I guess the first thing that people want to know, is why does an Ordained Minister write Murder Mysteries?
The answer is twofold. I enjoy well-written psychological suspense or mystery novels and one day I discovered that writing them is even more fun than reading them—it’s just a lot more work.
The other half of my reason for writing about the dark side of human behavior is because I’ve seen so much of it in organized religion. As a religious professional, I look at organized religion as an academic and theological body of knowledge…and as my chosen, ordained to…way of life. So when I find people who claim religious authority to deceive or cause pain …or in the extreme cases such as the inquisition, the holocaust, and jihad to silence, torture or kill people, I am horrified and I want to expose such malevolence and malfeasance for the hypocrisy that it is.
Conversely, some of the finest people I’ve ever met, people who move mountains one pebble at a time, people who step beyond the strictures of their vows and risk censure to achieve a greater good, people who will stop traffic to tend an injured animal, or miss an important deadline because they found a lost child…these mavericks don’t always win gold/God stars for perfect attendance, but they do change lives. In my “Mission-Mysteries”, Olympia and Jim are such people. They will continually be circumventing the establishment and often risking their jobs…and sometimes their necks, but they can’t stop, and neither can I, because standing up against an opposing tide is the grist of my story mill and the driving force of my life. It is the reason I am an artist, a minister and a writer.
Do you plot your stories in advance of writing?
I am what is referred to as an ‘organic’ writer—that is I do not plot out my stories in detail. I do start with a general story idea and let it unfold as I develop the story. I’m continually surprised by what shows up on the page…and that’s because the creative process, whether in writing or making visual art is an unknown quantity. If you give yourself over to it completely, you can not know what will happen.
You can only bring your skills and your ideas to the keyboard and trust that eventually the magic …and the mystery…will begin.
After that, of course, there’s a lot of editing, revising, blood, sweat and fears. Very little of what I write falls out of my pen unaided, but I start with my mind open mind to all possibilities, write down whatever comes forth, and leave the shaping and refining until later.
And that process, the revisions and the surgery – the amputations and the add-ons, can be just as creative as the original burst. This is often when a new and unexpected character walks out of the wings and makes him or herself a vital part of the story. Sister Sarah, one of the major characters in, A Deadly Mission, is an example of that. I don’t know where she came from, but once she showed up, I invited her to stay. She’s a wonderful and admirable woman.
You are a minister. Do you see this as part of your ministry?
Yes! Writing has always been part of my ministry. I’ve written books of prayerful meditations and poetry. For about five years, I wrote for a Unitarian Universalist Children’s magazine. Sermons are really essays you speak to a congregation. I love writing.
The Olympia Brown Mysteries deal with religious hypocrisy and how people can do awful things in the name of, or under the guise of religious belief and practice. I’m a woman of the cloth. I loathe religious hypocrisy—and I can unmask some of it and tell a really good story at the same time.
Where did the name Olympia Brown come from?
The real Olympia Brown was the first woman ordained to Universalist ministry in 1863. That’s all. The character is not modeled after her. But I wanted to honor and hold up her name. She was a trailblazer for women in professional religion and woman’s rights.
Do you still preach and do weddings and such?
I do. I lead workshops too—in writing, as a craft and as spiritual practice. You can contact me to do one in your area. firstname.lastname@example.org