Many writers, especially mystery writers, start their writing with a character or a plot: the protagonist that readers will come to love and the storyline that will keep them enthralled.
Not me. I’ve always started with a place.
There’s a lot of interesting thought about how we’re connected to the spaces we inhabit, those we choose and those that are chosen for us, those we love and those we can’t wait to see the last of. I think it’s fascinating to consider those ideas.
There are places I’ve lived, or stayed, or even just visited, that will always be with me; there was something interesting or different or even mysterious about it that kept them tucked away in my brain, that caused me to love them.
And then there’s the contextual issue. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of going somewhere—entering a house, crossing a bridge, walking down a street, climbing a hill—and being suddenly and inexplicably overcome with some sort of sensation that’s related to where you are. The locale is sending you signals, sometimes wonderful, sometimes frightening, always interesting.
And the truth is that the feeling is rarely wrong: if a place starts tugging at me, even if I don’t immediately feel any attraction to it, a little work will reveal the jewels that are just waiting for a creative spirit to come along.
I got that feeling the first time I visited Montréal—decades ago—and it continued to reverberate over the years that I kept going back, until it was clear to me that I needed to respond. And so I started not just enjoying in a tourist kind of way, but really getting to know the city, which for me always involves starting with its past. And the more I read about that past, the more mysteries unfolded, a flower slowly unfurling its petals. There were a lot of reasons to keep exploring, explorations that led me to the story of the Duplessis orphans, the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, and the forbidding mansion known as Ravenscrag.
It’s not just me, and it’s not just Montréal. The next time you travel, take a trip into history as well, and see what mysteries you might discover!
Women are being murdered in Montréal’s summer tourist season, and everything points to random acts of a serial killer—but it’s publicity director Martine LeDuc who discovers that the deaths reflect a darker past that someone wants desperately to keep hidden.About the author:
Jeannette de Beauvoir grew up in Angers, France, but now lives on Cape Cod—as well as spending as much time as she can traveling and listening to the stories told by other places. Read more about her at www.JeannetteAuthor.com.