Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sneaky Kids Grow Up to be Mystery Writers

Good day, readers! We're pleased to feature this guest post from mystery writer and NYT bestselling novelist Eileen Goudge.

I was a sneaky kid.

Curious, by my definition. Incorrigible, by my parents’.

Whenever my parents hosted a party, I’d slip from my bed to watch from the hallway, wondering WHY Dad was drinking high balls and acting weird and WHAT was Mom doing smoking a cigarette??? I learned my dad subscribed to Playboy magazine when I found a copy under their mattress. And I was dying to know what was in that metal lockbox on the top shelf of their closet. I was convinced it held papers proving I was adopted, since I’m nothing like my siblings. So one day when my folks were out, I got the key from their dresser and climbed up on a stepladder…

And was shocked to discover racy photos of my parents, taken, in the pre-selfie era, with a Polaroid camera. By today’s standards they’d seem tame, but to my 13-year-old self it was deeply shocking. If my novels are rife with family secrets, the seeds were sowed that day.

Did it cure me of my rampant curiosity? Not a chance. Instead I channeled it into writing fiction, which, fueled by my over-active imagination and love of reading, had me taking the age-old question “What if?” to new heights (of the kind not requiring a stepladder). I wrote my little socks off, starting with my very first short story, “The Secret of the Mossy Cave.” My fourth grade teacher was so impressed she showed it to the principal. By age ten, I was filling an entire notebook with stories while reading the likes of Jane Eyre and House of the Seven Gables.

I was writing professionally by age 20. Not making diddly-squat money-wise, but it meant I could stay at home with my infant son. I persisted. Over the next two decades I published numerous young adult books, 15 women’s fiction novels (and one cookbook), some of which were New York Times bestsellers. Now, all these years later, I’m returning to my first love, mystery, which dates back to when I was a girl devouring Nancy Drew mysteries. An idea came to me, and I thought, “Why not?”

Mysteries are the literary version of the lockbox on the top shelf. What secrets might it contain? A murder weapon?  A diary with shocking revelations? A “cooked” ledger linked to the criminal underworld?

I asked myself, “What if a woman whose mom has been missing for 25 years, presumed to have run off with her lover, discovers there’s a darker side to the story?” The “lockbox” writ large. Thus began my journey to the fictional town of Cypress Bay, California (a brazen ripoff of my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA), home of my amateur sleuth, Leticia “Tish” Ballard, owner of Rest Easy Property Management.  

It was love at first byte. Tish is me with an even bigger mouth and even more unbridled curiosity. She gets to do all the stuff I’d like to do. She’s fearless and resourceful, as one would expect of someone whose day job requires a certain politesse (like thinking to replace the previously unopened box of tampons in the master bath at a vacation home belonging to one of her clients before the missus discovers the mister had a “visitor”). Now, nine months later, I’m excited to announce the debut of the first book in my Cypress Bay mystery series, Bones and Roses (available in digital format only).  Book 2, Swimsuit Body, is in the works.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my readers, who’ve stuck by me and cheered me on through the years. I owe and even bigger debt to my parents, for leading such interesting lives, and not squelching my imagination. What would have become of me if I’d been born to the likes of June and Ward Cleaver? If there’d been nothing of interest in the lockbox on the top shelf of their closet?

We’ll never know.

* * *

New York Times bestselling novelist Eileen Goudge wrote her first mystery, Secret of the Mossy Cave, at the age of eleven, and went on to pen the perennially popular Garden of Lies, which was published in 22 languages around the world, and numerous other women’s fiction tiles. Bones and Roses is the first book in her Cypress Bay Mysteries series. She lives in New York City with her husband, television film critic and entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon. Keep connected with Eileen at her website, www.eileengoudge.com.

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