Lately I’ve been missing one of my dear friends. Her name is Kiki Lowenstein. And yes, she’s the protagonist in my mystery series. Unfortunately, I’ve been busy going to conferences and attending signings, so I haven’t been able to work on Book #7, Wedding, Portrait, Killer. Whenever I have to skip a day or two at the keyboard, I struggle with a feeling of emptiness. I never had an imaginary friend when I was a child, but I certainly have one now.
Reading a series—and writing one—is like visiting old friends, isn’t it?
When I’m not involved in producing a Kiki book, I miss the world she lives in. I miss Time in a Bottle, the scrapbook store in St. Louis where Kiki works. I’m not alone. Readers email me asking for directions to the store. Since it only exists in my imagination, you can’t get there from here…ever.
In between books, I wonder what’s going on with the characters. I think about Mert Chambers, Kiki’s former cleaning lady and best friend, who is currently angry at Kiki. Mert is a strictly no-nonsense type of woman. She puts on her big girl panties everyday. I admire Mert. Her philosophy can be summed up neatly, “It is what it is and crying about it won’t help a bit.” When life threatens to get me down, I have a mental dialogue with Mert. She straightens me right out.
Clancy Whitehead is another type of friend all together. Clancy is a Jackie Kennedy look-alike. She’s fashionable and classy but a little stiff. When Kiki hugs Clancy, Clancy tenses up before she accepts the affection. Maybe one day we’ll learn why Clancy doesn’t like to be touched. That’ll be an interesting story, I’m sure.
Dodie Goldfader is Kiki’s boss at the scrapbook store. In the last book—Photo, Snap, Shot—Dodie battled cancer. That’s taken a lot of her energy and focus. Now Dodie needs to rethink their relationship. As I write scenes between Dodie and Kiki, I feel the tension build.
I stock Kiki’s world with places, foods, traditions, and animals that I love. In Book #4—Make, Take, Murder (May 1, 2011)—readers will be introduced to Monroe, who’s modeled after a real donkey that lives in St. Louis. Fans of the series will also enjoy learning about presépios, crèche scenes on display every Christmas season at shops on The Hill, the Italian neighborhood in St. Louis. As an extra treat, I’ve included a recipe for rugelach that’s been handed down from generation to generation by members of one Jewish family. Gathering these “bonus” items is always lots of fun for me.
Of course, my fans would be disappointed if I didn’t bring back Gracie, Kiki’s harlequin Great Dane, and Anya, Kiki’s thirteen-year-old daughter.
I get a lot of questions about whether Detective Chad Detweiler and Kiki will ever get together. My readers are pretty vocal about wanting to see these two star-crossed lovers find happiness.
I’m curious about what will happen, too. That’s just another reason I can’t wait to get back to my writing.