Mary E. Maki grew up in the Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York where her stories are set and now lives in Fredericksburg, VA. Learn more about her and her books at her website.
A Creative Mind Solves Crimes
When developing characters an author has to think about each character’s role. How does that role define the character, and how does it move the story along? What skills does each character need?
When developing the protagonist for my Caitlyn Jamison mysteries, I needed a female sleuth with an inquisitive mind and a quirky personality. In order to solve the crimes, she had to be detail oriented and creative. She had to have the ability to quickly connect the pieces of the investigation puzzle.
She needed an occupation that would allow her the time and mobility to do what she needed to do. She couldn’t be in a situation where she was chained to a desk. She needed independence, as well as a way to support herself. And that is when the pieces of the puzzle fit for me. Caitlyn Jamison would be a graphic artist—creative, inquisitive, observant, and able to think outside the box.
Because of her fiercely independent personality, Caitlyn had left her lucrative position with a New York City ad agency because she felt her creativity was stifled. Bottom line, she didn’t like being told what to do.
She moved to Washington, DC to start her own graphic design business, but found she had not put away enough money to rent an apartment and office space. Determined to make it in the world of business, Caitlyn rented a studio apartment in Arlington, Virginia, and put her shoulder to the wheel, developing her own clientele.
Caitlyn was also driven by her sense of right and wrong, her sense of justice, so when she learns of her teenage cousin’s murder in Upstate New York, Caitlyn was incensed. The culprit must be caught and brought to justice. Caitlyn was sure rural Riverview, New York, where her cousin had lived, would not have the resources to solve the crime. She would have to conduct the investigation herself.
Enter Sheriff Ethan Ewing, an experienced police officer, who had good instincts about people. Upon meeting Caitlyn he knew she would be a fierce adversary. Against his better judgment, because there was nothing legal or even ethical about her assisting him in the investigation, he acquiesced to her offer of assistance.
Caitlyn’s creative mind, as well as her training in the graphic arts, worked to benefit the investigation. When interviewing suspects, Ethan placed her strategically in the room so she could observe body language, and tone of voice, in order to take detailed notes. He made sure she had a steno pad, not one of those tiny notebooks the television cops carry. He wanted to take advantage of Caitlyn’s talent in observation, using all her sensory perceptions.
Caitlyn was determined to not get involved in another murder investigation, but six months later she is back in Riverview, and on the day of her arrival, an undercover federal agent is reported missing, and a college student is found dead of a . . . Fatal Dose.
Unwittingly, Caitlyn is drawn into the investigation. Again, Sheriff Ewing uses Caitlyn as his eyes and ears. She accompanies him on interviews, taking notes, observing, and putting her creative mind to work. It is in one of these interviews that due to her keen observation, she figures out the key to the investigation—a key that puts her in extreme danger.
Graphic artist Caitlyn Jamison is back in scenic Riverview, New York, working on a winery photo shoot—and hoping to reconnect with Sheriff Ethan Ewing. But the sheriff has a serious situation on his hands: an undercover agent posing as a professor disappears on the same morning a college student is found dead.
Meanwhile, Caitlyn’s Aunt Myra hears about a different kind of mystery from her friend, retired teacher Verna Adams. Verna is searching for her long-lost brother, who once lived on the abandoned road where the student’s body was discovered.