When I was a teen I developed a lifelong love of jigsaw puzzles. The most challenging I ever did was an all red circular one named “Little Red Riding Hood’s hood.” Obviously, looking at the top of the box was no help at all for finding groups of pieces. My only clues were the shapes of the pieces. After a while it began to get easier, except when my little niece, who thought the puzzle belonged in the box, took it apart when I wasn’t looking. No matter, I had all summer back then, when I was home from college, and I finished it. What satisfaction!
As a writer, I still enjoy a good puzzle. For me, writing mysteries seems perfectly natural, probably since I most often find myself reading them. Mysteries are like a good puzzle, and constructing one starting from the seed of a single idea is both a challenge and a joy. I also like learning more about familiar characters, so I read and now write series books. My Wally Morris Vengeance series just got bigger, with the publication of Vengeance Runs Cold, my fifth.
People often ask me where I get the ideas for my mysteries. The answers vary with each book. The first started with a dream, the second with a very interesting day spent in the kitchen of our synagogue, the third with a truly bad haircut, and the fourth with contentious disagreement regarding local land development.
This brings us to my current book, Vengeance Runs Cold, which was inspired by water damage in my basement.
The oddly shaped imperfection in the cinder block intrigued me and I soon found myself creating a story set in a mansion on the shores of Lake Champlain. But really, I just followed the same instincts that keep other writers unable to leave their computers until their stories are told—I asked myself what could have caused that damage (excluding the obvious), who would be involved with it, where it might have been found, and what might happen.
Little by little, the pieces began to fall together. The frame was formed, the middle filled in, with leftover pieces reclassified as red herrings. Soon, the denouement came into sight, and all the loose ends were neatly tied up. The puzzle was complete.