Califia’s Daughters, by “Leigh Richards”
Each Tuesday during our Twenty Weeks of Buzz, I’m posting about a different one of my twenty books, with remarks, reflections, and snippets of information about writing it. I’ll be discussing Califia’s Daughters this week, which was published as Leigh Richards in 2004.
A lot of crime writers start out in the science fiction realm. I was one, although my venture into SciFi didn’t make it into print until I was well established as a mystery writer.
I started writing this, my first novel, in the summer of 1984, when I had just finished my MA in theology and took my kids (ages 1 and 4) and my mother to England for a few weeks. While the kids were sleeping, I sat and wrote—about a young woman with interesting gifts, and dogs instead of children.
I wrote about half the novel before realizing that I didn’t know how to finish it, then life got busy and I left it on the shelf for quite a while. Three years later, when the one year old was four and in preschool a few days a week, I started writing again, only this one (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice) set me on the path of being a mystery writer.
I never quite put away my first book, however. I loved the characters and enjoyed the setting, and although in the meantime PD James had written an alarmingly similar novel (even the name was startlingly close: hers Children of Men, mine originally called Daughters of Men.) I finished it along the way, and eventually Random House agreed to publish it, as a paperback original and under a pseudonym, lest “my” readers expect to find a mystery.
Dogs play a central role in the novel, although I’m not much of a dog person (not even much of a cat person, at the moment..) But the canine presence was born during that trip to the UK, when we went to visit family near Dublin and visited a friend of theirs who raised Irish Wolfhounds. And the following spring, she shipped us a puppy, a black Wolfhound who lived with us for eight short years and dominated our lives in ways only a 110 pound, four-legged Irish lass can do.
I’ve been rather spoiled for dogs ever since; most other canines seem a weak imitation.