Guest Post: The Making of a Mystery by Erin O'Quinn

 “The Gaslight Mysteries” were born of a love for Ireland and a growing attachment to a couple of characters who became more and more dear to me.

The birth of the first book, HEART TO HART, was unusually difficult. It came right before I was hospitalized, and the only writing I could do was in my head. I remember tossing and turning in an intensive care ward, trying to write the first book with nothing but imagination and a refusal to take sleep-inducing meds until someone forced me. What a pain!

I had an unformed notion that I would create a roustabout Irishman, a newspaper man with a grand sense of humor who can hold his liquor, bed his boys, and keep a secret. Because he is, you see, a gay man in an underground spy organization. I named him Michael McCree, a name that was to take on more significance as the books developed.

The only man who can match Michael is one so handsome and aloof that he intrigues Michael from the moment they meet. Simon Hart is a private investigator who spurns every attention with a surliness that draws the other man in, a fly in a web, until Michael cannot escape a fierce attraction.

I also knew before I began to write that my setting would be the roaring twenties, and that the Irish city would be one I fashioned from my imagination.

And so the writing began, last November 1, for the well known occasion called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.

Once I began, the writing was fast and furious. I made my men a study in contrasts. Michael is large, boisterous, good natured; Simon is athletic, private, sullen. Michael favors the large, baggy trousers called “kaffies” in the 1920s; Simon dresses to the nines in silks and fine suits. Michael, who hides his background completely, confesses to being educated in the mean streets of Boston, Mass. Simon is Eton- and Cambridge-trained.

The contrasts are many, but the most important one is that while Michael glories in his homosexuality, Simon is in utter denial, and he remains that way through the better part of two novels.

The first mystery concentrates on one chilling murder and a few sideline crimes the two men take care of on their way to forming a partnership. The next novel happens the next morning: after capturing the murderer, Michael and Simon find that a co-conspirator in the crime has evaded the police. SPARRING WITH SHADOWS tells the story of their pursuit of that master criminal, and much more besides Simon, of course, is not wholly impervious to Michael’s charms. But he festers and suffers over the consequences of admitting his homosexuality. Thus much of the book becomes a sparring with the “shadows” of his hidden nature, and the consequences of facing the truth.

That mystery ends in the foul sewer under the city, lit only by torchlight, and then back to the Victorian-style flat where the two investigators live. The third mystery, like the second, picks up the story “the morning after the night before.”

TO THE BONE, the novel just published by Amber Quill Press, finds the two partners with at least one happy memory: the previous evening, Simon has finally succumbed completely to the charms of Michael, but in a completely unexpected way. Both men have delved almost “to the bone” in an attempt to explore each other, but fate deals them a tricky hand.

No sooner than Michael and Simon start to enjoy each other than a nosy, pesky and altogether insufferable new agent appears in their lives. Moshe is a man from Simon’s past who begins to burrow like a tick, so far under the skin they cannot shake him off to have a private moment, or to properly investigate some serious crimes.

As private eyes, the men need to find more than a score of stolen paintings, and especially one small valuable work of art worth more than all the others. But the case is more complex the deeper they look into it. Soon Michael and Simon find themselves looking not just for a thief, but for a city-wide ring of criminals; and the closer they get to the paintings, the closer they find themselves to a killer. . . And the closer they become physically, the more interfering Moshe becomes.

My happiest surprise with these books is that the relationship between the main characters became multi-layered, complex, humorous and serious too. The mysteries began as almost comedies, but they became a vehicle for exploring some serious facets of the nature of human feelings and interpersonal dynamics.

I am completely satisfied with this mystery series, the development of the characters and the serio-comic vein of the writing. Of the twenty books I’ve written, these three stand firmly at the forefront. They are books with substance, with memorable characters, and they’re blessed with great covers by a genius named Marion Sipe.

I may never be famous for these books. But I gladly name them my legacy to the world.


You can check out the Gaslight Mystery Series at the following links!

Heart to Hart:  On AmazonOnAmberAllure 
Sparring with Shadows:  On AmazonOnAmberAllure  
To the Bone:  On AmazonOnAmberAllure


Erin OQuinn said…
Dear Marion,

I may have said this a few dozen times, but it never grows old: Your covers "made" my series, and I am deeply grateful for your talent.

Erin O'Quinn
Morgann Peters said…
Another gorgeous blog entry for a WONDERFUL series that is booted past epic for its writing and on into awesomeness by its excellent covers. You have a gorgeous blog, and your talent is surely as limitless as Ms. Erin's is! Thanks for posting this for us to read!
Marion Sipe said…
Thank you both! You really are too sweet! I'm just happy to have made covers that represent Erin's hard work and reflect the characters and story she set down!
Suzana Wylie said…
Erin's covers are just drop-dead gorgeous, and after seeing your blog, I know why. Lovely! And thank you for gifting the world with your talent.
Michelle Hoefle said…
Your blog is beautiful! Erin's covers are extraordinary! Great work.
Sara said…
Beautiful, unique artwork to grace the covers for a talented author. Well done, both of you!
Marion Sipe said…
Thank you all! I love what I do, and I love being able to work with awesome authors like Erin!

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