A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Our First Novel

When my wife and I began new careers as authors, we envisioned writing mysteries beside the fireplace. That was five years ago. We are now poised on the precipice of publishing our first novel. It’s so close we can almost smell the freshly printed ink.

So, you might ask, what took so long? That’s more than 1800 days. Steven King says he writes 10 pages per day. There isn’t a big market for books with eighteen thousand pages. Fortunately, Murder with an Ocean View isn’t that long.

On the way to our first novel, we discovered the two worlds of mystery dinner theatre and murder mystery weekends. These have turned out to be every bit rewarding as typing chapters by the fireplace. And in some ways, a little more exciting.

I can still picture the audience at one of our early plays, staged in the Jesup Memorial Library in Bar Harbor. If you’ve never been there, it’s a historic building that provides the perfect setting for a play. The ceiling soars over your head. There are galleries on the second floor that overlook the main room. My wife and I were seated on that gallery for the performance. We had participated in multiple rehearsals with the actors. From our perch, we watched as those actors bestowed the breath of life into the characters we had created.

It was a giddy sensation for the authors, when the assembled guests, upon hearing our words for the first time, gasped when they were supposed to be shocked, and laughed when they supposed to be amused. I nearly fell out of the balcony.

When Mary Shelley created her masterpiece, Baron von Frankenstein used electricity to bring his creation to life. We didn’t have access to a generator, but the effect was the same. It was like being zapped with more juice than the Energizer bunny.

Over the course of the last five years, we wrote six plays and created multiple murder mystery events. The venues have included libraries, museums, and historic seacoast inns. Actors have included members of local theatrical groups, guests at bed and breakfasts looking for a diversion, and one wedding party.

It was the bride who contacted us, looking for a creative alternative to a rehearsal dinner, the night before the wedding. We created Murder & Matrimony, a play that was set in the early thirties. The basic idea is that a bank robber and his girl are forced to move their nuptials to Maine because he and his gang have become too hot for New Jersey. After a member of the gang is rubbed out before the bride says, “I do,” and the murder weapon belongs to the groom, the bride says, “I won’t”. After all, it’s one thing to rob banks for a living. But killing a member of the wedding party is just too much. It all works out in the end, but not before the bank robbers have to deal with pirates and a nefarious sea captain.

Our thanks to the Captain Nickels Inn, in Searsport, Maine, for recommending RLawtonSquared to the wedding party. It’s a beautifully restored sea captain’s house situated on a piece of land that rolls down to the bay. A truly great setting for a bed and breakfast. And the occasional murder mystery.

I’m going to close by coming back to the title for this blog. In reality, a lot of funny things happened on the way to our first novel. And if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Stairway (4)

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