Blog Tour, Day #2 — W. S. Gager

November 25th, 2011

W.S. Gager is a member of an elite group — reporters who took their writing skills into the challenging arena of novels — in her case, a series featuring crime reporter Mitch Malone

For this blog, I asked her to tell us about the genesis of one of her books — what the original idea was, how it came to her, how it developed and/or changed as she wrote the book. And — since this happens to me all the time — how, if at all, she wound up with something she didn’t expect.

The third book in my Mitch Malone series isn’t the book that hit the streets this summer. I haven’t looked at it much. Sound confusing? Last summer I had what I thought was the rough draft of the third book done. I like to take a couple weeks away from it before I start editing just so I can have fresh eyes. I was doing that last July and during that time was my husband’s class reunion.

Typically these class reunions are only fun if you went to the school, which I did not. Worst I didn’t know anyone. I’d gone to a reunion or two in the past but with five years in between it wasn’t high on my memory list. We lived a few hours away so I never saw any of these people between. So being a good spouse, I went. About the second round of drinks before dinner I started to get bored and let my imagination go. I’m always seeing and making up stories in my head so I just started giving the people parts to play. As long as I could nod occasionally, no one knew I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation.

As we all found our seats for dinner, I started watching the organizer of the gig. This would have been the class president or something. She made sure everyone had a seat, making sure late comers were welcomed. I believe she started drinking well before the reunion. She was a good hostess even when unable to navigate between tables without playing bumper pool. She made the rounds in the room, jump starting conversations and bring up things that most people had forgotten.

After dinner, conversations continued in small groups that moved and swayed adding and subtracting as people went to the bar or the bathroom. I stayed at the table while my husband mingled. I watched and the images in my head took over. My crime sleuth reporter Mitch Malone started talking in my head and when he talks, it is hard to have any other coherent thought. I pulled a pen from my clutch purse (one of the few things that would fit in it) and grabbed some cocktail napkins. What would happen if Mitch were to go to his class reunion? That morphed into, Mitch wouldn’t go but what if he accidentally stumbled across it? What if he hooked up with the girl he secretly had a crush on but was out of his league in high school? Now he was a big time reporter would he have a chance? Every time I got stuck I would look up and watch the cast of characters, make eye contact with my spouse, let him know I was fine and go back to my napkin novel. By the time I’d left, I’d killed off the homecoming queen and introduced Mitch’s cousin who had been the bane of his existence during school.

The reunion was over and I drove home and tucked my tipsy spouse into bed. Me, I was on a roll. I deciphered a wad of cocktail napkins that had my little black bag bulging and then went on from there. I had more than 10,000 words in before I called it a night, err morning. Mitch was still singing in my ear about his hometown but my thoughts were getting fuzzy. Two weeks later when I was should have gone back to the rough draft, I was knee deep in A CASE OF HOMETOWN BLUES. I just couldn’t let that one go and it would make book four in rough draft stage all the better if the reader knew a little more about Mitch and his childhood.

What I didn’t expect as I wrote was that the town Mitch grew up it would become such a force. It became sinister as Mitch tried to come to terms with his history. What he realized was he didn’t know anything about what was going on. He’d been a kid but what had gone on had changed him forever. Would I have written this if I’d bagged the reunion? Probably. Would I have had other ideas to replace it, definitely. Put the thing to remember is carpe diem or seize the moment. When a good idea comes, write it down on anything available. When bad idea comes, write it down. It is only in retrospect that we know if any idea is good or bad. Some of the worse ideas lead to great ideas. Unless you have a crystal ball, write it all down. Only later and with hindsight can we truly say something was good or something that was bad became good with a little tweak.

W.S. Gager has lived in Michigan for most of her life except when she was interviewing race car drivers or professional woman’s golfers. She enjoyed the fast-paced life of a newspaper reporter until deciding to settle down and realized babies didn’t adapt well to running down story details on deadline. Since then she honed her skills on other forms of writing before deciding to do what she always wanted with her life and that was to write mystery novels. Her main character is Mitch Malone who is an edgy crime-beat reporter always on the hunt for the next Pulitzer and won’t let anyone stop him, supposedly.

Thanks, Wendy — great post.  And today anyone who’s looking for me can find me over at one of Jean Henry Mead’s hangouts,

17 Responses to “Blog Tour, Day #2 — W. S. Gager”

  1. Marilyn Meredith Says:

    Great post, Wendy. Not the least bit surprised that the book was sparked by a real reunion. By the way, A Case of the Hometown Blues is a fun mystery. And as for your advice to write down any ideas as they occur to you, absolutely, I have notes piled all around me.


  2. Jean Henry Mead Says:

    Great story, Wendy. As a former fellow news reporter I can empathize with your need to leave the frenetic lifestyle to create stories on your own (which was much more to my liking).

  3. M.M. Gornell Says:

    Funny how, when, and where inspiration comes! Great you take advantage of those sparks, events, places… That’s why your writing is so good.

    Keep those ideas coming…


  4. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    So that’s where you all get your ideas 🙂 Great story. I’ll be checking out your books

  5. Jinx Schwartz Says:

    I like the soggy napkin thing…inspiration sometimes comes at the most inconvenient time and place!

  6. Alice Duncan Says:

    Erk. Class reunions. Great impetus for murder mysteries 🙂 Great post, Wendy!

  7. Earl Staggs Says:

    Wendy, I loved the story of how that book developed. I’ll bet at the next reunion, everyone will remember the woman who sat at the table all night and scribbled on napkins.

  8. Anne K. Albert Says:

    Love this story, especially the part about you killing off the homecoming queen. Super fun evening.

    I’m also impressed by the 10K in one sitting. VERY impressed, actually. I’ve done that just once in my life, but hope I get a second chance to do it again.

    Great post, Tim and Wendy!

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This is a great post and a real glimpse of the creative process at work, when the writer is open to input from the outside world. Thanks so much, Wendy.

  10. W.S. Gager Says:

    Thank you all for stopping by. I’m so sorry to be tardy. We had Thanksgiving at my house today and family who did not RSVP resulting in a mad dash to find extra tables and chairs. It was great fun. Let me tell you they have a million stories and murder in every gathering! So Tim’s comment about the outside world, really influenced today!
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  11. Patricia Kiyono Says:

    Great post! I don’t think I’ve ever written 10K in one sitting. How impressive! I love how you used real people to help you create the characters.

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Patricia, and welcome. 10K is otherworldly. I try for four thousand but don’t usually get there.

  13. W.S. Gager Says:

    That 10,000 is not every day and only happens rarely. Somedays the muse just keeps shining and I can’t be pulled away. I love those days the most! Thanks for stopping by, Patty!
    W.S. Gager on Writing

  14. W.S. Gager Says:

    Tim: Thank you so much for letting me talk about inspiration today. I had a great time!

  15. Tess Grant Says:

    Nice post, WS. I particularly enjoyed your comment that some of the worst ideas lead to the best ideas. Whenever my hubby and I are in a crappy spot, he’s fond of saying, “It’ll make a good story!” Have you two talked?

  16. Prentiss Garner Says:

    Great post! I remember some class reunions that could easily have ended in murder!

  17. W.S. Gager Says:

    Tess: Thanks so much for stopping by and no, I’ve not talked to your husband but it could make a good story. LOL

    Prentiss: Glad you stopped by. There is criminal intent in most reunions but luckily it stays in the cobwebs of the brain and not in the weapon within easy reach.


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