Okay, I fiddled around for a while, but the really important "where do you get your ideas" story is obviously Artifacts (Faye Longchamp Mysteries, No. 1), because it got me a publisher and spawned five more books and counting. And brought me fame and fortune and...no, wait. It didn't do that...yet. As soon as Halle Berry decides she wants to play Faye in a major motion picture, then we'll get to the fame and fortune part.
So where do I get my ideas? Why, lying by the roadside on I-10. Truly. The complete plots of Artifacts and, later, Relics came to me as I was driving I-10 through the Panhandle. It's the most boring stretch of highway east of the Mississippi River. I truly believe that.
Wounded Earth had just made a lot of noise in New York, but hadn't sold. My agent was saying, "If you got that close, you should write another book." I was thinking, "Easy for her to say." But I was also thinking about my guilty passion for southern antebellum plantation architecture and picturing this house in my mind:
Those old houses are just so cool. They're put together with pegs, and they're so far from civilization that the builders had to fake luxury items. Columns plastered to look like stone. Staircases painted to look like marble. Railings carefully carved out of wood, because there was no wrought iron to be had. I wanted to set a book at one of those houses. But Gone With the Wind had already been done. And it's not the story for the twenty-first century, anyway. But what was?
I asked myself who could live at such a house, yet still be relatable to ordinary folks, and I imagined a woman who had inherited a money pit, but was so attached to her family's ancestral home that she was impoverishing herself to keep it. But a big problem remained--this achingly beautiful house was built by slaves. You can't ignore that dichotomy.
So I decided to embrace it. I decided to make Faye, the owner, the descendant of the slaves who built Joyeuse, as well as the owners who lived there. This was a character with depth and complexity, a character who could support, as it turns out, six books and counting. This was somebody who would desperately dig up the artifacts her ancestors left behind, hoping for something rare and beautiful that would save the house forever. Instead, she found the skull of a murdered girl, and Artifacts (Faye Longchamp was off to a running start...