Today I'm pleased to welcome author Rosemary Harris to Terry's Place. One of the most frequent questions authors get asked is, "Where do you get your ideas?" Here's what Rosemary has to say about that.
Ripped from the headlines is such a cliché these days. Can we go back to the much classier sounding roman a clef? Why is the RFTH label so compelling to editors, publishers, reviewers and, one would assume, readers? Isn’t everything, sort of, RFTH? Haven’t writers from Lady Murasaki to Shakespeare to Dominick Dunne ripped from the headlines?
I have been on so many RFTH panels that I recently said No Mas to one at a mystery conference. Believe me, I thought long and hard before pushing that Send button. There are few things a new writer enjoys more than yakking about her path to publication, her protagonist’s dysfunctional family or damaged relationship with her partner and her struggle to get attention for her masterpiece at a publishing house where a book is old news before it even hits the shelves. All of which you can do no matter what question you are asked if you are skillful and polished enough. (“I’m glad you asked that question, Sarah, let me tell you about…”) I was thrilled to be invited, but wasn’t sure I could contribute to the discussion without sounding like I was phoning it in. And I did push Send. Mercifully the conference organizers put me on another panel.
Years back I can remember reading Dunne’s An Inconvenient Woman (a juicy beach read and a pretty good miniseries starring Rebecca DeMornay who could still make the trains run on time eight years after Risky Business.) It was about a billionaire and his much younger waitress/mistress who’s the only one who really understands him. Heard this one before? No idea this was RFTH until someone from Crown Publishers told me a few years later. Would it have enhanced my enjoyment of the story if I’d known that somehow Bloomingdale’s and Nancy Reagan were involved? I doubt it. In fact I rarely associate Nancy Reagan with juicy anything. Did I care more about The Devil Wears Prada because the author had once worked for Vogue? Nope. It was a good read, period. (Okay, maybe I wondered if Anna Wintour was really that mean…)
Alas, like my betters before me, I too have succumbed to the charms of RFTH. All three of my books had their origins in newspaper articles, although none as obvious as the headline above. A mummified body, ersatz native Americans trying to open a casino and a fugitive mom were the inspirations for the titles in my Dirty Business mystery series. All I can say is thank goodness people keep doing stupid things and journalists are there to report on them. At this rate I will never run out of stories to RFTH.
An Agatha and Anthony Award nominee for Pushing Up Daisies, Crimespree Magazine has called Rosemary Harris “wild and funny” and “ a rising star.” Her latest release is Dead Head which received a four star review from RT magazine and is a Mystery Guild selection. She can be reached at www.rosemaryharris.com
Rosemary is traveling today, but she's going to check in and respond to your comments when she can.