As I’m enjoying the release of the 15th Sarah Booth Delaney mystery, BONE TO BE WILD, and writing the next installment of this crazy series, I am struck anew by the forces that came to play in how Sarah Booth and her friends became a mystery series.
To be completely honest, I’ve adored reading mysteries since I was a child. I love the puzzles, the clues, the deception of certain characters, and the dark motivations of the villains. Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Conan Doyle entertained me on many a hot summer day in the small town of Lucedale, Mississippi.
I would ride my pink and white Schwinn bicycle down the red dirt road to the woods, where I would find a great hiding spot, curl up, and read and read and read. These books took me on adventures. They were harrowing and sometimes a little creepy. And always delicious.
The love of mysteries began young, and my admiration for those writers who could pen the complicated plots made me think I’d never be that good as a writer. Plot isn’t easy for me. It’s something I really have to work hard at. I love a good plot, and I’m annoyed by sloppy plotting.
When I started writing THEM BONES, the first book in the series, I didn’t call the book a mystery. I’d done a couple of Southern gothic stories, one a coming of age, and the other an exploration of small town Mississippi in 1926 centered around a young girl the townspeople believe has been “touched” by Satan. I didn’t know how to plot and lay clues with any degree of skill.
Sarah Booth and Jitty (who is a ghost who acts as Sarah Booth’s subconscious) came to me as I was sitting at my computer watching my horses graze. I simply started writing without a real plan. Now this is my favorite way to write, but it can be vexing if I lose control of the story. Writing by the seat of my pants is thrilling, but it can leave me in a real jam. But since I didn’t know what I was writing—I was just telling the story as the characters revealed it—I didn’t spend a lot of time fretting about it. I just wrote.
And lo and behold, I wrote a mystery. The book was sold at auction to Random House, and they wanted two more books. And two more. And in one summer, I became a mystery writer with a series.
That was over fifteen years ago. Time has passed with a speed that makes me slightly nauseated. I have aged considerably, and Sarah Booth has aged only 1.8 years.
With BONE TO BE WILD, Sarah Booth is entering a new phase of her life. All of the characters have grown and changed as the series progressed. In this story, Cece really comes into her own, and it gave me a lot of pleasure to write about the new things in her life.
These crazy characters are like my close friends. I’ve spent more time with them in the last fifteen years than I have a lot of my “real” friends. Often people tell me they’re eager for Sarah Booth to find true happiness and settle down with a good man (the vote seems to go to Coleman, but you know, there are other men in the series who have great reader support). I do believe Sarah Booth will find happiness. In the end. But I’m hoping that end is a long way away. I have too much fun helping Sarah Booth and Tinkie solve the mysteries.
Heck, 15 books isn’t that many. Not when I think of all the cases Sarah Booth has to solve. Zinnia is just a town with a lot of mysterious happenings. Sarah Booth and Tinkie have enough work for at least another 15 years!
While you can’t find Zinnia, Mississippi, on a map, you can find it between the covers of a mystery novel. Grab a drink, curl up in a rocker on the front porch, and help Sarah Booth and Tinkie figure out who’s trying to run Scott Hampton (sexy beast!) out of his blues club and out of town. And while you’re at it, who do you think Sarah Booth should end up loving? As Aunt Loulane would say, “There’s a lot of fish in the ocean.”
I’d love to hear your ideas on Sarah Booth’s love life. Please leave your suggestion in the comment section. With the reason why you think this character is Sarah Booth’s true love. The top two answers will each win a copy of BONE TO BE WILD.
Special thanks to K.D. Wood, author and friend, for creating the illustrations.
Carolyn Haines is the author of the Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta mystery series. Because she has a split personality, she also writes dark stories as R.B. Chesterton. She has been honored with the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Excellence. She is a native of Mississippi but now lives in Alabama, where she is the hard labor for Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 animal rescue involving dogs, cats, and horses. For more information, go to www.carolynhaines.com and sign up for her newsletter. You can also join her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Join in the mischief.
BONE TO BE WILD Can be purchased in hardcover or eBook format