Last week, as I sat and listened to a bestselling author speak about writing murder mysteries, someone in the audience asked, “Why do you write about murder?” The author explained that she wrote what she knew – she had worked as a journalist investigating murders for years before writing novels. A good answer, I thought. But the person in the audience persisted, and once more asked, “But of all the things in the world you could write about, why would you want to focus on murders?” To which the author answered, “So, what should I write about? Cute, little flowers?” While she went on to explain that she had tried to write a romance once, and within three chapters, someone ended up dead, I sat there feeling embarrassed because my last three books are indeed about cute little flowers.
I got the idea to write my Wildflowers of Scotland novels when we were in Scotland. We flew into Glasgow, and as we headed north towards Luss and Loch Lomond, there were still a few bluebells here and there. The rhododendrons were in full bloom and, as we worked our way from north to south, we saw heather in the highlands, roses in hundreds of hues, purple thistles, yellow gorsk, and a profusion of other wildflowers. When I got home and started writing, Thistle Down was born, then Wild Rose, and Blue Belle. I’m currently working on Shy Violet and, if I decide to keep going, Sweet William will be next.
But the question still is – and it is a very valid question – “Out of all the things in the world I could write about / focus on, why cute little flowers?” It’s been clear from the beginning that if I wrote grisly, gory murder stories, I would sell more books. It’s what people seem to want to read. Townspeople who are generally unimpressed with my books were clamoring to buy hers. Friends of mine who are absolutely wonderful writers concoct excellent murder mysteries / crime / detective novels. So – why can’t I bow to public demand, get with the program, and write chilling thrillers?
Here’s my answer:
1. A friend of mine once said that he never wanted to be accused of being normal. Call it stubborn, call it being creative, unique, or just plain different, but I’ve always been one to do my own thing. I generally don’t care about popular fashion trends, or that no one else I know wears hats, or what other restaurants have on their menus (I own a B&B and Tea House). I’ve always followed my instincts, be they right or wrong, and at 57, I’m guessing there’s no changing me now.
2. I also write what I know – and love, and care about. Maybe it’s because I come from a long line of worrywarts, or as we call it today, people who suffer from anxiety, but I try very hard to think about good things. Like many writers, my method is to start with a premise and then ask the question, “What if?” until my mind starts to swirl and a story comes to life. The thing is, I’m always thinking “What if?”. Even when I’m not working on a story, I’m prone to thinking about and imagining the worst thing that could happen. If I listened to those voices – dwelled on them – thought about them long enough to write a whole book based on the worst possible scenarios I imagine – well, lets’ just say I have no desire to go there.
3. I memorized this verse when I was a kid, and it evidently stuck. “Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I in no way wish to imply that people who write about evil people or events are disobeying the Bible. I’m just saying that if I didn’t at least try to do as this verse says, my thoughts and fears would no doubt consume me.
4. I have an artist’s eye. Follow me on Facebook and look at my photos if you don’t believe me. I know the world is filled with horrific images and all kinds of hate and evil and gore. But when I look at the world, I honestly see cute little flowers and beautiful sunsets and rainbows after storms. I also see symbolism behind every falling leaf in autumn and every snowflake in winter and everything – everything – around me.
Of course, my books are about a lot more than cute, little flowers. In Wild Rose and Blue Belle, there are kidnappings, murders, and blackmail. In Shy Violet, there are pirates and whiskey smugglers, lying, abusive boyfriends and all kinds of bad things. But there are also wildflowers. Tiny, unique, beautiful little flowers.