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.