For my character Serena Jones, a plucky FBI agent on the trail of a hot painting in A Fool and His Monet, it took a couple of FBI agents; a friend who is single; a retired police officer; a longtime resident of St. Louis; and moi.
This is the first book for which I drew significantly from my own personal experiences. I didn’t have a little brother like Serena, but my older sisters gave me plenty of story fodder. And like Serena’s, our parents were British, which often left us stumped by the odd pronunciations of others.
And yes, we ate dishes with names like toad-in-the-hole and bubble ‘n squeak.
Like Serena, I also lost my grandfather when I was ten, although thankfully not at the hands of a murderous art thief.
Unlike Serena, my mom wasn’t desperate to see me get married and have children. Of course, I married at 20, so she didn’t have long to wait. That’s where my single friend’s experiences came in handy to round out Serena’s present day life.
Like Serena, my friend loves to paint to relax. She’s friendly and outgoing and has a quick wit and a few quirks. (Have you ever heard of spinning dog fur into yarn? I couldn’t dream this stuff up.)
Serena has a ways to go before her love of animals matches my friend’s. But Harold, the cat that came with Serena’s apartment, is starting to grow on her.
Serena’s outlook on the various neighborhoods that make up the city she calls home evolved from days of touring neighborhoods with a longtime St. Louis resident. Serena’s amusing euphemisms and thoughts toward police procedure are courtesy of Stan, an officer who tirelessly answered my questions and shared numerous stories of his years in the field.
The day-to-day details of Serena’s work were supplied by her colleagues in the St. Louis FBI headquarters where she works. Yes, I visited the headquarters and interviewed Serena’s real-life colleagues—only the names were changed to protect the innocent.
Lastly, Serena’s passion for solving art crime cases was inspired by Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team.
Of course, as in real life, many of Serena’s traits, quirks and outlooks emerged from the circumstances I wrote her into, and some surprised even me.
I hope you’ll have as much fun getting to know Serena Jones as I did!
Multi-award-winning author Sandra Orchard leaps off the garden trails of her herbal-researcher-turned-amateur-sleuth (Port Aster Secrets) series, to the museum corridors of her plucky FBI art crime agent Serena Jones, in A Fool and His Monet. When not plotting crimes, Sandra plays make-believe with her grandchildren or hikes with her hubby along the escarpment, near their home in Niagara, Canada. To learn more visit www.sandraorchard.com and, for subscriber-exclusive stories and giveaways, sign up for her newsletter at: http://bit.ly/OrchardNews