Easy to tell. I heard that one of my neighbors, a really nice woman, was heartbroken. It was the old but always heartbreaking story: her husband supposedly “outgrew” her, or at least grew tired of her, and left her for a younger woman. I’d always thought of this man as second-rate and pretentious, never a winning combo in my book. My response to the acquaintance who told me what was going on was, “Wouldn’t you just love to kill him?” So I did.
That’s the fun of being a novelist. The next thing I knew, I had my next character, Rosie Meyers, a high school English teacher, had been dumped. After twenty-five years of marriage, her husband Richie, an ordinary guy who’d become a surprising success, ditched her for an executive he hired for his company. Shortly before their divorce is final, Rosie finds Richie back in the house — lying on the kitchen floor stabbed to death with one of her knives.
I had the character and setup. The story worked itself out with unusual speed. The cops decide it was Rosie who committed the murder. Just as they are about to arrest her, she escapes out of a window, not to run, but to find out who really did it. What a fun opportunity: a bit of local gossip gave me a chance to skewer social climbing suburbanites and happy homemakers, self-important urbanites, tell Rosie’s coming-of-(middle) age story, and serve up a little vengeance on behalf of a most pleasant neighbor.