Special Guest - Carolyn Haines
I am so thrilled to have Carolyn Haines here today. She has a great new book coming out on May 19th in the Sarah Booth Delaney series called Bone to Be Wild. I have enjoyed this series and this one was hard to put down. Welcome Carolyn, so glad you could be here today.
Sarah Booth Delaney is heartbroken: her fiancé Graf Milieu has decided to move to Hollywood permanently, leaving their relationship in shambles. Sarah Booth has a perfect distraction, however, in the form of the Black and Orange Halloween ball her best friends are throwing in New Orleans. Sarah Booth plans to dance the night away to the swinging tunes of her old flame Scott Hampton's blues band. But just as the party gets going, Scott receives a mysterious message that threatens his life and the lives of his bandmates. Sarah Booth knows that a new case is just what she needs to take her mind off her failed relationship with Graf, and she's ready to help Scott investigate. And then the message turns from threat to reality when the bartender from Scott's club is gunned down in a drive-by. Enlisting Sheriff Coleman Peters and the rest of her friends from Zinnia, Mississippi, Sarah Booth is caught in a race against the clock as she tries to stop a killer from striking again.
With a twist around every corner, Carolyn Haines will delight readers with Sarah Booth Delaney's latest zany adventure in Bone to be Wild.
Sarah Booth isn't going to let a break-up stop here from having a great time at the Halloween Ball, she was looking forward to relaxing and having fun. When the clubs bartender is murdered she finds just what she needed. Trying to find out who killed him and why before it is to late and the killer takes her out. The cast of characters and the story with its twist keep you reading until the end not wanting to put it down for a minute. The fast-paced action packed mystery is just that book. You will be swept away from the start.
PLOT, CHARACTER, or BOTH?
For mystery writers, the debate is as old as the hills—which is more important, plot or character? It’s a fun discussion when a roomful of writers get together, and there isn’t a final answer. Just the fun of talking about two things we love, mysteries and writing.
I believe a really good story has to have compelling characters and a plot that propels the story forward. But setting and theme are also important. So a good mystery has to have it all.
When I first began the Sarah Booth Delaney Mississippi Delta mysteries, I didn’t set out to write a mystery. I had hold of two characters, Sarah Booth and Jitty. It took me a while to figure out that Jitty was a ghost instead of someone with a real passion for bad 70s fashion. But Jitty is so much more than a ghost. She is Sarah Booth’s connection to her past, to her family, to the land, and to the heritage of the Delaney family.
That’s a lot of weight for a dead person to hold up!
Trust me, Jitty is up to the challenge. While Sarah Booth solves the mysteries, Jitty is there to keep her on the straight and narrow and to offer romantic advice (and a gentle push). Jitty’s primary goal is to see that Sarah Booth produces an heir before her biological clock runs out.
So for me, at least in the first book, THEM BONES, character came first. In fact, Sarah Booth only takes up snooping to save her family home, Dahlia House. In doing so, she discovers she has a knack for digging up secrets. When the reader is dying to know “what happens next” the plot is moving the story forward as it should.
In the books I love to read, plot and character are so intertwined it’s impossible to pull them apart. The action of the plot comes out of the character’s motivation. Sarah Booth wants to save Dahlia House from being sold, so she takes actions that give her a payday and a guilty conscience.
Setting is also really important, and the old writer’s saw—write what you know—really applies to me. Mississippi is my home state, though I grew up in the pine barrens and not the Delta. Home of the blues with topsoil eight feet deep, the Mississippi Delta is a land of stark contrasts. Perfect for a murder mystery. By grounding my characters deep in that rich soil, I know exactly who they are and what’s important to them.
Where a story is set is always important to me, as a reader. I love reading about locations I don’t know, but it’s such a thrill to read about a place I know intimately. Mississippi offers me a chance to explore the exotic, because it is a unique place with a troubled history, but it is also my backyard. This is rich fodder for a writer.
Most of the fifteen books in the series have been set in Mississippi, with a few adventures to other locales. But Sarah Booth’s heart is in the Delta. She’ll always return home. Not because I plan this, but because that is who Sarah Booth is.
Thematic elements shift with each book. BONE TO BE WILD finds Sarah Booth in a place where the life she expected to have is suddenly not there. Jitty appears as various blues singers, reminding Sarah Booth that heartache isn’t fatal. Love and loss go hand in hand and most people survive both. Out of endings come new beginnings. And Sarah Booth
has proven adept at reinventing herself—just as Jitty does. And along the way, Sarah Booth figures out who is trying to keep an old friend from opening a blues club at a famous crossroads.
Plot or character? It’s impossible to have a “rule,” because each writer and each book offers a different story. Within a series, the focus sometimes changes.
After writing fifteen books in this series, Sarah Booth and the Zinnia, Mississippi, gang are like old friends. While I don’t always agree with the actions they take, I don’t hold it against them. Those actions lead to fun adventures for me to write about.
Part of the art of writing is balancing the elements of story in a way that the reader finds to be rich, detailed, easy to follow, and exciting. I think of these four elements: plot, setting, character, and theme, as a tapestry of four colors. They are woven together to create a whole, each color vitally important, but it is the combination that creates the beauty.
BONE TO BE WILD, the 15th book in the series, will be released May 19 by St. Martin’s Minotaur. Carolyn Haines has been awarded the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence, as well as the Best Amateur Sleuth series by Romantic Times. She teaches fiction writing at an Alabama university and manages Good Fortune Farm Refuge, a 501c3 rescue that rehabilitates animals and finds loving, permanent homes. She urges all pet owners to have their companions spayed or neutered. You can learn more about Carolyn, her rescue, or her crazy life at www.carolynhaines.com. Or you can join her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
You can get this book and enjoy it as much as I did here: