For me a book begins with a kernel of an idea I need to explore. My soon-to-be published e-book, Edge of the Shadow, sparked into life when I read an article about the MacArthur Awards, the genius grants. Six accomplished individuals had been chosen to receive a healthy chunk of money, though I don’t remember exactly how much. A hundred thousand? Two hundred thousand? Whatever. Point was, these people had been writing, creating, researching things the MacArthur Foundation considered interesting and worthy of encouragement. No strings attached, no required reports of how the money was used, the foundation just gave them money. I loved that idea.
Because I tend to write books with female protagonists, I thought how cool it would be to award similar grants to six not yet well-known women. And because I’ve always liked what I call Grand Hotel books, (get a bunch of people in a place and observe their interactions, named after the movie of the same name), I decided to create a women’s institute where these characters could interact to their hearts’ content. It eventually came to be called Wisdom Court, a play on the founder’s name–Wyntham–and its architecture–three structures with a fountain in the middle of a courtyard.
Then the characters started arriving, and they brought with them their luggage and back stories, and the details of the endeavors that had captured the attention of the Wisdom Court selection committee. Noreen had recently retired from her job as the headmistress of a private girls school and was compiling a book of quotations strictly by women. Dolores was a sculptor putting together an exhibition. And the main protagonist, Andrea, was a forensic artist who wanted to paint. (The others will get their due in another post.)
I liked the women, and the institute, which I placed in my home town, Boulder, Colorado. But in my life the past and present dance together, and the story I wanted to tell myself had to include that element. I wanted to know what would happen when a likeable, deserving woman had her chance to get what she really wanted but was stymied by a strange confluence of events. What would happen if this wonderful institute was affected by the lingering traces of those who’d lived there before? What if Wisdom Court was haunted?