My friend Marilyn Levinson writes the Haunted Library mystery series as Allison Brook. I got to know her as a fellow Blackbird Writer (you can see the site here). Welcome, Marilyn.
I love books, as does every writer I know. And like most writers, I’ve been frequenting libraries since I was very young. I remember walking to my local library when I was in elementary school, checking out books and bringing them home to read. When I was in college, I even worked in the school library, fetching books that other students requested from the hidden shelves behind the circulation desk. I also studied in the library because it was a good place to meet guys—but that’s a topic for another blog.
These days a library is much more than a place filled with books. Tapes and videos are available to patrons as well as an array of classes and programs. I’m fortunate that my local library has a beautiful park area behind the parking lot that’s used for a variety of programs. I’ve taken part in a few Author Fairs there and more recently a light show is being presented several evenings in December.
One summer afternoon some years ago, I was sitting in a folded chair I’d brought from home waiting for an event in our park to begin. The librarian in charge of adult programs said a few words, then introduced the presenter who would be entertaining us with an afternoon of drumming. It was an extraordinary performance, but what had me even more excited as I walked to me car was that my writer’s mind, always alert, had just come up with the perfect profession for the sleuth in my next mystery series: the librarian responsible for hiring people to present programs to the library’s patrons. There was no end of possibilities! Art talks, cooking demos, dance programs, craft classes. The list went on and on.
And so Carrie Singleton was born! I set my town of Clover Ridge in Connecticut, a half hour’s drive east of New Haven. The library where Carrie becomes the head of programs and events is in a centuries-old building like all the other buildings facing the town Green. I thought a library ghost that only Carrie could see would be a nice touch, along with a library cat that really belongs to Carrie, and I was halfway there.
The Clover Ridge Library proved to be a wonderful setting for my series. For Carrie and her colleagues, the library is a small world within the community. These are my characters that travel from book to book. And being in charge of programs and events gives Carrie the opportunity to meet many new people. People like retired Detective Al Buckley who, in DEATH OVERDUE, is eager to give a talk about a cold case he’s just solved and Daphne Marriott, a psychic in CHECKED OUT FOR MURDER, who has secrets she won’t share with Carrie.
I love having the library as the setting for my cozy series because a library is a focal point of any community, a place where local people come for many reasons. Therefore, the possibilities for future storylines have no bounds. If you’re thinking of starting a new series, I suggest that you choose a setting that allows for a solid core of characters yet requires new characters in each book. After all, each mystery requires a number of victims, suspects, and possible murderers—doesn’t it?