Today, as part of a blog tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to host Sharon Farrow as she celebrates the recent release of Mulberry Mischief (A Berry Basket Mystery) and tells us about the similarities between archaeology and mystery writing.
Although I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, I enjoyed the second book in this series – Blackberry Burial. To learn more about it and read my review, click here.
How Archaeology and Mystery Writing Are Alike by Sharon Farrow
In middle school, I told a teacher about my plans to become an archaeologist. I also announced I wanted to be a novelist. Being an overachiever, I saw no reason why I couldn’t do both. For a few years, I managed to do just that before putting aside my trowel to concentrate all my energies on writing. However, my experiences in these professions revealed the similarities between mystery authors and archaeologists.
1. Digging up the Past.
You cannot investigate an archaeological site without digging into the past. For archaeologists, this means literally digging! Somewhere I still have my field kit of trowels, work gloves, and measuring instruments. A mystery author also digs into the past, but not of an historic site. Instead, they explore the histories of their characters, and not simply the murder suspects. The protagonist has a backstory, too; one that explains why she has been drawn into this mystery – and what she has at stake. The past histories of the suspects and victims are especially crucial. How else to discover the motivations behind the crime? To solve the secrets and puzzles hidden in both the mystery novel and an archaeological site always requires uncovering the past.
2. Plotting in Advance.
Prior to their arrival at an excavation site, archaeologists have done a tremendous amount of research. And before even an inch of soil is removed, the site has been plotted out into a grid. Their earlier research helps them decide how to grid a site. This grid acts as a fixed reference point and a road map, enabling archaeologists to record exactly where an artifact is found. So, too, the mystery author, who often creates a synopsis and/or outline for their upcoming book.
Like archaeologists, writers spend a lot of time in research, looking into everything from a time period to a method of murder. In addition, authors are aided by their own reference maps to help “excavate” their plot. An outline shows where clues are to be planted, when the murder or murders will occur, the inclusion of red herrings, and how and when the climax is to eventually unfold. Archaeologists and authors not only engage in research, they need their own particular GPS to do their jobs effectively. And a site grid is the archaeological equivalent of an author outline.
3. The Devil is in the Details.
There is no such thing as an unimportant artifact recovered from a dig. Every single item is examined and recorded, followed by theories about how it fits into previous assumptions about the site. Some artifacts may also hold a startling clue which overturns previously held beliefs. The same with a mystery plot.
Once writing is underway, all those clues and red herrings must be kept straight. No loose ends or plot points left unexplained. And sometimes authors surprise themselves. They may have earlier mentioned something trivial about a character or an event, something that seemed little more than filler. Authors often realize later in the book how this insignificant item now serves as a missing key to a major plot point. Every detail matters – on a site and in a novel.
To work on an archaeological dig or a mystery novel means embarking on an adventure. Along with the research, plotting, and a close examination of details, both endeavors are filled with discovery, fun, and meaning. So grab your Indiana Jones hat and/or a laptop and start digging.
About Mulberry Mischief
Autumn has arrived on the shores of Lake Michigan, but Marlee Jacob, proprietor of The Berry Basket, is feeling a chill for other reasons …
With the Harvest Health Fair in full swing, Marlee makes sure to stock up on elderberry products for cold and flu season. But this year there’s also a run on mulberry when an eccentric customer wants to use the dried berries to ward off evil forces. True, it’s almost Halloween, but something else seems to be spooking Leticia the Lake Lady, Oriole Point’s oddest resident. She believes someone plans to kill her—and the ghost. Only mulberries can protect them. Marlee doesn’t take her fears seriously until a man named Felix Bonaventure arrives in the village, asking questions about a mysterious woman.
The next day, Marlee finds Bonaventure dead on Leticia’s property—shot through the heart with an arrow made of mulberry wood. And Leticia has disappeared. Marlee soon learns the Lake Lady has a deadly past that is connected to the famous Sable family who are in town for the health fair. A bunch of clues start to come together—and figuring out what’s going on puts Marlee in a real jam …
Includes Berry Recipes!
Enter a rafflecopter for a chance to win one of six print copies of Mulberry Mischief from the author.
About the Author
Sharon Farrow is the latest pen name of award-winning author Sharon Pisacreta. A freelance writer since her twenties, she has been published in mystery, fantasy, and romance. Sharon currently writes The Berry Basket cozy mystery series for Kensington. The series debuted in 2016 and is set along the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline where she now lives. She is also one half of the writing team D.E. Ireland, who co-author the Agatha nominated Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins mysteries.