With DOUBLE UP coming out in just two weeks, this seemed a good time to run this little story from Ms. Archer’s previous great story of Davis Way and the Bellissimo Resort and Casino.
I love back stories. I’m one of those nosy people who has to research everything. I want to know not only what happens in the movie or the book, but what the author or director was thinking. Why he or she did it that way and not some other way. I love hearing about the inspiration behind a great piece of creative work.
To say that I loved Double Knot doesn’t quite capture my feeling on the subject. I loved that Ms. Archer stretched herself to go beyond snarky humor and easy laughs to explore her main character’s heart and motivations. Davis Way has gained depth. The things she does, the ways she reacts are no longer “out of the blue.” There is context where before, there were just questions. I also love the whole “locked room” genre. It seems every mystery writer tackles this at least once. Agatha Christie did it in several books and was, perhaps, the all time grande dame of the locked room mystery. Conan Doyle did it too, as have almost all great modern mystery writers. Who could resist? Not me!
The tension between a few characters locked together in a race with death? Whether it’s a train, a haunted house in the country, or below decks on a luxury cruise ship — this is the ultimate setting for mystery and murder.
And now, without further ado, here’s Gretchen Archer to give you an inside look.
Question: What made you take the leap into writing a classic locked room mystery with a pregnant Davis Way in the middle of the action? What were you thinking?
What was I thinking? I wanted to challenge myself. Writers have to do that, I think. Maybe we all need to do it, to compete with ourselves and see what we can do that we haven’t done before.
I knew I wanted a locked-room mystery. Double Knot is the fifth book in my series. My characters needed a change of scenery. They’d covered every square inch of the Bellissimo Resort and Casino, the fictional Gulf Coast casino where the Davis Way crime capers are set in Double Whammy, Double Dip, Double Strike, and Double Mint. So, I built a boat. I packed my characters into a suite and sent them on a Caribbean cruise. I locked the door, threw away the key, and let loose the dogs of war, as it were.
Question: Unlike in your previous books, this one has a very tight timeline. Why?
That tight timeline was my second big challenge. The previous four books each spanned weeks, sometimes months. I allowed myself just two days for Double Knot. My goal was to write eighty thousand compelling words that would take place in forty-eight hours.
Question: You brought in new characters and left old characters out of the story. Again, why?
Character arc was my third big challenge. First, I profiled an unlikable and unsympathetic character with the intent of gradually redeeming her. Next, I took a core character — who my readers didn’t know well and surely didn’t embrace — and I put her out there. With all her hopes, fears, trials, motivation … and hopefully, salvation.
And in what turned out to be the biggest test of all, I let my star — Davis — start a family. A pregnant main character is unusual for the mystery genre. Going in, I didn’t think anything of it. After all, I’ve done it myself. How hard could it be?
As it turned out, very hard. Striking a balance between Davis taking care of herself while actively solving a mystery was a high-wire act. Truth be told, three wonderful editors, all of whom were on one side of the labor and delivery fence with me — thrice on the other, led to more treacherous editing waters than any of us expected. I’m happy to say we survived and Double Knot endured. I’m a better writer for it. (My editors might not agree.)
Was it easy? KNOT! I mean NOT! Did I love writing this book? A resounding yes. I hope readers connect with it. If knot, a chuckle.
Happy reading, and thank you Marilyn!