Sidney Marsh’s job as a New York travel agent is on the line. On her last two tours, she and her colleague Jay ended up smack in the middle of murder and mayhem. Their sleuthing sideline did not endear them to their employer, Itchy Feet Travel, so naturally they are relieved when their wealthy friend Brooke requests their presence on a no expense spared tour of India and Nepal. Another agency has made the arrangements, so all they need do is sit back and enjoy the ride. Well, not quite all. Brooke has enlisted them to keep a sharp eye on their fellow travelers, all “friends” who have grown rich from the demise of others. After surviving an attempt on her life, Brooke is certain the culprit must be one of the five: a handsome Scotsman, a Bollywood actress, an investment banker, a Parisian filmmaker, or a twice widowed blonde. Many of the tour accommodations prove to be as dodgy as the reputations of the travelers themselves. After one of the members of the moving house party dies of an apparent heart attack, everyone’s nerves are on edge. Sidney can hardly be blamed for assuming a deadly game is afoot … or for falling for Adam, the doting Scotsman. Now, if only she can unmask the killer before the killer beats her to the punch. Side Trip to Kathmandu is the third book in the Sidney Marsh Mystery series, which began with Shore Excursion.
“Write what you know” has to be the most-worn-out piece of writing advice that exists. And the best.
Trying to somehow conjure something that you have never experienced, smelled, tasted or seen can be managed with research of course, but your story may lack that strong sense of realism that only personal experience brings. Think of a Yankee actor trying to sound Southern. Think of a man describing giving birth.
Each of us tends to sell our life situations short, viewing our own careers and environment as deadly dull, plodding and mediocre. Yet great writing comes from the simplest of situations. One doesn’t have to lead a glamorous life for our circumstance to be interesting and insightful, even exciting, to the reader. Do you like to fish? Consider the humble fisherman in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
My chosen genre, the cozy mystery, is tailor-made for a person who doesn’t exactly live in the fast lane and the “write what you know” thing works for me. For fifteen years, I owned and managed a retail travel agency. And I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a kid, beginning with Nancy Drew. So when I decided to follow my dream of writing such a mystery, I made my protagonist a travel agent, thus giving her a job I knew from the inside out, and providing her with a vehicle for discovering and solving mysteries around the world, located in places that I had personally visited.
Wait a minute, Marie. That might work for you, your job was exciting. But I am a garage mechanic, working in a body shop. How can I write a mystery about that? What? You never heard of the body in the trunk? Of course you can write a mystery! Write what you know. Put that hard-earned experience to work, dressed up with details that only a pro would know and the reader will have no trouble believing you when you open that crushed trunk of the Beemer with your crowbar and discover a corpse!
In my former career, I sailed on over 19 cruises. I know ships. So my first book, Shore Excursion, was murder on a cruise ship. My next book, Game Drive, is murder on safari in South Africa, and I have been there as well. I spent three weeks in India and Nepal before writing the latest Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery, Side Trip to Kathmandu. My details are real, my settings authentic.
That said, exciting settings are totally unnecessary for an exciting book.
The part that is necessary is that the setting and the people in them seem believable. Once realism is teamed with imagination the magic begins to work. Even the mundane life of an old lady in a tiny village in the country can make a great book if the things that unfold before her seem real. Think of Dame Agatha Christie writing about Miss Marple in the village of St. Mary’s Mead. Not too exciting, that little English hamlet, but oh, what a story! So get the facts right, bail bondsman, and you might just turn out to be the next Janet Evanovich!
About the Author
Shore Excursion was Marie Moore’s first novel, but not her first writing experience, and like Sidney Marsh, she is a native Mississippian. She graduated from Ole Miss, married a lawyer in her hometown, taught junior high science, raised a family, and worked for a small weekly newspaper, first as a writer and later as Managing Editor. She wrote hard news, features and a weekly column, sold ads, did interviews, took photos, and won a couple of MS Press Association awards for some of her stories.
In 1985, Marie left the newspaper to open a retail travel agency. She completed agency and computer training with Airlines Reporting Corporation, Delta Airlines and TWA, earned her CTC (Certified Travel Counselor) designation, and joined the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), International Air Transport Association (IATA), and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). For the next 15 years, she managed her agency, sold travel, escorted group tours, sailed on 19 cruises, and visited over 60 countries. Much of the background of Shore Excursion comes from that experience.
Marie also did location scouting and worked as the local contact for several feature films, including Heart of Dixie, The Gun in Betty Lou’s Handbag, and Robert Altman’s Cookie’s Fortune.
In mid-1999, because of her husband’s work, Marie sold the travel agency and moved to Jackson, MS, then New York City, Anna Maria Island, FL, and Arlington, VA. She and her husband now live in Memphis, TN and Holly Springs, MS.
Marie and her mystery novels have been featured in Click! Magazine, At Home Memphis and MidSouth Magazine, Portico Magazine, and Southern Writer’s Magazine. She has been a guest on WREG’s Live at 9, BookTalk, and The Earle Farrell Show. She has given 30 minute presentations: Whodunnit? Crafting the Mystery Novel and Finding A New Career in Mid-life to numerous civic groups, senior citizens groups, libraries, and from The Balancing Act Stage as part of the program of The Southern Women’s Show. She has served as a program panelist for Malice Domestic Mystery Conference (Bethesda, MD, 2012 and 2013) and Killer Nashville Mystery Conference (2013). In 2013, Marie’s books were specially chosen for inclusion in the onboard libraries of all the Holland America and Seabourn Cruise Line ships. GAME DRIVE, Book 2 in The Sidney Marsh Murder Mystery Series, was named Finalist in Foreword Review’s 2013 Mystery Book of the Year. Marie is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.
One lucky winner will receive an ebook of Side Trip to Kathmandu by Marie Moore, courtesy of the author. For your chance to win, please enter using the Giveaway Tools widget below. Giveaway ends at 11:59PM EST on 5/14/15. See giveaway widget for complete rules and regulations. Good luck!