Monday, August 13, 2012

Where do those ideas come from? My favorite question…

Of seven novels I've had published and the two waiting in the pipeline, every one of them came from a life experience, “set to music.” I was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the product of a single, older mother, age 28. What was she like? How did she fare after my birth father “had” her? She might have tiptoed back to her family, extremely ashamed of herself, and they of her. That was 1936, a time of moral righteousness. When I was 60, I tried to find out more about her, but only received the non-identifying information. Putting it together with things I'd heard and learned I was able to profile her. We writers are fiction profilers, eavesdroppers and voyeurs. I decided to make her life the focal point of my novel Tangled Web, book two with Champagne Books.

The most gripping emotions to emerge from writing the seduction scene that produced me, is that I felt more like a horrified reporter than a writer. Suddenly, I was the embryo on the wall watching this handsome Lothario take my mother's virtue and alter her life forever. A gotcha story with a happy ending, because I couldn't leave Catherine, in reality Laura Jones, whose name I didn't learn until a few years ago, stranded in her life.

My first Champagne novel, my fourth in the world, was Mortal Coil. That novel came from my experience as a volunteer coordinator and a Community Ombudsman for Long-Term Care facilities, in other words, nursing home reality.

The truth: in Philadelphia my 98-year-old Grandmother landed in “one of those places” for six years, she rode the elevator with a murderer. Maggie, as she was usually called, lived a charmed life perhaps because she treated him with good manners and never became his victim. But he killed three women there and was apprehended two years after she died. That became the spinning off story for my first romantic suspense.

The world of institutionalized care for the infirm has changed dramatically since I began as a volunteer in Cleveland, Ohio in 1972, moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and later volunteered in Daytona Beach, Florida. My hospice years in Florida provided me with a clear view of the politics, a reality check that lurks behind my scenes. My characters fell onto my pages to be immortalized and re-loved by me and my readers. Believe it or not, Mortal Coil is a funny book as well as an exposé of what's happening to the money in these facilities. It's a cozy whodunit. (And who spent it?)

My most recent novel, Kill Fee, is much lighter. It addresses the world of duplicate bridge as played by senior citizens living in an “upstairs” assisted living, where gossip is juicer than crime—until it's not. My many years of playing bridge and directing and owning an ACBL (American Contract Bridge League) franchise came into play to give my main character, Penny, a hobby along with her career as an environmentalist field inspector. Her story in Kill Fee, uncovers action and reactions to my young heroine when she inherits fifteen million dollars from the man she has come to love as her uncle, only to find he's had an ongoing affair with her mother for 30 years.

Cole, a believable hero and ordinary guy, is her uncle's attorney. He's there to buffer the shock. Together they chase down the crazies, the greedy and the egomaniacs as well as the grossly inefficient cops who warp justice for their own ends. Their Florida beach town will never be the same.

Life provides us with wild and wonderful opportunities. All we must do is pay attention, take notes and write what we know.

Julie Eberhart Painter is the Champagne Books author of Mortal Coil, Tangled Web, and the 2011 Book of the Year, Kill Fee. The sequel, Medium Rare releases in December 2012. January 2013, Daughters of the Sea releases from MuseItUp Publishing. Visit Julie’s Web site at


Big Mike said...

Think we all share that trait of calling on life experiences, things that formed our core. All my romantic suspense/mystery have a chuck on me, my world, buried somewhere within the pages.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

January Bain said...

Your life experiences explains the richness of your novels, Julie.

Thanks for sharing. Fondest regards, January

Victoria Roder said...

Enjoyed your article, Julie. Made me think of the line...we have changed the names to protect the innocent.

Richard Hacker said...

You've got a whole writer's workshop in the last line -- "pay attention, take notes and write what we know."

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Thanks, Richard, and all my buddies. We must pay attention. Lessons are good, but life is the best workshop.

Veronica Helen Hart said...


You always find a fresh way to say things. Great post.

Browng34 said...

Julie, this really spoke to me. A writer rich in ideas is a writer rich in experience - the best writing comes from a place of giving, and you have such wonderful things to share!