Does anyone out there still enjoy getting your news from a newspaper? I look to the Internet for up-to-the-minute news, but there’s nothing better than a newspaper for leisurely reading about what’s happening around the local community and the state. You just never know what you’ll stumble across.
For example, years ago while living in Houston, I found a short article buried inside one of the inner sections of the newspaper about a ninety-year-old woman who showed up at a care home with only a jacket, a purse and a cane. She was alert and pleasant and gave her name, but refused to reveal any background other than to mention her husband who had passed away several years earlier. Where did she come from? How did she get there? What was she hiding? And why?
That story stuck with me for many years until I finally put some work into imagining the woman’s story. Certainly she was hiding from someone—maybe her kids or other relatives who were after her money. Or maybe she’d learned she was terminally ill and didn’t want to be a burden to her family. Maybe she was embarrassed to admit she was all alone and had no one else to turn to.
As I thought about the story, I wanted a character that would appeal to aging baby boomers. Originally, I envisioned her as a spry 80-year-old. But an editor advised against making her that mature. “If you’re in a nursing home, you don’t want to read about other people in a nursing home. You want to read about people who can do the things you used to be able to do.”
So I lowered my character’s age to 58. Now, what if she were a former teacher—“former” because she once lost a student on a field trip? What if the student was never found? What if she’s reading the newspaper one morning and recognizes her missing student’s custom-made pendant necklace hanging around the neck of another young girl? Might it lead to answers, even twelve years after the student disappeared? What if someone powerful is determined to suppress the truth—determined enough to kill? The need for anonymity might be the very reason this former teacher shows up on the doorstep of a care home with very little to her name. But is that really her name?
Oh, what great stories can be found—and imagined—from the pages of an old fashioned newspaper!
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As a child, Mary (M L) Hamilton wasn’t afraid of monsters under the bed. But the man with a knife whom she imagined hiding in her closet kept her awake many nights. Since then, she’s imagined other scary situations on which to base her mysteries.
Mary enjoys non-scary activities like knitting and photography. She lives with her husband in Texas…in a house with very secure closets.
To learn more of her secrets, visit www.maryhamiltonbooks.com