posted on May 9, 2016 by Carolyn Haines

THE FIRST STEP—AN IDEA…OR CHARACTER…OR…

by Carolyn Haines

rock-a-bye bones jacket - USA TodayPeople often ask writers where ideas for books come from. I think it’s different for each story—a tidbit for a newspaper or magazine, a chance conversation with a friend, happening upon a historical fact while looking for something else, or maybe a dream. Sometimes, as in the case of Rock-A-Bye Bones, one of the characters invaded my brain and got my attention.

Tinkie Richmond has wanted a baby for a while, and those of you who’ve followed the series know that she and Oscar haven’t been able to conceive. So when Sarah Booth Delaney is awakened by the doorbell, and someone has left a baby in a bassinet on her front porch—on a bitter night and in a pool of blood—Sarah Booth is determined to find the baby’s mother.

Because Sarah Booth is aware of Tinkie’s desire for a child, she asks her partner in Delaney Detective Agency to care for the newborn until the mother can be found. Sunflower County sheriff Coleman Peters gives the two PIs forty-eight hours to find the missing, and possibly severely injured, mother. After that, the babe will have to be put into child services.

And so begins the 16th Sarah Booth and Tinkie adventure.

The only thing I knew about this story when I was first gifted with the idea was an image of the bassinet on the front porch of Dahlia House in a pool of blood. Sarah Booth reluctantly opens the door (she is actually prodded into doing so by Jitty, a Civil War-era ghost who is part haint and part subconscious). When Sarah Booth finds the baby, she is terrified the child, a little girl, is already dead. But after Sarah Booth warms her up, the baby begins to cry.

The baby is okay and uninjured, so whose blood is on the porch? If it is the mother’s blood, she may be in a medical crisis.

This was the puzzle Sarah Booth and I had to solve. Just to keep the story interesting, at the same time Sarah Booth is hunting the missing mother, she’s having to dodge her nemesis from previous books, Gertrude Strom. And also manage her romantic choices. It’s a lot for one private eye to handle.

Throw in the fact that Tinkie instantly falls in love with the bundle of joy, and you have what I hope readers will view as a typical trip to my fictional town of Zinnia, Mississippi.

Foggy rainbow at Casa CarolynOnce a writer has the seed or idea of the story, then all the rest is a combination of luck and hard work. It’s the writer’s job to tell the story in a way that gives the reader the maximum pleasure, and that means lots of twists and turns and emotion.

It takes me about a year to write and edit one of the Sarah Booth stories. I jokingly tell people that I spend more time with fictional characters than I do with real people. It’s true. And Sarah Booth, Tinkie, Millie, Cece, Coleman and the rest of the Zinnia gang are like my good friends. There are days I want to wring their necks, because they are cranky and uncooperative. Some days I’d rather spend time with them than do anything else.

I have a lot of adventures following Sarah Booth and Tinkie around. And oh my, if Sarah Booth ever gets her emotions sorted out and decides which man she’ll give her heart to, I think I may have to drink a lot of wine. Whew!

Rock-A-Bye Bones goes on sale May 17, and I’m deep in the middle of writing the 17th book—about a college acquaintance of Sarah Booth’s whose family tragedy has become fodder for her bestselling book and is soon to be a movie. And I already have an idea for my next book. This was a gift from my real life friend, Sandy Smith, who told me some of the behind-the-scenes action at county fairs. I had no idea that high-stakes poker games took place in secret around the fairgrounds. When I was a child, I was only interested in the rides. The wilder the better. But it would seem the real wild action was at the card tables. Who knew?

Writing allows me to explore and experience a wide host of activities and emotions, and if I do my job properly, then the reader also shares those experiences. A book creates a bond that’s hard to explain to non-readers. We fall in love with characters and settings and story.

Carolyn and CojarWhat book has impacted you emotionally? We’re giving away a free copy of Rock-A-Bye Bones to a lucky winner who submits a comment.

Rock-A-Bye Bones can be purchased in hardcover and/or eBook format for/from:

Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of over 70 books. She writes full time and manages a small rescue, Good Fortune Farm Refuge. Rock-A-Bye Bones is the 16th Sarah Booth Delaney mystery. You can learn more about Carolyn at her website www.carolynhaines.com, sign up for her newsletter, or follower her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Carolyn Haines

Carolyn Haines

USA Today bestselling author Carolyn Haines grew up with both parents working as journalists, and she was bitten by the writing bug at a very young age. Her three ambitions were to be a cowgirl, a mystery-solving sleuth like Nancy Drew, and a writer. Today, she has basically accomplished them all. She is the author of the acclaimed Bones mystery series and in addition, she works as an advocate for humane treatment for animals and operates a small rescue on her farm (7 horses, 9 cats and 6 dogs).

Haines claims to have had “the last golden childhood of the South.” She grew up in Lucedale, Mississippi, a town of 3,000 in the Southeastern Pine Barrens. She rode her bicycle all over the county with her wonderful dog Venus and employed her imagination to create adventures with her friends.

Her first job in journalism was at the local weekly, The George County Times, when she was in high school. She went on to work as a photojournalist at the Hattiesburg American while attending the University of Southern Mississippi to earn a B.S. in journalism.

She worked for nearly a decade in the news business, covering local politics, the state legislatures in Alabama and Mississippi, spot news, writing a personal column and her favorite—writing features and using photography to illustrate the story. With her mother, she ran a statewide bureau in Mississippi for the Mobile Register and the Mississippi Press. As part of her journalistic adventures, Haines covered an armed robbery on horseback, hopped a freight train, and rescued a young, injured bald eagle from certain death. She was the first female reporter hired on the news side of the Huntsville Times.

At the same time, she began writing short fiction for personal satisfaction. Under the sway of Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Doris Betts, and Lee Smith, Haines wrote about the landscape and the people she knew. The end result was being accepted by an agent who urged her to “write a novel.”

Another huge influence was Harper Lee and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Haines’s first novel was SUMMER OF THE REDEEMERS, a coming of age story set in 1963 rural Mississippi and published in 1994. Haines was honored in 2010 with the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing.

In 2009, Haines was named the recipient of the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.

From general fiction, Haines drifted into mysteries, and THEM BONES, a humorous mystery with a wise-cracking ghost, was bought at auction. The stories center around Sarah Booth Delaney and her friends. The fourteenth book in the series, BOOTY BONES, was published May 20, 2014, by St. Martin’s Minotaur.

While writing the lighter mysteries, Haines has continued to write in the darker terrain of the crime novel. PENUMBRA and FEVER MOON (both St. Martin’s Minotaur) are historical crime novels.

In May 2010, an anthology she edited, DELTA BLUES, was released to critical acclaim.

Along with writing, Haines is the fiction coordinator at the University of South Alabama where she teaches graduate and undergraduate fiction writing. And she is president of Good Fortune Farm Refuge, an organization dedicated to helping animals and to educating the public on the need to spay and neuter.

She lives on a farm with her “critters.” They are the terror of the neighborhood.

Carolyn Haines Contest

Carolyn Haines is giving away a Kindle copy of THE BOOK OF BELOVED to two winners - 1 book each.

Enter Here

51 thoughts on “THE FIRST STEP—AN IDEA…OR CHARACTER…OR…”

  1. Daniele K says:

    The Book Thief comes to mind when I think about being emotionally invested. However, I read a lot of series, and the characters become friends that I care about.

    1. I agree with your choice!

  2. I am really excited about this one, and looking forward to reading!

    1. Thanks! And thanks so much for sharing this information.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Absolutely love the Sarah Booth series, and can’t wait for Rock-A-Bye Bones to come out. Beyond the great entertainment value, I appreciate the insights into living in the South. I am inspired to do more travel in this region.

    1. There are some lovely people and interesting places. I hope you can visit.

  4. John Floyd says:

    Great observations, Carolyn, and great advice. I love your books!!!

    1. Thanks, John. High praise coming from the emperor of short fiction!

  5. Dianne Casey says:

    The “Sound of Glass” by Karen White left an emotional impact on me. I can’t imagine having a stepbrother I knew nothing about and having your stepmother show up on your doorstep after your father dies and how they grew to love and take care of each other was a great read. I really enjoy Sarah Booth Delaney and would enjoy reading your latest book.

    1. I haven’t read this book but it sounds wonderful.

  6. This sounds like another Bones winner. A recent book that touched my heart and sent my mind exploring is “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk out the door one day and keep walking until we get there, wherever there is.

    1. Walter Anderson, a painter on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, did something very similar. He just walked out the door and went to China to paint. Fascinating person.

  7. Amber says:

    i love knowing where a writer is coming from, when you read the stories they put down on paper it makes it that much more interesting to me. Can’t wait to read this one!

    1. I like to know about writers, too! We are all so different, and each book is a new journey.

  8. Elizabeth J Downing says:

    Love your books thanks for doing the giveaway hope I win

  9. Thank you, Elizabeth–and good luck!

  10. peggy clayton says:

    Thank you for taking the time and doing this it was wonderful,. Sounds so good and would love to read one of your books!

    1. Good luck with the drawing!

  11. Marcia Shea says:

    My first introduction to mysteries was when I was 12. My grandfather introduced me to Agatha Christie’s books. I was hooked! I love all of Carolyn Haines’ books and all of the characters. When one adventure ends, I can hardly wait for the next one.

    1. Thank you, Marcia. I love Agatha Christie’s books also. Big influence.

  12. Sandy Todd says:

    Thank you Caroline for introducing yourself to me. I have yet to read your Sarah Booth Delaney series, but, it sounds like I should pick up the debut and see what everyone is raving about. A couple of years ago, I read a book entitled Henry’s Sisters by Cathy Lamb. It was a great read which kept me thinking about it for a very long time. Thank you for a chance to win!

    1. The first book is THEM BONES. Available as e-book and paperback. I have been so lucky that Sarah Booth and the Zinnia gang have loads of adventures for me to write about–and that readers still want to spend time with my stories. Good luck with the contest.

  13. Donna Townsend says:

    So many books affect me emotionally. I generally would say Huckleberry Finn, which moves me, and charms me and angers me. Named my cat Clemens (lost him last year); my nod to the writer.

    I miss Sarah Booth and the gang!

  14. To Kill a Mockingbird marked me greatly. And when I was a child, King of the Wind, a book about an Arabian horse, blew up my imagination. I credit books for teaching me so many things.

  15. Donna Braswell says:

    My heart is already breaking for Tinkie and the mother who lost the baby. I might be extra sensitive the day after Mother’s Day. Your mysteries do indeed take a right turn, then a left, and just when I think I have it, there are two more turns and a backtrack or two. This plot sounds juicy!

    1. You are very generous with your praise. Thank you.

  16. Linda says:

    I have loved all the Sarah Booth series! Lots of emotion, fun and mystery. Can’t wait to read the
    new one. Great series, Carolyn. Cowgirl, Nancy Drew and writer were in my dreams, too….but i’m still working on them!! Too many side roads to count!

    1. It really is the journey, not the destination. Those side roads are the ones where the treasures are found.

  17. Marilee Snyder says:

    May 17th is marked on my calendar in purple. It can’t be ignored, so I’ll be ready to read Rock- a -bye Bones as soon as my cloud drops it off!! I am more than ready for some Sarah Booth. I love each character, and how they move from one book to the next, and after living down around your area, I can picture the places just about where they are at. During the lull between your books, I read for the umpteenth time “A Year by the Sea” Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, written by Joan Anderson. It’s my “go to” book when I feel like I’m treading water and need to run away. I never tire of it, thank goodness. By the way..Happy Retirement!!! Your students we lucky to have you!

    1. Thanks, Marilee. You know the area and the people I write about, so I hope it makes you feel at home. I have a couple of books that give me comfort, too. Old friends.

  18. Candace knight says:

    I just bought the first book in this series. I can’t wait to get to this one. Sounds great!

    1. I hope you enjoy the series. It’s so funny, because Sarah Booth and Tinkie and the gang haven’t aged all that much, but the years have stomped all over me! It’s good to have fictional friends that carry the standard of mischief and fun.

  19. Kathleen Costa says:

    I love this introduction to a new author/series. It is curious how different authors are in their methods of writing. I like to write for myself, and where to start is always an obstacle.

    1. Each book is different. I’ve taught writing at a university for the past 14 years (just retired!) and finding the point where the story really begins is sometimes difficult. There are books that are smooth as butter, and some that are more like being tangled in a roll of barbed wire. Still, I love the process of telling a story to the best of my ability.

  20. Sandy Smith says:

    Reading a new Sarah Booth Delaney book, has become like, sitting down with my cousin, and catching up. She’s always got a new, exciting story to tell, about what is going on with her life. Until now, John Jake’s held the record for writing a series that kept my interest for a great length of time. That bunch in Zinnia, now holds the record. Can’t WAIT for this next episode. They are my people.

    1. Thank you, Sandy. That’s a high compliment. When I’m writing I feel like I’m spending time with friends. These characters are a big part of my life.

  21. Linda says:

    I’ve had two books in the past little while that have shook me – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and Come Away With Me by Karma Brown – the Karma Brown one actually took my breath away – very emotional!

    1. I haven’t read either of those, but your recommendation makes me want to read them both. Thank you.

  22. Linda Melnyk says:

    I’ve had two books in the last little while that have shook me – Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Come Away With Me by Karma Brown – Come Away With Me actually took my breath away – very emotional!

    1. Susan Simpson says:

      Linda, Your comment has been chosen as the blog winner! We will be emailing you with details! Thanks to everyone for the wonderful comments!

  23. Francine Wing says:

    Downloaded one of your books as a freebie and was hooked! Love the characters and the adventures you involve them in. Can’t wait for the next one. Keep up the good work!!

    1. That is music to a writer’s ears. I hope each boo you read gives you the same level of enjoyment. I really believe the writer and reader are engaged in a partnership. You give your time and intelligence and I write the best story I can.

  24. Amy Newman Connolley says:

    I love this series and feel like I am getting back with friends every time a new book comes out.

    1. Thank you, Amy. There are times when I’m traveling in the Delta and I’ll think, Sarah Booth was here last week. Or this is what Tinkie would see when she pulled out of Hilltop. Of course, some people would think I was half a bubble off plumb!

  25. Michelle Crean says:

    I am delighted to hear that there will be a 17th and 18th Sarah Booth Delaney book! Of course, my favorite character will always be Miss Sweetie Pie.

  26. When I started the books some 20 years ago, I had a red tick hound who’d strayed up in my yard. She had a swollen leg that weeped all the time, and I actually did have to have her spayed twice! She had a lot of health issues, and no one thought she’d live more than two years. But she lived to be twelve, and her name was Sweetie Pie Haines. No matter how sick she was, she never failed to wag her tail and grin. She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever owned, and she had a good life with me here at the farm. When she felt like it, she followed the horses, and when she wanted to stay on the porch, she could do that too.

  27. Linda Thorne says:

    I pre-ordered it already. May 17th is coming soon. your bones series books. Always have.

    1. Linda Thorne says:

      I meant to say in the 2nd sentence, I love your bone series books and somehow lost the two words. If you can correct in moderation that would be great. Otherwise, I just apologize in this “reply.”

      1. I don’t know how to correct! Hah! But no apologies necessary. Thank you, Linda.

  28. Jan Sargent says:

    Waiting for the next Bones book is like waiting for an old friend to stop by. I am excited that she will be visiting soon.

    I have been a mystery fan for as long as I can remember. Every summer I joined the summer reading program at the library and still do to this day as an adult. Growing up reading The Three Investigators series, Agatha Christie and anything else I could get my hands on, I just knew one day I would be a detective. That is until as a teenager I realized that I could be shot. Okay, so I’ll just investigate along with my favorite characters. What a great way to kick off this year’s summer reading program.

    1. I’m seriously looking for a private investigator class I can take now that I’ve retired from teaching. I want to be a wart on the planet for a lot of people! I need skills.

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