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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

AUTHOR TERRI GREGG ON HOW VISITING A WORLD HERITAGE SITE SPAWNED A MYSTERY SERIES

Cahokia Mound photo by Carptrash from Wikimedia Commons
Today we welcome cozy mystery author and archeologist Terri Gregg. After a number of careers, including nine years as a science writer for an encyclopedia, Terri retired and shifted to writing fiction. Learn more about Terri and her books at her website. 

Did you ever stop to consider where a novel came from? Not novels in general—obviously novelists write them—but a specific book—from where did it come?

The road to the book that became Bones Unearthed began when my boss informed me that she was about to retire. “So what are you planning to do now?” I asked.

She smiled at me and said, “My husband and I just bought a house in the mountains, and we are going to move there and sit on the front porch and rock.”

“Eek.” I went home that afternoon and asked my husband what he wanted to do when he retired in a couple of years. That began a futile discussion about where we wanted to live. Every possible location led to another until we reached the conclusion that what we actually wanted to do was go full-time RVing. Not only would it be an interesting adventure, but I could see how it would provide an interesting framework for my projected mystery series. Win-win.

Driving around the United States resurrected an interest from my youth in archeology. We visited many sites before we reached Cahokia in southern Illinois. Cahokia blew me away. Although I grew up in Chicago, I, like many other Americans, had never heard of it. What I found out was that around 1000 A.D., Cahokia was a city of between 15,000 and 20,000 people—as large as London at the same time. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. The Mississippians, the people of Cahokia, took a hundred years to build a huge pyramid of dirt. Monk’s Mound, as the structure is now called, has as large a footprint on the ground as the Great Pyramid in Giza in Egypt.

So after years of working and raising a family, when I finally began writing my second mystery novel, Cahokia was where I wanted to set the story. I chose as my protagonist, Kate, a young woman about to study for a graduate degree in archeology.

At the beginning of the story Kate and her friend Dave dig up a skull on her aunt’s farm near Cahokia. Kate knows that Native Americans do not take kindly to having their ancestors being casually disturbed, so she is prepared for trouble, but the trouble she finds comes from an unexpected source. She becomes embroiled in murder, mayhem and danger.

The book was finished, edited, and published. Time to get back to my planned series centered on RVing. Then life threw me a curve again. A number of my readers gave me feedback that they wanted another book featuring Kate. They really liked her and wanted another story about her.

So here I am again, back in Cahokia with Kate, another murder and more adventures. The planned RV series has to wait again.

Bones Unearthed
When Kate Fitzgerald dug up an aged skull on her aunt’s farm near the Cahokia, an archeology World Heritage Site, she thought she had a problem.  When the skull turned out to be relatively modern and apparently belonged to a murder victim, she realized she had a bigger problem. But the skull and the rest of the skeleton were stolen. With the evidence gone the sheriff was no help, so Kate and her friend, Dave, an ex-newspaper reporter, do some investigating on their own. But the past becomes the present when arson and another murder occur. 

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