One of the most thrilling parts of writing a book is when you get THAT idea.
The one that gives you butterflies all over the place and makes you want to drop everything and start writing.
And when you’re writing a series, this feeling can be especially important to keep the romance alive for your characters and setting and, well, for you.
Going into the fifth book of The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries, I knew I wanted to take a different approach to keep it fresh for readers and for me. In the end, two main things became inspiration for the story: a news item I read years ago, and ancient Egypt.
The Last Remnant of the Gilded Age
When I originally got the concept for Belinda and Bennett, Gilded Age Newport, Rhode Island, was my main inspiration. So when I saw a news article about a Gilded Age heiress who passed away, I read it immediately.
Huguette Clark inherited a fortune from her father, a copper magnate, and died a recluse at 104. With no children in the picture, her death left questions about who would inherit her fortune and estates.
For whatever reason, she excluded surviving relatives from her will. The bulk went to charity, and her private nurse received a generous share as well. But her relatives challenged the will (not surprising), and it was tied up in court for ages. (It sounded like a legal nightmare!)
In the end, a settlement was reached, and the relatives did receive an inheritance, but the biggest portion still went to charity. (The nurse lost her share.)
Huguette was basically the last of the Gilded Age, and the whole situation intrigued me. Plus, it fit in perfectly with my series concept. As I started thinking seriously about book five, I realized it was an opportunity to explore that idea, putting my own spin on things, of course. 😉
The Egyptology Twist
I really can’t explain why, but I felt that some intrigue involving Egyptology and the de Montfort family would coincide nicely with the overall story concept for Misfortune. And it filled my need for a touch of history as well.
On the other hand, I didn’t want to load down the book with a lot of historical detail. So I selected a few things that merged organically with the story, specifically mummification and the crook and flail symbols associated with Egyptian pharaohs. (And found on Egyptian sarcophagi.)
Though popular during certain periods of Egyptian history, the crook and flail has a deeper, and much more interesting, past than I realized. This website has a more in-depth explanation if you’d like to get the full scoop!
I also included a surface explanation of mummification. I tap danced around discussing the complete ins and outs, as Belinda would say. But if you happen to be weird like me and want to know more about what that poker was used for…check out this video (and others) on the PBS site.
These were just the two prime sources of inspiration for the main story. A lot of little things affect my books too–from snippets of conversations, to the way someone behaves, to a song I hear.
Some sources of inspiration can go a long way to carve out the big picture of the story (Huguette’s life and death for example), but it is often the small things that make a book special. After all, stories are in the details, right?
If you’d like more behind-the-book info, you may also enjoy the tour that inspired The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries (the Gilded Age saga continues!) and the real place behind the fictional setting of Portside.
For some visual inspiration, check out the Belinda & Bennett Pinterest page.
P.S. If you’re brand new to the series, you can start it for free! Click here to learn more.