Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Gathering Storm, by Barbara Warren

A strong debut for Warren...

There is no love lost between Stephanie Walker and her father Marty. She can’t forgive him for divorcing her mother years ago to marry a country singer and then dropping out of their lives. So when Marty shows up on her doorstep, she figures he wants something. She’s right.

But her heart will not soften toward him, and she declines his request to come home with him to “watch his back”. Finding that he has stolen a piece of jewelry from her house, she relents and drives four hours away to Harrington Lodge. Planning to demand her necklace back, she is shocked when she walks into his room and discovers he has been murdered.

I’ve begun reading murder mysteries more steadily and I enjoyed the story line in this book. Artfully dropped clues continued to divert my attention and fool me. I guessed some things correctly here and there, but I never anticipated the turn it took at the very end. Warren paced the story well, and used the setting to enhance it even more. It’s an easy read in a simple, clear style. There were a few places I felt were a bit contrived, but all in all it’s a good mystery novel.

1. Where did you get the idea for your novel?

I was picking blackberries and while my hands were busy, my mind was wandering. And all of a sudden I had these characters in my head. As soon as I got to the house I wrote them down and started plotting their story. I usually have a notebook handy at all times, but not in the blackberry patch. I don't think writers can really explain where the idea comes from. Something I read or see will spark an idea. I keep a file of ideas, phrases, a snatch of dialogue. Sometimes it's just an idea, sometimes it's the beginning of a plot. There are a lot of things in the business of writing that can't be explained. Like the way we know how our characters look and their personalities. We can't tell someone how it happens. It's just there in our minds.

2. How did you get into the editing business? Do you think that helped you in your writing?

I helped start a writing group and we critiqued each others work. It turned out to be something that other people thought I had a gift for and Cheryl Hodde kept after me to start charging. Finally after years of editing for free, I set up my own business and found I really enjoyed it. Yes it has helped in my writing, because I have a whole shelf of books on editing. I've
studied them and applied what I learned to my client's manuscripts, and that has helped me see the mistakes in my own writing. Of course, my critique group still rips my work apart and I appreciate them.

3. Tell us how you weave your faith into your stories.

I don't like a message that seems to be pasted on, so I try to have my characters live their faith the way I live mine, a natural, normal part of my life. Very few of the Christians I know go around looking holy and talking pious. They are real people, and I try to make my characters seem real too. Faith should be a normal part of our lives, like breathing. Not something we spend a lot of time thinking about, like "I'm really full of faith here," but something that is a natural part of the way we live. Our charcters shouldn't be more holy or preachy than we are.

4. What's coming up next? Do you have another novel in the works?

I am trying to market the next book in this series. Kate, the young girl in The Gathering Storm is a single mother, and this will be her story. And I'm working on a cozy about five women in their sixties who act like me and talk like me, and of course they are wonderful, like me. I'm having a lot of fun with it.

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