15 April 2015

M is for Morristown Mystery

This book's evolution involved a series of concept and name changes. I always knew it would be a murder mystery with a healthy dose of romance, but I didn't really know where it would take place or how the characters would interact. I did know a small town would be home base for much of the action, because the story line evolved from a non-fiction book about a Main Street economy. The problem was with my premise - it simply wouldn't work on a practical economic level. So much for writing non-fiction.

But I did enough research to notice that certain business practices worked well in small towns. Diversifying efforts (or having more than a few part-time jobs to meet the bills), being really creative (and offering products and services that supported the local needs and interests), and not moving too much of the focus out of the area, while still bringing in customers from outside, were all important considerations.

I discovered a large B&B on a business trip that exemplified many of these aspects - the Claremont Inn, which I decided to emulate in the book. I changed the name to Montclare Inn. There is no Montclare in Colorado - nor is there a Claremont anymore for that matter. That town's name was changed to Stratton, in honor of Winfield Scott Stratton, This curiosity got me wondering, because Stratton wasn't from the area. I knew this because he was a well-known historic figure further west, in Colorado Springs. 

I soon discovered the fairly common practice of renaming small towns after famous people, and making up a fast and loose history about the association. For example, in nearby Flagler, Colorado, railroad baron, Henry Flagler, had alleged ties. According to the Henry Flagler Museum in Florida, however, it was doubtful that Flagler ever stopped in that Colorado town. I think it was just an excuse to change the name from its original Bowserville.

Which brings me to my "what if" moment in the novel. Because one of the characters is an architectural engineer, it would be logical for him to have a fondness for Arts & Crafts architecture, and for William Morris, who spearheaded the movement in 1800s Great Britain. It would also explain why a blip of a small town on the high plains of Colorado would have a number of handsome Arts & Crafts bungalows and English cottages - homes that might attract an educated group of young business people to the area.

Before too long, I made up an imaginary town in an imaginary Colorado county with an imaginary history including a William Morris visit. (There is no record of Morris ever setting foot in Colorado.) 

That easily, the Morristown Murder Mystery series found its home. Themes and titles fell into place. My characters were anxious to move and get on with their intentional community and developing their partnership business, Viridian Farms. The first book fairly began writing itself. 

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