Monday, April 20, 2015

TOUCHY SUBJECTS: Reinventing reality

I am a grounded person, mired in reality. I read it; I write it, and I live it. So when my characters start to sound similar to the real THEM, it’s time to move them to another country, change the number of kids they have, and give them a new look.

Such was the case in my first cozy mystery, Mortal Coil, with Champagne Books. The inspiration that fed my book’s mystery and its scandal is that the crimes described are not the same as the real crimes committed where my grandmother lived in a 300-year-old church-owned facility in a Philadelphia ghetto in the 1980’s.

Although an author won’t lose a case in court when the truth is proven, it’s wise not to be too specific if the history isn’t public record and easily available. John Grisham was right on the edge with his environmental story, Gray Mountain. It’s almost creative nonfiction, but he’s a lawyer, and his beef with strip mining is well validated in his research.

In Mortal Coil, I use a nursing home setting in Georgia with which I’m very familiar. I even had a chance to include a poetic view of Kennesaw Mountain, a Southern memorial that fascinates me.


Kennesaw Mountain blossomed to life with lacy pink and white dogwoods peeking through greening, winter branches and long-leaf pines--a festive prelude to the pre-summer season. Despite what was going on inside Kingsley (nursing Home), the outside fa├žade of the one-story building rested like the center of interest in a dry brush painting that changed daily.
Ellen felt restored looking at it and remembering how she had fallen in love with the South. For all its contradictions, Southerners’ resilience and warmth charmed her. Only here in the foothills of history did people commemorate their losses as well as their victories.

The subplot of my book is driven by a behind-the-scenes scandal of greed and neglect. My 23 years as an activity coordinator and later a community ombudsman for long-term care facilities informed my story.

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, my grandmother died in that Philadelphia facility that treated her like a queen, but allowed a rapist from the kitchen staff to steal valuables from the unconscious patients’ rooms and murder three of them. My Ponytail Perp only killed them and took their hair as a trophy. What a sweetheart!

Champagne Books is running an in-house project about an active little town in Florida, a resort town where crazies are less inclined to kill and more inclined to think through a haze of their own making. If you like Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey, you will love our offerings. Florida writes itself, and Volusia County, according to Hiaasen, is a source of endless, nutty fun. Join us in 2016 to partake of our funny business.

Find Julie at:

Web site at
Twitter: @JulieEPainter
or Amazon:


Victoria Roder said...

I think everything I see, hear or do is subject for writing material. I just take one person's attitude and mix it with another person's physical characteristics. I also like things loosely based around real events.