Saturday, June 30, 2018
#MysteryExchange - The Murder That Inspired a Romantic #Mystery Novel, with @Kris_Bock
Today I have my spotlight on author Kris Bock!
Many writers are inspired by real events or people in their lives. This makes difficult situations a form of research. “This stinks, but maybe I can use it in a book!” I write romantic suspense for adults as Kris Bock and middle grade novels (for ages 9 to 12) as Chris Eboch. In most of these books, the connection to real-life experiences isn’t obvious. In my romantic suspense Whispers in the Dark, my heroine is an archaeology Masters student working at the fictional “Lost Valley” monument, which is closely based on Hovenweep National Monument, where I once spent a week camping. In Counterfeits, the heroine inherits a children’s art camp, which I based on a camp near Jemez Springs, New Mexico, where I’ve attended many writing retreats. Using real locations helps me bring the settings to life even if I did not, for example, fall into a ravine while fleeing from a bad guy.
But What We Found was inspired by helping to uncover a true case of murder.
Lest you think that makes me some kind of amateur detective, my involvement was purely accidental. Two friends and I were exploring the mountains, looking for some suitable gravel to try gold panning (because, why not?). We found a likely spot and were about to take a sample when the guys smelled something horrible. A glance in the right direction showed them a dead body hidden just out of sight of the path.
The next hour passed in a surreal blur. We'd left our phones in another vehicle, at the base of the mountain. Once we retrieved them, we still had to find a place with cell reception. We called 911, waited for the police, and led them to the body. Later that night we were interviewed by detectives.
By the following day, they had identified the body as a woman who had been missing. Her estranged ex-boyfriend was already a suspect in her disappearance, but without her body they'd have trouble prosecuting him. Seeing her picture on TV and learning about her family made the situation real in a new way. We wanted justice for someone we’d never met.
It’s All Research
As a writer, I knew I was getting rare first-hand experience into something powerful. I took pages of notes during that first week, even though I didn’t know how or when I might use them. I was fortunate to be with two men who talked openly about their experiences: the nightmares, the guilt over violence against women, the anxiety that came from now wondering what you might see in the bushes.
Three things struck me most strongly.
First, we all felt deeply invested in the case, even though we’d never met the woman in life and didn’t know anyone else involved. We followed the news stories, even though they made us anxious. When the murderer was finally sentenced … well, we weren't happy (the sentence of less than 20 years of less than 20 years was not, in our opinion, nearly long enough), but we were relieved that it was over.
Second, it affected every aspect of our lives for weeks. Even though the likelihood of finding another body, or even witnessing a different crime, was extremely slim, we were on high alert at all times. It was a struggle to put it behind us while still honoring the memory of the victim and holding on to what we had learned.
And finally, someone in law enforcement said that often people don’t report crime scenes like these. How could someone walk away from that? I started thinking about all the reasons someone might want to cover up their discovery, even if they had nothing to do with the crime. And that inspired What We Found.
Turning Truth into Fiction
Several years passed before I felt distant enough from the experience to fictionalize it, but I still had all those notes and memories to draw on. Some elements of What We Found, mainly the emotional ones, are taken directly from that experience. Most character and plot elements are fictional, although some are loosely inspired by the real events.
This isn’t an experience I would wish on anyone, but we’re glad we helped bring a crime to light and a murderer to justice. And it led to what I consider my most powerful and personal novel to date. After all, one benefit to being a writer is that the worst experiences are still valuable as research.
That’s the truth behind What We Found.
When Audra goes back to her small hometown after college, she simply wants to fit in, work hard, and protect her 12-year-old brother from their overbearing mother. Finding a dead body in the woods changes everything.
Her former crush, Jay, insists they don’t report the body. But the dead woman was murdered, and someone starts targeting Audra. She has to stand up for herself in order to stand up for the murder victim. It’s a risk, and so is reaching out to the mysterious young man who works with deadly birds of prey. But with danger all around, some risks are worth taking.
“Another action-packed suspense novel by Kris Bock, perhaps her best to-date. The author weaves an intriguing tale with appealing characters. Watching Audra, the main character, evolve into an emotionally-mature and independent young woman is gratifying.” Reader Ellen Rippel
This title stands alone and is not part of a series.
About this Excerpt:
Several years ago I met a man who raises falcons and hawks. I tagged along on hunts and visited his home to see newly hatched hawks and falcons. Raising falcons is an intense, time-consuming, and expensive hobby, but as an author, I could do the next best thing – I could write about it.
The falconry aspect helped me develop thematic elements of What We Found, added some unusual action, and provided readers with insight into an usual pastime. One reader wrote, “The falconry aspect was almost as intriguing as the unveiling of the murderer!”
In What We Found, Audra has a love interest, Kyle. (This is suspense with a dose of romance, after all.) Audra accompanies Kyle on a falcon hunt in a scene closely based on my experiences with a falconer. Ricky is her twelve-year-old brother.
“Does it bother you?” he asked. “The thought of her killing a rabbit?”
“No … not exactly.” I glanced ahead at the beautiful hawk. “I mean, I know she has to eat. And that’s how it happens in the wild. It’s only….”
“You don’t want to see it.”
“It’s not even that.” I glanced at the decaying cactus. Just a plant, nothing more. I took a deep breath. “I guess I’m a little sensitive to dead things right now.”
He went still. I finally looked at him closely. That had been an awful thing to say. Maybe he’d forgotten, for a few minutes, about his sister. And I’d reminded him.
“I know what you mean,” he whispered.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“No, you should. Believe me, it’s better to talk about whatever’s bothering you.”
“But she was your sister. You don’t want to think about her like that.”
“Do you think I can ever forget?” He looked down, and I wondered if he was seeing her again – the way she’d been in life, or the way she’d ended up.
I couldn’t look away from his face. “That part’s been hard,” I said. “I haven’t had anyone to talk to. I mean, there are people who will listen, but I don’t think I can tell them what it was like. I’m not sure I can explain. I’m not sure they want to know.” I thought of Ricky, his naïve enthusiasm about hunting a murderer. He didn’t understand. But I wasn’t sure I wanted him to. Let him be a kid for a little longer.
“You can talk to me,” he said. “I know what it’s like.”
About the Author
Kris Bock writes novels of suspense and romance with outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. All ebooks are .99c to $3.99 or free with Kindle Unliminted.
The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. In The Dead Man’s Treasure, estranged relatives compete to reach a buried treasure by following a series of complex clues. In The Skeleton Canyon Treasure, sparks fly when reader favorites Camie and Tiger help a mysterious man track down his missing uncle. Whispers in the Dark features archaeology and intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. In Counterfeits, stolen Rembrandt paintings bring danger to a small New Mexico town.
To learn more about her latest work, visit www.krisbock.com or her Amazon page. Sign up for Kris Bock’s newsletter for announcements of new books, sales, and more.
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