Author of several books, Carole Burns has taken a number of writing classes with me. But I can’t take credit for helping her with all of them. I only got to know Carole when she was working on her novel, Murder With Malice. It’s a mystery in which the reader knows the murderer’s identity, and follows the detectives as they track down the criminal—and figure out why he killed two people.
Here’s an excerpt from the opening of Murder With Malice.
While the Scarsdale Movie Theater on Garth Road was emptying out, William Grotty remained in the shadow of the nearby Laundromat. His car was parked on a nearby street where he’d hidden a gun in the glove compartment. Now it was in the pocket of his dark hiking jacket with his backpack strapped over his shoulders.
William checked his watch. It was exactly 11:00 p.m. The movie had just ended; the street was clear. His two friends were the only ones left, standing near the marquee, waiting for him.
He had told Sally Ross and Frances King that he wanted to treat them to a lovely new café that had recently opened. The only time they could all agree to meet was after the movie on Sunday night. William told them how proud he was of Sally’s new position and the continuing good results with the programming Fran and he were working on. They were surprised by his offer, but accepted graciously.
A soft, April evening’s warm breeze pervaded the street’s suburban aura. William knew the next commuter train from New York City wouldn’t be at the depot for another hour. Calculatedly, he came out from the shadow, the small gun nestled safely in his jacket’s pocket.
The two women turned to him as he called out, “Hi, you two.”
Facing him, they smiled and then were stunned. Eyes opened wide, mouths ajar, silent, as they watched him take the gun out of his pocket. He shot them each once in the chest. He knew they were dead.
I asked Carole to talk about her experience writing Murder With Malice.
The idea of book came from a mystery writing class I attended at Tufts University’s OSHER Institute for Retirees.
We were given a scenario, and asked to write what happens next. Surprisingly, each person in the class wrote something entirely different from what everyone else wrote.
Every week the instructor gave the class an assignment, which we would write during class time. The prompts were the following:
1. Write about the victim.
2. Write about the murderer.
3. Write about the setting.
We never referred to the plot again, but my story took off. It was a lot of fun.
In Murder With Malice, a murder is committed by a man whose childhood portrays an evil mind. When my book opens, he kills two seemingly innocent women friends of his. A college teacher, with her students and a local policeman, solve the crime.
The difficulties I faced when writing the mystery were in fleshing out the story, as I tend to write very concisely.
I learned I needed to develop my characters, scenes, and so forth. Help came from my original teacher, Roseanne Montillo, and from my present instructor, Lynette Benton——with wonderful input from the students in our workshops.
What I’d tell others who want to write a mystery:
– Like your characters. I enjoyed mine so much, I’ve decided to do a sequel.
– Do your research.
– Ask for advice from experts in field. My adult children were able to help me with financial aspects of the story.
– Be part of a writing group. You need input on your manuscript, and you’ll learn much from others who are writing their stories.
– Decide on the weapon for the crime, know about it to be sure it will work in the story.
– Explore the murderer’s motives, background, and character.
– Be familiar with the scene of the crime…places to hide, time of the day or night when it would be best to have a crime committed.
Besides Murder With Malice, I’ve written:
Oops, a collection of my silly poetry for family and friends
Sadye’s Sayings, expressions my mother used as a guide to bring me up.
A Rosh Chodesh Handbook Joining Lilith and Eve (with Ellen Cohn and Doris Wachsler) 2000
Sadye: A Memoir By Her Daughter 2001
No Such Thing As Ordinary 2006
Sidney, As We Remember Him 2012
The Freckle Thief (with Marilyn Wald) a children’s book 2013