If you don’t already know let me tell you what two of my favourite things in Literature are: Crime Fiction and Short Stories. So when I was asked if I would like to be a part of a blog tour for a new anthology of short stories in the crime genre, Mystery and Mayham there was no hesitation in saying “YES!”. Without further ado let me introduce to you Caroline Lawrence, author of the ‘The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle’ story, on the topic of writing short stories!
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One of the things I love about writing short stories is the opportunity it gives a writer to experiment and try something new.
Ten years ago, when I was writing a series of books called The Roman Mysteries I was tied in to a certain formula: the books were written in past tense and in third person from the point of view of one of the four main characters.
When I wrote some short stories or Mini Mysteries to fill in gaps in the five-year arc of the series, I decided to change some of the elements. One short story was epistolary, told from the POV of an adult watching the activities of my four kid protagonists (those ‘pesky kids’). Another was written in first person by one of the four as if a diary kept at gladiator school. (‘Jonathan vs. Ira’ in Trimalchio’s Feast & Other Mini-Mysteries) A third was a re-telling of a Sherlock Holmes ‘armchair’ mystery (where the detective solves the mystery from a distance) but set in ancient Rome rather than 19th century Britain and America. (‘The Five Barley Grains’ in The Legionary from Londinium & Other Mini-Mysteries.)
So when I was invited to contribute to Egmont’s volume called Mystery and Mayhem I was thrilled to be given carte blanche. After a little thought, I decided to set it in the present day, which makes it my first contemporary story in fifteen years of writing. (I notice that fellow contributor Robin Stevens also chose to pop out of her historical period for a quick visit to modern times.)
I had just been to Santa Clarita (‘Hollywood’s Back Yard’) to visit my three grandsons who are driven almost everywhere. The story is loosely based on the exciting discovery of a coyote skull on one of our rare walks around their idyllic neighbourhood.
I had huge fun referencing some of my favourite pop culture references: Western movies, American fast food and Hollywood culture. I was also able to use a book I inherited from my grandfather Jim Day, editor of the Bakersfield Californian newspaper. The book, These Were the Vaqueros by Arnold R. Rojas, has lots of anecdotes about the history of California’s central valley, where I grew up.
Furthermore, every name, food and film referred to in the short story has a link to my own life or the lives of my family. So it is probably the most personal story I have every written.
For these reasons and more, writing ‘The Mystery of Diablo Canyon Circle’ was an extremely enjoyable experience.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!