by Carolyn Haines
People 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.
Once 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 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.