Currently, Jamie Tremain has two series. The Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series is in the mystery/crime genre revolving around a female private investigator, Dorothy Dennehy. The story is set in Portland, Oregon. Her office is aboard a houseboat, ‘The Private, Aye?’, moored in the Willamette River. She has a solid circle of family and friends who assist in her cases. By the time we’d written the second book, we realized what we seemed to enjoy from writing this series, and Grant’s Crossing, is the building of character dynamics and relationships with one another.
Grant’s Crossing is our second series and is a mystery/amateur sleuth series. It might have cozy ‘overtones’ but doesn’t classify as a cozy.
It’s set in rural Ontario. We have two main characters, Alysha – owner of the home, and Dianne – a resident, and the story is told from each of their POV in first person. The setting is an old farmhouse converted to house 8 retired seniors in a guest-home type environment.
As mentioned above, we feel our strength, and passion, in these stories has evolved to focus on character relationships, to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on. We’ve been successful based on comments and feedback received from readers.
Emotion of Characters, Witty Dialogue, and Diversity are the three topics we’ve chosen. They dovetail into each other as we build stories that portray life experiences on different levels a reader can relate to, while still providing a crime or mystery to solve.
Emotions of Characters – The Goal to build relationships built on human experiences common to readers.
These are two scenes from Lightning Strike, the second book in our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Our protagonist, P.I. Dorothy Dennehy has learned her fiancé, Paul, has been murdered. The first scene is her father, Max, trying to comfort her, and the second scene is Dorothy waking up from a dream the day of Paul’s funeral.
“Why did you change your clothes? she asked, wondering why his casual jeans and sneakers had disappeared. Now he wore his best corporate attire. Perfect tie and polished shoes.
“I had to change, Dee. You know what today is. Have to look my best.”
She awoke with a cry on her lips and a breaking heart. As the dream’s images fluttered away, she sighed. “You always looked your best, my love. I miss you so much and today will be the hardest day I’ve lived through.”
Dreaming of lost loved ones is a common human experience. Dreams, too, often have hidden meanings. If I read into the scene that Paul’s message to Dee is that she must put on her ‘best’ today: best clothes, best front, best control – to change her real feelings to get her through this hardest day – would I be reading something into it you didn’t mean?
We think you’ve reacted as we intended. And without “knowing” our character Dorothy, this is even more true because she is a strong and independent woman, but the death of Paul has knocked her off her feet, and in addition to his funeral she knows that she, as a private investigator, is going to do her best to solve his murder. So, control of her emotions is paramount to her staying level-headed. Her grief will be put on hold. And Paul would have known that, as well.
Dialogue – The Goal to bring humour at times, but to always show that our characters are “human”, subject, for example, to petty backbiting, or one-upping.
We have fun with some characters’ dialogue scenes. This is from Resort to Murder, the second book in our Grant’s Crossing series. Our characters, most retired, live together in a small retirement “guest” home – Leven Lodge. Mealtimes can be lively due to their various personalities.
Rose changed the subject. “Anyway, I hope the investigation wraps up soon so the spa can reopen. I’m anxious to try out some of the services they offer.”
“Maybe they can do something about those wrinkles,” sniped Minnie.
“At least I know what a spa is for,” retorted Rose.
I settled back to watch the show, but Nina broke things up. “Now ladies. Let’s not bicker. Life’s too short. I’d hoped to make use of the spa while I’m here as well, but if it doesn’t work out, c’est la vie. That’s French you know.” The barb hit its mark with Minnie.
“Well kiss my derriere. That’s French too.” Minnie smirked. Then she exited the room. I noticed Lily’s small grin as she watched our wicked witch’s departure.
I had a feeling breakfast congeniality was done.
Writing ‘gurus’ often say that no dialogue tags other than ‘said’ and ‘asked’ should be used. (Not that I agree with it!) Here you’ve used a variety of other tags and descriptors. Can you expand on why you chose them?
When we were traditionally published with our first 2 books, we had an amazing editor. Her opinion favoured avoiding the overuse of ‘said’ and it stuck with us. Not that there is anything wrong with ‘said’, but I (Liz) recently read a book, where about ten consecutive pieces of dialogue were tagged with ‘said’, and I found it boring, as if the writer couldn’t find something more descriptive to use. Balance is key, because to overuse any tag runs the risk of reader turn-off.
The narrator and Lily both seem a little detached from the bickering. You convey this both through the use of ‘watch’ and the fact that neither speaks. Were those conscious choices?
Definitely on Lily’s part, yes. She is an introvert, overshadowed by her extroverted twin sister. As for the narrator, yes as well. She enjoys being a bystander during these exchanges, although she has been known to stir the pot when it suits her.
Diversity – The Goal to have diversity in various forms, woven into a story so that it’s done in a way to make it seem natural and not because we have to tick boxes.
Without really intending to, we find our Grant’s Crossing series has touched on several areas of diversity, most done in subtle ways, to hopefully show diversity is taken for granted, and not a big deal to be fussed about. We’ve touched on Aboriginal issues, mental health, have had a gay character, and, aging is a general theme throughout. We, as writers, hope it’s a reflection of ourselves, that diversity is, and should be, a natural part of life’s fabric.
The example concerns a new couple, Sasitha and Bachan Patel, who have taken up residence in Leven Lodge – from the third book in the series, Acting Off-Script. It’s a small town in rural Ontario, with little familiarity of East Indian customs.
I decided to ask about a question I had. “I noticed you’ve placed some beautiful small candles in the front room. Are they for a special occasion?”
Sasitha beamed. “Oh yes, my friend. These are for celebrating Diwali. So important for us.”
“Festival of Lights,” interjected Bashan. “Lighting these candles, for us, means we are getting rid of the darkness. The darkness can be meaning bad vices, such as greed.”
From what I knew of the Patels, greed was a foreign concept to this generous and kind-hearted couple.
You have subtly captured the rhythmic speech patterns of West Asian immigrants speaking English. Did you worry about being accused of stereotyping in the name of diversity?
The Patels are my (Liz) characters and have been modelled after a former co-worker, whom I am very fond of. The speech patterns were part of everyday work life. Honestly, if a reader feels this is stereotyping, then, with respect, that would be an inaccurate assumption. Earlier in the book, the Patels give an account of how they came from India, lived in Scarborough, and ended up in Grant’s Crossing. We thought having a retired married couple, who happened to be East Indian, would be an interesting dynamic to add to the mix of characters living at Leven Lodge.
Was the use of ‘foreign’ in the last line purposeful? To me it creates an effective dissonance between the idea of ‘foreigner’ and how we all share universal human attributes and concepts.
That’s an interesting observation, Marian. It wasn’t intentional, but we agree with your assessment of its use.
One final question from Marian:
You strive to show character relationships, ‘to show what life can do to all of us and how we cope or carry on’. Author intent and reader interpretation can be very close, or it can be very far apart. Art is a tension between the creator(s) and the ‘consumer’, the person experiencing it. Have you had feedback from people whose interpretation was far from what you intended? If so, how did you handle it? (And if not, how would you handle it?)
We’ve been told our character relationships are a focal point of both series, and so we now make a conscious effort to create life situations for our characters that most people could relate to at various times in their lives – aside from finding murdered bodies, of course!
The most feedback we received was when we “killed” Paul in the second book of our Dorothy Dennehy Mystery series. Readers who had enjoyed the first book were dismayed, and even a little angry, that we’d dispatched him. We didn’t expect the level of disappointment but were gratified in a way because it showed readers connected with the character. And it made us realize that a mystery is not just about the crime to be solved, but it’s about the characters. So having the strong feedback about killing Paul was valuable.
Every reader has their own viewpoint and interpretation on what they read. We’ll continue to create scenarios we hope are relatable and always welcome feedback, be it positive or not, on how we’ve tried to portray relationship dynamics. We may be the author, but we can always learn from our readers, as well.
Blog : https://jamietremain.blogspot.com/
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Books2Read : https://books2read.com/ap/nObabJ/Jamie-Tremain
Would you like to be part of this series? Authors published or unpublished are welcome – leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.