A story idea has to start somewhere, often with a random thought or image. For me, it is usually a place, or more specifically, an old building. In my current work in progress, it’s a hunting lodge. So far, predictably, I call it The Lodge.
This image is sort of what I had in mind, only bigger and more elaborate because it was built by the protagonist Holly’s great grandfather who was a lumber baron in the Pacific Northwest at the turn of the last century. A Victorian monstrosity, in Holly’s own words.
All of my stories seem to center around these buildings, and I have to wonder – what is it about old, derelict buildings and ruins that intrigues me, and how do they impact the people in the story? The more I think about it, the more I see it is the history of these places and the stories they tell that gives my imagination flight.
The cabin in the Fortune Bay series is a good example.
This building was around the corner from a house I lived in for a number of years, and I set the Fortune Bay stories around it. In the first story, the cabin has been empty for years, since Aunt Augusta died, but the spirit of the old lady is still active and eager to interact with the new story residents.
In Temple of the Jaguar, the first Rocky and Bernadette mystery, it was a visit to an ancient Mayan ruin in the jungle that set my mind racing.
Beginning to see the pattern? The Lodge started out with the idea of the lodge itself, loosely patterned on a few old lodges I’ve visited here on the Island and in Washington State. In this book, Grandad has died and left it to two granddaughters he’s never known, and who don’t know him. Holly, the protagonist in book one, has only a vague memory of a long ago visit when she was a very young child. Now he’s gone, and she’s left to piece together the family history through secrets hidden in plain sight in the rundown old mansion.
Of course, there are more pieces to the story puzzle, but that was the start. There was Covid, and family interruptions, but now I’m glad to be back in the story again!
As a reader, I’m also often drawn to old house settings, going right back to Nancy Drew and The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion. What kind of books are you drawn to? Do you find yourself returning to the same kind of story again and again? Does setting play a part?
That’s all for now.