the progressive era, an era where more women would find jobs and eventually ditch the corset for bicycle bloomers and independence, thankfully. It was an extremely diverse city. Chinatown still had Tong wars and was a mysterious neighborhood that bohemians visited but San Francisco was much of what we love today: vibrant, diverse, on the cutting edge, a great variety of restaurants, cable cars and electric street cars and, of course, the port. The port was an amazing part of everyday life in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, it shaped and colored experiences in the city. It still had a wildness, wild west-ness about it, an area near the wharf came to be known as the “Barbary Coast” and was a red light district. Corruption, graft, vice were all prevalent. Still, the city was gaining a reputation as the “Paris of the West” and a place of wealth and opportunity. Painters, poets, businessmen, artists flocked to San Francisco. It was paradise. But paradise often has a dark side.
In the spring of 1901, President McKinley and his wife Ida visited San Francisco just a few weeks before he was assassinated. His wife was very ill and many thought she would die in San Francisco. McKinley had to set up, basically, a White House in California to extend his stay to tend to his wife. Into this world, my book goes.
I wrote my historical, mystery thriller with a strong female sleuth, on and off for the past three years. A lot of changes happened in my life during this time. After 14+ years of living in California, we moved back home to Minnesota and got a beautiful house on a pond near a sparkling lake, like Walden. My fiction and poetry have been published, including my short story about Sherlock Holmes' daughter, Bohemian Soul. I currently teach creative writing as an Adjunct Professor. I love history and historical fiction and mysteries. When I graduated with an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, my thesis script was a historical western/thriller with a female hero. I like the stories of the hidden badass, the one who’s always underestimated.
Historical Research & Love of Mysteries
I delved into historical research for the past three years. I've read countless newspaper articles, visited historic sites, gone on guided historic home walking tours in Pasadena, St. Paul and Stillwater, Minnesota viewing large estates and lovely Queen Annes. I read books on the history of late 19th Century San Francisco, the "Barbary Coast," I could devote my life to sharing the fascinating things I learned during research. I tried to include as much of it as I could in my novel.
I'm a very visual writer. My work is based on scenes that I see in my head. I can envision the world so vividly in my mind. I feel like language is the tool which I use to communicate what I see in my mind. Milieu and mise en scene is something I learned in filmmaking and this is an important part of creating an historical world -- it's world building. While I consider myself a novelist at heart and I love language, it's the reader's immersion of the world that I try to create. And characters, of course characters. I've always loved mysteries, from my first Nancy Drew "tweeds" I loved mystery sleuths and their adventures. I grew up reading Agatha Christie and Dick Francis (my family is involved with horses). When I worked in Manhattan in the Crown Building next to the Plaza Hotel, I spent days and nights devouring every mystery series book I could lay my hands on, including the Fletch series and Mike Hammer P.I.s and noirs. I delved into Sue Grafton and Jacqueline Winspear. Then I discovered Alan Furst and always Doyle's Sherlock. The great thing about writing my novel is it combines my true loves: historical writing and research and my love of mysteries.
I love mysteries, historical mysteries, cozies, thrillers, and noirs. Here are a few of my favorite authors:
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four
Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot & Miss Marple
Rex Stout, Nero Wolfe
Sue Grafton Kinsey Milhone series
Jacqueline Winspear Maisie Dobbs series
Ruth Ware Woman in Cabin 10 and Death of Mrs. Westway
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes
David Liss, A Conspiracy of Paper
Diana Gabaldon, Outlander
John D. MacDonald
Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina