I’ve heard it said everyone has a look alike in this world. Recently, I met at least one woman who believes that to be true in my case. I was in the local farm supply store. One of the employees stopped stocking a shelf when she saw me push my shopping cart by her.
She came to meet me. "Did you come after your syringe?"
That took me by surprise. I answered, "No."
"Don’t you need it now for the sick puppy?"
"Guess not," I replied. "I don’t have a puppy."
The young woman colored up. "You aren’t who I thought. A woman stopped me at the grocery store the other day. She said the medicine she bought for her puppy had a broken syringe in it. When she comes in she wanted me to replace the syringe. You sure do look just like her."
I don’t think I’ve ever met two people I thought looked identical, but I’ve known people that had some characteristics that were the same and others characteristics that made them the different individuals they were. My paying attention to the difference in people helps me form the characters I write about.
Take for instance, Gracie Evans in my Amazing Gracie Mystery Series. In the last years of her life the real Gracie was a cantankerous, independent woman. She wore the facade of being hardened by a life filled with disappointments and hardships. Under that facade was a soft heart and a fondness for children. Once I made it past her crusty exterior, we became friends.
In 2000, I read some of the Miss Marple detective books by Agatha Christie. Miss Christie’s main character intrigued me. Imagine an elderly, observant woman, quietly sitting in the middle of a murder investigation, knitting a scarf without missing a stitch while she solves the mystery.
Miss Jane Marple was a proper English woman with perfect manners. My Gracie Evans was the total opposite, but just as interesting and very infinitely her own person. So since I like mysteries, I decided to give writing one a go as Miss Marple might say. Except my detective is a Midwestern, spinster, farmer who has spent her whole life taking care of herself just like the real Gracie.
Where better to place her to live than central Iowa. After all I know that area best. Her job as a farmer was easy since that is what the real Gracie did for a living. Why not start with her retirement and move to a rest home for women in a small town? After all, I know quite a bit about today’s nursing home, elderly characteristics and caring for the elderly. That was my job.
While I was working on book one of the series, I told the real Gracie what I was doing. She gave me a pleased smile when I told her she was my inspiration and asked me several questions about the book. Then the subject was never brought up again. For her, every day worries about her health and remembering to have the television on when "The Young and The Restless" came on were the most important things in her life. If my Gracie had lived long enough to read my book, I think she’d have been pleased.
Here is the synopsis. Next Tuesday I’ll give an excerpt from the book.
"Neighbor Watchers" Amazing Gracie Series - Book one - ISBN 1438246072
In 1903, Gracie Evans, a retired spinster farmer, moves into Moser Mansion’s Rest Home For Women in Locked Rock, Iowa. She wrestles with feeling of boredom. After living on the family farm, Three Oaks, all her life, town life was hard to get used to. Gracie finds it hard to co-mingle with one of the other residents. Libby Hook is a set in her ways, particular, outspoken woman just like Gracie. Now Melinda Applegate is a different story. She is meek and gentle and only speaks her mind when shoved into it. Gracie befriends Melinda. Together they rock on the mansion’s front porch behind vines Gracie tore peek holes in so they can watch the neighbors. Behind the morning glory vine, they hear as well as see a couple across the street have a daily spat. Hidden back of the clematis vine, they watch the retired couple which Gracie says is about as exciting as watching an old dog chase his tale. What they see behind the honeysuckle is a different story. The young woman across the street is a lady of the evening. Using the excuse that it’s too hot to go to bed, Gracie and Melinda stay up past their bedtime to see which of the town’s men visit Rachel Simpson. When Rachel is murdered, Gracie and Melinda know who came out of her house the night before, but are afraid to tell the sheriff without proof. Gracie is determined to find something that will get the killer arrested before the mansion’s residents end up dead, too.