Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What Came Before? (from WWK)

This appeared on Writers Who Kill on 1/19, originally. 
I'm blogging there twice a month and at Killer Characters once a month and redoing them here is a time-saver for me! Hope nobody minds.

This article was drawn to my attention by fellow mystery writer, Molly MacRae;

by darnok

The author talks about how her profession in mathematics feeds her writing. Her discussion also concerns logic. It’s easy to see how that is useful in putting together a plot!

by GeoffS
The article got me to thinking. What do our previous lives bring to our writing? For me, how have my many jobs/professions/careers helped my mystery writing? Honestly, how could they not? I have contended before, that what comes out of a writer’s mind is a mishmash of everything that’s ever gone in, gotten stirred up, combined, recombined, and emerged as what sometimes looks like an original idea. 

I’m lucky in that I’ve had a whole lot of prior occupations. I started babysitting at 15, waitressing a couple of years later. On school breaks and in the summer, more waitressing, cooking, even dishwashing once (never again), nurse’s aide, factory janitor, nanny. Then, after marriage, I worked civilian for the Army for a year before following Hubby around the country working at secretarial and bookkeeping jobs. 
by Erean

My college major, in case you’re wondering, was Russian Studies, which in no way prepared me for any job I ever had. (But helps reading Greek just a bit.) In college, I envisioned being an interpreter, but Viet Nam and marriage turned out not to be the path to that career. 
by Ferval

Along the way, I always played violin in local groups: community orchestras and string quartets. And we had three kids, so child-raising is part of my résumé too. And puppy training, kitten training, goldfish care, fish care, newt care, and probably some I’ve forgotten about. (And, now, grand-mothering.)

I finally settled down and worked at computer programming for about 15 years before retiring from that to write mysteries. 
IBM mainframe  By Ing. Richard Hilber - Self-photographed, Public Domain,

Right after being a mom and grandma, this is the best job I ever had. I’m so glad I made it to this stage!

What former positions have influenced my writing? All of them, of course.

A few of the more obvious ones for me~~
From the food industry: recipes for my cozies
From music: a series with a composer/conductor as sleuth
From moving all over the country: locations galore that I can use for novels and short stories
From office jobs: work relationships
From family: family relationships

Relationships are a big part of my writing. What we are today is a result of every relationship we ever had, every job we ever had, every book we ever read, every movie we ever saw, every piece of music we ever listened to, every place we ever lived and visited.

It has just occurred to me that this is another way to answer the perennial question: Where do you get your ideas? I’ll have to remember this!


  1. I've had so many "careers" that I sometimes wonder if people suspect that I'm making them up: clerk-typist for the government during Viet Nam, housewife (yeah, that long ago), assistant for a comic-book merchant (including travel to comicons), 21-Dealer in Vegas, electronic technician, quality control investigator, school bus driver, shoe salesperson, theater usher, charter bus driver, bartender. So far the last one is the one that has supplied my murder mysteries -- it was that kind of bar! But I tend to pluck other influences here and there for stories. I think it was Steinbeck who mentioned the various "careers" of a writer. I always said I had a career of "try anything once!"

    1. Oh, and I forgot three years as a bookseller at Borders! My dream job, except I couldn't live on it.