Sometimes, I ask my author guests where they are from, and how their background, or location has influenced their writing. Quite a lot, as you can imagine. I’ve noticed it in myself. The old adage, Write What You Know, is at least partially true. I would change it though, to Write Where You Know. I’m about as likely to write a story set in New York City, as a fish is to ride a bicycle. I’ve never been there, I know very little about it, and it doesn’t inspire me to create. Other authors would never even consider writing a story set in Florida, Kansas, Mississippi, or Nebraska, though I have used all these locations for my books. Why? Because I’ve lived there, or visited frequently.
My family moved quite a bit when I was young. Before the age of 9, I had lived in Tennessee, Ohio, Massachusetts, Texas, and finally, Nebraska. After high school, I moved to Mississippi, and lived there for 11 years, before moving to Florida. Of those locations, I remember Nebraska and Mississippi well. The others are a bit vague, because I was so young. Since those are places I know, I don’t have to do a lot of research in order to use them as locations. Since I’m basically lazy, I’d rather write about a place I’m passing familiar with, instead of one I have to look up.
You’ll notice in the locations list, I mentioned Kansas. This one puzzles people (myself included) Why write a book set in a small city in Southeast Kansas? Because, that’s where I was when I thought of it. I was in Pittsburg, Kansas, visiting my mother and sister, who live nearby, when I got the idea for a story. It was a small thing—the room number on the door of the motel owner’s apartment—Room103. It struck me as odd that their apartment needed a number. In fact, I had to wonder where Room 101 and 102 were.
I had also been toying with a story pairing up a police officer with a motel owner. My original thought was for a male cop with a female owner, when it clicked. Flip that, and make her a federal officer. Since I’d been speaking to a man who was back for his 40th high school reunion, I made the decision to have the woman back for her college reunion. She was a Deputy Federal Marshal, and her name was Marice Houston. And thus, Room 103 came to be, a fast paced romantic suspense set in Pittsburg, Kansas.
I headed up to the office. There was a line at the coffee pot, so I got my waffle cooking and poured myself some juice. I saw Todd coming in to replenish the coffee. He threw a smile my way. I saluted him. One of the men in the line helped him set it up.
“Sorry about that. We had construction workers stay here last night and they all had huge thermal mugs with them,” Todd explained as the guests grumbled. “I got busy with checkout. It will be ready in about five.”
My waffle done, I buttered it and put on copious amounts of syrup. It’s true, I can’t be trusted with it, because I love it. If I could simply sit down and drink maple syrup, I probably would. It’s fun to lick off someone else…. Pushing that thought aside, I concentrated on my meal preparation.
“I hope you slept well,” a warm, friendly voice said behind me.
I jumped, pointing the syrup bottle at him like a weapon. Squeezing involuntarily, I squirted Todd with a long line of the golden brown liquid. Of course, it was right on the zipper. I wanted to hide, but there was nowhere to go. I was trapped between his lean, hard body and the waffle iron.
Laughing, he grabbed a handful of napkins. “Well, that wasn’t the greeting I’d anticipated. Sorry I startled you, Miss Houston. Glad you weren’t armed.”
I blushed as all eyes turned on me. Taking a step back, I lost my balance, and nearly hit my arm on the waffle iron. Even with it in its protective plastic square, I could feel the heat at my elbow. Strong hands pulled me forward, against that rock hard chest.
“You okay?” His blue eyes held concern.
“Yeah. Fine. Embarrassed as hell….”
“Sorry about that.” He set me on my feet.
Everyone else chose that moment to look away, pointedly viewing the TV or the coffee urn. I gathered my food and found the corner of a table to perch with my meal. There were three other people, apparently together, but they didn’t mind sharing. The room was quite full for so early in the morning. I found out that some of the folks worked and lived there, down the end near the construction workers. Others were, like me, here for the reunion. I recognized a few of the faces, but couldn’t put names to any of them.
The room finally cleared out. I had another cup of coffee and a muffin as I watched the news. An escaped fugitive was on the loose, close to my home in Kansas City, Missouri. That was close enough to here to be unsettling. My coworkers were on high alert and everyone would be out in full force looking for him. They flashed a picture up and I stared at him, memorizing the face as I always do.
“D.W. Scrivener, thirty-four, escaped federal custody during a prisoner transfer from Mississippi. Be on the lookout for this man. If you see him, please notify the police. He is believed to be armed and is extremely dangerous. Do not approach or attempt to apprehend.” The bulletin went on from there. Soon, it cut over to a video of my boss, Alvin Ripley, talking to the head of the St. Louis field office. They were coordinating the search. I’d worked with Reggie Danvers when I did WITSEC. He was a good man, as was Ripley. I knew with the two of them in charge, things would flow quickly and as smoothly as possible.
Catching movement in the doorway, I looked over. Todd Englund stood there with two mugs in his hands, smiling. The room was empty except for the two of us. I noticed it was a little after 9:00. Breakfast was technically over.
“Want another cup? This is my own blend of lethal brew.” He walked over and I noticed he was wearing a different pair of jeans, not decorated with syrup.
“Super, thanks. This is okay….”
“But it’s motel breakfast coffee.” He shrugged, nodding. “This isn’t. I have a buddy who flies to South America on business. He brings it in for me. Black, right?”
I chuckled. “Every cop I know drinks black coffee. It’s faster.” I noticed his was dosed with cream and probably sugar.
“I used to, but it’s too hard on my stomach. Of course, if I didn’t drink six cups before noon, that would probably ease up.” He chuckled, handing me my mug.
Taking a tentative sip, I let the dark aroma waft over me. Closing my eyes, I inhaled deeply. This was a cup of coffee fit for a queen! I rolled it over my tongue like a fine wine. Sighing contentedly, I heard him chuckle.
“My coffee’s good, but I believe that’s the most enthusiastic response either of us ever got.”
Looking back, I’m still surprised that such a quick moment of curiosity inspired an entire book. I’ve since written two others with Marice at the helm. I’m hoping to publish Room 203 this year. It’s set both in Kansas City, Missouri, and Daytona Beach, Florida. You’ll have to read it to find out why.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes