Sunday, February 5, 2012


When I think back to my childhood, I realize that it’s no wonder I became a mystery writer. My parents, younger brother and I lived in an old two-story house with all kinds of good places to play Hide’n Seek. The basement was an especially scary place; the foundation had thick stone walls, a fruit cellar and a coal bin. We had a large backyard and, at the end of it, a woods extended as far as the eye could see with a cemetery just barely visible in the distance. It was the perfect breeding ground for a young girl, who loved to read Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries, to develop a fertile imagination.
My best friend, Bev, and her younger brother lived one house away and they often came over to play. I loved to make up stories about the house and the woods to entertain (and frighten)  them. For example, there was a large, rusty nail hammered into the back of the basement stairs and I convinced them that the elderly (imaginary) woman who used to live in our house was hung from it. The murderer, of course, was still at large.
Another place that fed my imagination was our elementary school (see photo) and the woods behind it. We were forbidden to venture into those woods but I occasionally managed to convince  Bev, who was a grade behind me and shy by nature, to go. My parents had warned me that there were dangerous people living in shanties there, which I’m sure they didn’t realize, only served to increase my curiosity.
There were so many intriguing places to explore in our neighborhood. Since we walked to and from school, we passed some of them: an abandoned bakery that had been shut down for years (I had to sneak in there) and a long, wooded lane with a rundown farmhouse at the end of the drive. The day I persuaded Bev to go there, ignoring the “No Trespassing” sign, a man came out and yelled at us, firing his shotgun into the air to scare us away. I remember wondering what his story was and, naturally, with no way to find out, I had to concoct one.
So, the fact that I write mysteries is, well, no mystery.


  1. Wow, the photo of the school is definitely one to inspire the imagination. Did you play in the cemetery, Pat? The one near us was always a favorite 'haunt.'

  2. John,
    No, I couldn't play in the cemetery because it was quite a distance from where I lived. My imagination, however, went there a lot!

  3. I spent hours spinning mysteries to keep my brothers and sisters out of trouble. I was also a very shy child, even though or maybe because of growing up with a large family. I could travel anywhere in town and within a biking distance of home. We had to home by 4:30pm to get supper on the table before Dad arrived home. From my home I could ride round trip nearly 50 miles on a summer day, I got to know the county sheriffs and town cops, I loved to ride to the cementary in the middle of the road or the abandoned train depot. I'd send hours writing (no computers) filling in notebooks. An adventure can be found as close as the backyard.

  4. Kat,
    We moved from our old house to a one-story ranch in a subdivision when I was 12 1/2 and, during my early teens, I did a lot of bicycling. I was only "allowed" to travel in a certain area but that never stopped me from going further to investigate new places.

  5. What a terrific story, and weren't you the little instigator! We had an abandoned barn a few doors down. No house, just the barn, and our parents would let us go near it. Unfortunately, I was too shy to argue the point, but I dreamed up a lot of stories about it.

    Great blog!

  6. Marja,
    I had an older cousin who sometimes spent the night at our house and, every time she did, I ended up somehow getting in trouble. She went home the next day; I got punished!

  7. I credit comic books at a very young age to opening up my imagination. Safer than shotguns....

  8. Nice snapshot of your childhood, Patricia. You've got me to thinking about my old school that was attached to the church via labyrinths. There's got to be a mystery there!

  9. Bill,
    I can see where comic books would help to open a young boy's imagination. I'm sure the Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew novels I read contributed to mine.
    Thanks! Yes, your old school attached to the church via labyrinths - definitely a story there.

  10. I grew up in Queens, New York, in a neighborhood surrounded by cemeteries. My neighbor was a grave digger. We had scary experiences in the cemeteries -- Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and even sections for Chinese (not Muslim, but probably by now). I played on Houdini's grave. To this day, I like cemeteries. How come I'm not a mystery writer like you guys?

  11. That's a good question, Eileen. With a childhood like that, I'm surprised you're not. Maybe you should consider it?
    Thanks for stopping by!