There's a story behind most of my books. I thought I would share what went on behind the scenes when I was writing CASTLE KILLING. Don’t read this post any further if you haven’t read the story as I’m giving away some of the plot. My heritage is over 76% British/Irish. I’ve visited the UK several times and I have always felt that it was the motherland for me. So I wanted to set a story there. CASTLE KILLING is the seventh book of the Jill Quint series. It was going to be easy to write because I was setting it in the UK, right? Wrong. I struggled so much with that book that I thought I should have ended the series with book 6.
In fact, I was struggling so much that I started the second series - Damian Green (RED ROCK ISLAND). I always liked this series from the 1980s, “MacGyver”. Meanwhile there was a short article about an Island being for sale in San Francisco Bay. That island was called Red Rock Island. So I was off on a second series.
I finished RED ROCK ISLAND and returned to finish CASTLE KILLING and fortunately found a way to write that story. I had been getting advice that I needed to kill one of my darlings, or repeating characters in the series book. I couldn’t kill any of the four women who lead that series as it is based on real-life friends. Even though it is fiction, I wouldn't harm my friends on the written page. So I decided to kill Nick, the hotel security guy who first entered the series in CHOCOLATE DIAMONDS.
The story took me from Cardiff, Wales on the train north to Edinburgh. Since it was Scotland, I had to work whisky into the story line. So I decided I needed to drink whisky to understand it. There’s a huge whisky club in Los Angeles and I read about how they evaluate spirits. I bought a few brands, got the special glasses and stones that would act like ice cubes and not melt to dilute the spirit. I bought an expensive bottle of Laphroaig whiskey from Islay Island. I joined their Friends of Laphroaig and was granted one square foot of bog on the island. So I guess I’m a Scottish landowner. I watched a celebration of Robbie Burns on YouTube. After all that effort to learn to enjoy whisky, I concluded it was not for me and I don’t think I’ve tried that spirit in the past five years . . .
I’m a pantser so I go down many research rabbit holes as each book is created. I learn new facts all the time. One of the rabbit holes was WWII art theft by the Nazis. Another rabbit hole was about what various cultures were doing to save their obscure languages. In this book, I learned what the Island of Guernsey was doing to save its native Guernésiais language. Only three percent of the island speak it and seventy percent are over the age of 64. So it’s a dying language.
The WWII art theft rabbit hole had me reading about the Amber Room in a Russian Palace that was dismantled by the Nazis. About every three years, something is uncovered in the sea or in Poland and there is speculation they might find the Amber Room. I was tempted to work that into the story, but instead I focused on missing painting. There are 30,000 missing pieces of art including at least ten paintings from famous painters like Van Gogh and Raphael. Today, those pictures would fetch millions of dollars at auction.
I published CASTLE KILLING on August 1, 2017 and on September 24, 2017, the BBC announced that a lost Rubens painting was found in Glasgow. I felt pretty psychic about that, lol. Granted the missing Rubens painting wasn’t stolen during WWII, but the owner didn’t know it was an original Rubens that had been painted 400 years ago.
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