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Gretchen Rue: A Wicked Bit of Inspiration

Gretchen Rue: A Wicked Bit of Inspiration

There’s a question authors hear an awful lot, and that is: where do you get your inspiration from? And while it may sound like a cliché, my answer to that question is: everywhere. There’s also an old saying that goes: write what you know, and while that may be good advice, I think it’s often taken too literally. Am I a divorced witch who just inherited my aunt’s giant mansion and book shop? No, no I am not. I’m a happily single spinster (so perhaps I can relate to Phoebe’s aunt Eudora on that front), and while I do dabble in witchcraft, my version of that is toiling away in the garden and having entirely too much green aventurine in my possession. I cannot bake scones that will make people tell the truth.

So how does one reconcile “write what you know” when what you write is supernatural murder mysteries? For starters, you need to find something you’re passionate about and use that as your base. I wouldn’t write a book about someone who owned a car repair shop, for example, because I know almost nothing about my own car, let alone repairing someone else’s. What I do know an awful lot about is books. And tea. And cats. So those seemed like ideal places to start my series. I have spent what might be considered an insane amount of money on tea (I can’t be stopped, no one try). I also spend much more time in small bookshops than I should, and while these things are terrible for my wallet, they make great fodder for stories. I know books, and how to sell them; I know tea and what makes for a great cup; and I own seven cats (or perhaps I should say seven cats let me live with them) so I’m very capable of writing about these things in great detail.

When the saying says “write what you know” what it really means is: write what you can get right. And while mistakes are always bound to happen, I certainly know the topics in my stories through and through.

Along with “write what you know” I think there’s a secondary truism for writing: write what you want to read. I think a story told without passion by someone who is hoping to chase a trend or write what is popular when they don’t particularly care about it, makes for a dour reading experience. When someone is excited about what they’re writing it shows, and if they’re having fun crafting that world and the people in it, then readers are more likely to have a good time reading it. I set out to write Something Wicked after reading dozens and dozens of cozy mysteries and romcoms, because I knew I could tell a story like that and do it my way. I think it’s vital for a writer to be a fan of the genre they’re writing in, because there are unwritten rules in every genre that must be obeyed. In romance, there must be a happy ending, for example, or at least a happy for now. In cozy mysteries there are beats that readers expect. Red herrings, low-stakes danger, an overall “safe for grandma to read” tone.

I’ve written in plenty of genres. My experience writing urban fantasy let me have heroines who swear like sailors and behead demons with swords. My romance writing let me have steamy liaisons and stories where the relationship was the whole focus. With this book I was allowed to have fun, but had to recognize that every genre has constraints that need to be acknowledged, and those parameters always make it a fun and unique challenge. In Something Wicked I got to create a magical reality that lives alongside our own world, and also spend time creating a real-feeling small town with a diverse cast of characters that makes it feel welcoming, a place that not only Phoebe wants to live in, but so do readers. I wanted those Gilmore Girls vibes with a little sprinkling of Charmed and a dashing love interest as well, because what can I say: no matter what kind of story I’m telling, I can’t help but add a little romance.

The end result, I hope, is a cozy, heartfelt story with a heroine to root for and a mystery to keep readers guessing right up until the end. If I’ve done that, then I’ve written what I know and what I want to read, and that’s the best success any writer can hope for.

Something Wicked by Gretchen Rue, is published by Aria in paperback, Ebook on 14 September 2023

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