Sunday, February 3, 2008

What started it all?

Several of you have asked where I got the idea to do all 50 states as mystery stories for the kids. Here is the short answer: The very first contest I entered was a mystery fan contest for the coming out of "Silence of the Loons". I won a shared second place and that spurred the idea to go forward with all 50 states being used as the mystery "destination".

The long of it is this: The orginal piece written for the contest was "Train of Clues". We were given eight unrelated items and had to incorporate at least four of the eight into the story as random clues throughout the mystery. (This was the same list the authors who were all in Silence of the Loons had and we mystery fans had to write a story that would use the same premise as the authors did.) So when I got the information for the contest, I thought about it and wasn't even sure I would write a story for the contest. I was just starting out in my writing career and so really was very unsure about everything. The girls in the church group went on a mother-daughter trip to Stone Mountain one weekend and I was talking up the contest up to one of the other mothers on the trip and the girls were kind of listening and piped up with the idea to make it a children's mystery, on a train, like a scavenger hunt and the items were the clues leading to the mystery destination. Thus, "Train of Clues" was born. (The items listed were: the sound of a train whistle, footprints in the snow (this didn't work for me), the scent of Obsession (again this didn't work for me at all because I don't know anything about perfume), a page from a dictionary, a headless Barbie, a wig, a tattoo, and a soiled ballet slipper.) I wrote a birthday party on a train using four of the items as clues to a mystery destination. Each group of kids were self-contained in one car with all the clues there. They had to figure out where they would end up before they reached the destination. My characters were Matt Patterson, the birthday boy (loves trains and is just a general good boy next door kind of kid), his kid sister Mary Beth (who had to be there because it was her brother's birthday), Guy Landrum (the kind of laid-back, standoffish, best friend of Matt), Jolene (have yet to give her a last name, best looking girl in 7th grade, who Guy likes but apparently as I've developed a few other things she likes Matt and she and Matt have been a thing for a while), Len (or Leonard, the geeky, computer/inventor of sorts guy). There were other characters because Matt originally was on a different team than Mary Beth, Jolene and Guy (all were on the same team with Len) and each team had four kids. So, originally there was Matt's team (birthday boy and three other kids who are no longer part of the JGDS), Guy's team (which is now minus Len because I think only four characters will be enough to carry the stories through), and the third team (which actually won in the original story but they weren't important enough to carry through to the series).

After winning the shared second place, I sent the story to an editor through SCBWI (The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), paid her to give me some pointers on how to expand the story out to a series, resources, et cetera. It was well worth the money spent for her input. The information she gave me was so wonderful, that I let it brew around my head for a while, kept tossing out different ways to either do one story or several stories or an individual series of each of the states (which is where I am now).

So basically Matt, Jolene and Guy are and have been best friends since grade school. Mary Beth has to hang around them because Matt is kind of stuck on watching his "bratty, whiny, younger sister, all the time" (even though shee seems to be pretty smart and knows a good bit). So now you know how the idea started.

Next time, I will post a character sketch, since these kids have been wandering around in my head for over two years. See you all in the postings - E :)

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