Writing a Murder Mystery 401: The Launch

This is the final part of my series on writing a genre-focused murder mystery. Find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here. (You can order my murder mystery Beatrice via Amazon.)

All images from the awesome Sarah Lavere.

I’m very excited to introduce the very odd and quirky cast of my murder mystery! A spectacular special thanks to Sarah Lavere for running with my very-average prose descriptions and creating the awesome images above.

When I decided that I would actually do a rollout for the book and attempt some marketing, I didn’t think it would be “fun”, but… you know, what? It hasn’t been not-not fun.

In the video and transcript below, I talk a little about the book, each character, and the basics of the plot. The Kindle and published versions will be available next Friday, 3/19, for purchase. You can pre-order now or wait until I do a $0.99 Kindle deal later this year. The world is really your oyster.

Video Transcript

Intro
The book launch is coming, it’s imminent; it’s this month, on the 19th. So I thought I would put together a video and talk through how I put together the book and all the characters who are suspects in the novel. There’s going to be awesome art by Sarah Lavere, who did all of my design work, the covers, as well as all the character designs. And they’re going to be interspersed with me talking a little bit about each one.

Bookspiration

So, in terms of the overall book and where it came from, I went to a family gathering and we got together and were thinking of ways to help my grandma, because she wasn’t doing very well, and we needed to get her into an assisted-living facility. And the conversation devolved into this insane madcap scheme of getting her, you know, into this place and multiple flights to central Illinois and breaking and entering charges and stolen drugs and all of these crazy things. And, when it was over, I talked to my mom and I’m like, did that really happen? We had that conversation? And that was the seed for what became this book.

I’ve always been a huge fan of crazy humor: The Simpsons, Arrested Development, self-referential stuff. I love found novels. I love mysteries and detective stories, whether it’s the Harry Potter books that are, I think of just as really great mysteries, or Agatha Christie’s work or the movie Clue, I just really love that those capers and whodunnits, the big house mysteries. So that crazy conversation that involved a lot of weird things in Central Illinois evolved into this cooky manor mystery that takes place in England and that’s where it all started.

Robert Edward and Augüst

So these first two suspects you see — once again special thanks to Sarah for doing the beautiful artwork for me, for the cover, for all that she’s done; it really made these characters come alive in a lot of different ways — but the first two you see on the screen, are Augüst Winterbourne and Robert Edward Harrington. Augüst came from — if you’ve ever read Wilkie Collins The Woman in White — there’s a fabulous character called Count Fosto who’s a really loud, weird, boisterous Italian man. And he really came from that. I’m saying his name like that because in the book it’s an ongoing joke that his name is mispronounced all the time because he says it very specifically, and you have to say it that way or he will correct you. So it is Augüst Winterbourne.

Robert Edward Harrington was a character I wanted to make someone who’s just over the top, creepy, and weird, and who you suspect the entire time because he’s so out of the ordinary. And his name is a little play — a little joke — but he’s got Gothic, overtones and weird interests. And I took his accent from The Grand High Witch from Roald Dahl’s The Witches. I just love that sort of creepy ambiguous, European continental accent. And he has the same kind of vibe as The Grand High Witch, so I thought that was a good mix. So these two men, they’re both loud, big personalities, and they clash throughout the book. Both suspects, who maybe did it in the end.

Martha and Dexter

These two characters in the world of the mystery are Martha and Dexter. Martha is the eccentric housemaid. She’s got a spinning eye and is very weird and out of place in these surroundings. The core concept for her was actually taken from a short story I wrote in grad school. People didn’t remember anything about the story, but they’re like, “Oh that cooky made was really cool!” That cooky maid was a kind of a pinup girl. She was very attractive and very sassy and threw bags around the house and stuff. Martha is not that exactly, but she’s in that same vein of, you know, the housekeeper who really doesn’t keep the house and doesn’t want to be there and will let you know about it.

Dexter within the book is the wild card. He’s the weird guy. He kind of wears different costumes. He runs around the house and no one really knows what he’s up to or where he’s come from. And so the main characters of Bronte and Crockett have to put together his backstory and what possible motives he and Martha might have together as people within the house. They are suspects for everything that happens and well acquainted with the twists and turns of Hawsfeffer Manor and can get around it if need be.

May and June

These two wonderful characters, again, as drawn by Sarah Lavere, are May Hawsfeffer and June Winterbourne. June is the wife of Augüst Winterbourne, and May is her sister. They are a yin and yang couple. June is the very together, gathered house mother who lives in and protects the family. She is very neutral and the, you know, the straight man, if you will, within the context of the action.

May is a mirror character of Robert Edward. She’s really weird and questionable from the get-go. She has a very dark history and a past as a nun who didn’t quite make it through the strict regimen of the church. So she is a suspect for many reasons but that, too. But her and June, this weird pair, they both come from the house which has sort of a malevolent presence. So, you know, could it be them as well?

Corinthiana and Beatrice

This picture is Corinthiana and her beloved pet herring, Beatrice, from the title fame. I think like a good parent a good author shouldn’t pick a favorite, but Corinthiana is very much up there. She’s sort of a weird mishmash of Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek and Eliza Doolittle from My Fair Lady; she’s boisterous and over the top in everything she does. I really enjoyed writing her, and she has a really interesting accent in the book. It was a lot of fun. I had to tone down the accent a lot — insider knowledge. A lot of people complained because it was too crazy at first.

Beatrice is her beloved pet. I really loved the juxtaposition of this woman who had this really treasured pet, and instead of it being a really fluffy dog, it’s just a dead-eyed fish that does nothing and stays in a bowl. I thought that combination was humorous if you will. Will Corinthiana emerge as a murderer? Is that why she’s my favorite? Hard to say. But you’ll read and find out.

Detective Pimento and Kordelia

These two characters are Detective Lucian Lucretian Pimento and Kordelia Hawsfeffer. The detective is taken directly from the stock detective world. He’s very fashionable, very analytical; he comes in and is no-nonsense.

Kordelia is the youngest daughter of June and Augüst Winterbourne, and the little sister of Brontë, who is one of the stars of the book. And she is kind of the Phoebe from friends. She doesn’t know anything but somehow knows everything. Also, as it goes on, her knowledge of Austrian literary history is one of my favorite parts of the book — weird to say that I wrote it — so you have this no-nonsense detective and then the scatterbrain little sister, but, you know, either one of them could have done it. So you have to read and find out.

Petrarch

Petrarch is the wise presence within the book. He’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Dumbledore, the wise, avuncular person who helps set things right. When Crockett gets a little carried away, [Petrarch] pulls him back, always reminding him of his place, of propriety, of where he belongs when he gets too excited about things. Petrarch’s a big, gentle Teddy bear. He’s very rotund, but he exercises all the time to keep in shape. He and Crockett have a really, really nice backstory; they found each other in a vulnerable time. So they’re more than coworkers, they’re really like family. Throughout the book, you know — not to say that Petrach couldn’t have committed some of the atrocious deeds within the pages — but he mostly tries to keep Crockett on track and focused on their work within the house.

Brontë

This is Bronte, the female lead of the book. She is a really powerful woman. She’s the one driving a lot of the action of the book. She lives in Hawsfeffer Manor, and Crockett and Petrarch show up and chaos ensues; quickly, Brontë and Crockett share confidences.

What I was trying to capture in their relationship is — my first Agatha Christie book I ever read was called The Secret Adversary — and in it there’s Tommy and Tuppence, who are this sort of ragtag team, and they solve the mystery. The books a little bit of a mess, but it’s a really fun adventure story. And that’s a lot of what I was trying to capture within this book too, a murder mystery, but a great team caper. Although [Brontë and Crockett] may be suspects, their relationship and how it builds throughout the book is, is one of the really big parts of it, regardless of what happens. So I really love Brontë. And, it was funny because as I was writing the book and going through drafting phases, I watched Fleabag. And I was like, “Oh my gosh!” Brontë and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are the same person. I just love that really funny, powerful, and really interesting and complex character, that evokes — so that is Brontë.

Crockett

This is Crockett. He’s the star of the show if you will. Crocket is originally from a really poor, workhouse background, kind of like Oliver Twist. And he’s discovered by Petrarch, taken under his wing, learns to love to read, and is going to become a solicitor like Petrarch, but once he’s introduced to the world of the house, he is very invested in getting to the bottom of all the other curious circumstances going on. And it doesn’t help that Brontë is very cute, and he is drawn to help her and also to make sure she feels safe in the house as well. So he’s kind of a weird mix of, of myself, some of my friends that nerdy, awkward dude, who makes really rash decisions a lot of the time, but he means really well. You know is one of his rash decisions murder? I don’t know, you’ll have to find out, but he’s a really fun, really cool character. He’s the amateur sleuth that drives the action.

The End

If you’re still watching, thanks so much for jumping in and hearing a little bit more about the world of Beatrice and the characters and where they all come from. It was a really fun adventure to write this and get feedback and let people enter the world, so I’m really hoping that there’s engagement and fun around the book as it’s released. You can still pre-order with the link in the blog above. And if you, of course, have any questions, you can always email me directly at teddhawks@yahoo.com. I’ve got nothing else going on, so you can email me there. But thanks once again for hanging out and for viewing and for jumping in and playing a little bit in this world.

Tedd Hawks is a writer, trainer, and teacher from Chicago. You can follow his Instagram and humor blog.

I'm a Chicago-based writer working on my craft. Hopefully I can help others along the way.

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