Gleeful cackles of plot

A question writers are often asked is, “Where did that story / that character / that idea come from?”

Usually the answer boils down to something small, some tiny piece of grit that lodges in the mind and accumulates ideas, images, snippets of dialogue like a pearl in an oyster. (Though admittedly, some pearls end up more than a little odd…)

Monstrous Regiment of Women started with the John Knox title; Dreaming Spies began when I needed a Japan book that continued into the following year; The Moor began when I realized that Sabine Baring Gould was still alive into the twenties, down there in Baskerville territory.

So I thought some of you might like to know that the next Russell has just had its piece of grit planted in my brain.

For months, I’ve been planning to set the next Russell (# 15!) in and around the Tower of London, but the more I read, and the darker the world around me got, the less I could bear the idea of living with that place for the long months it would take to write the book. Somewhere around the sixth description of a prisoner drawn and quartered I thought, Maybe this isn’t the year for the Tower.

But if not that, what?

Something dark but humorous. Something political (because it’s become obvious that for the immediate present, life IS politics) but with no overt politics because, really, do I have to spend all day there? Something about women or minorities or the madness that has overtaken my home without being about women, minorities, or the judgment of sides.

An entertainment, absolutely—but a subversive one.

And as often happens, when I set my unconscious a problem and let it get on with things—I’ve spent the past two weeks heavily involved with the business of Mystery Writers of America, both NorCal and National—

Laurie’s to-do list.

—the machinery ground away, picking up ideas and discarding them, looking for some interesting empty space that was just the right shape to hold the kind of story I wanted to tell…

And then on Sunday I sat down at my laptop and wrote out a paragraph to send to my editor asking, You like?

Oh, yes. Oooh, yes indeedy she did.

It’s going to be dark and it’s going to be funny (I hope), and it’s going to be about women and politics and male oppression without being about any of those things.

And the writer’s mind cackles gleefully in the corner.


  1. Shirley Bomgaars on January 30, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Ooooo! Can’t wait!

  2. Lana on January 30, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    It is so interesting to hear about the workings of an author’s mind. How do these fantastic stories materialize from thin air with all the detail and history and personalities to an object I can hold in my hand and receive such pleasure from? Apparently they come from pearls. How lovely is that!

  3. Karen on January 30, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    This sounds lovely. I really could use it now, but it can give a little light to be heading towards.

  4. Celia Lewis on January 30, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    I love the way your mind works… Fantastic! Write on.

  5. Karen B. on January 30, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    Your post feels like someone just lit a candle in the dark. Hark! It’s a good thing! Way in the distance, you’ll have to wait for it, but a good thing will come!

    Back to calling and writing letters and walks to get away from the calls and letters . . .

  6. barbara on January 30, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    So glad to hear that some good news hasn’t come out of this chaotic mess!

    • barbara on January 30, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Meant to type “HAS come out of this chaotic mess”. Sorry for the mistype.

  7. Merrily Taylor on January 30, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Well, needless to say, I can’t wait.

  8. Helenmary Cody on January 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm

    Sounds excellent! Looking forward to hearing how it progresses.

  9. becky up a hill on January 30, 2017 at 1:55 pm


  10. Jill porter on January 30, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Hurray! Already envisioning scenarios that might be taking place.

  11. Catherine on January 30, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Wonderful! A couple of times I have set aside a new Russell for an extended read, when on a long flight or a rainy day at the cottage. Looking forward to doing it again! It can be very hard to wait!

  12. Bronwyn on January 30, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    I’m so excited! I love books that are subversive, funny, and dark!

  13. Caryn Stardancer on January 30, 2017 at 2:31 pm

    Thank you so much! Like too many it is a blessed joy to know I have this to look forward to, to temper the increasing quotidian madness and sorrow.

  14. Klara Eddards on January 30, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    oh, I’m so excited! I’ve just started rereading the entire series too 🙂

  15. Erin Cleghorn on January 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    Finally, a reason to go on!

  16. Mary B on January 30, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Wonderful! That’s the absolute essence of how an artist’s mind works: completely subliminally. Can’t wait to read it. I’ll make room on the shelf for another hard cover

  17. Janet A on January 30, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    Yes! Day by day, as the news goes from bad to worse, I will tell myself, “Hang on…Russell is coming.”

  18. Susan M on January 30, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    It sounds absolutely lovely but I can’t help feeling intrigued regarding the Tower and it’s bloody story. Can we have that one too, please?

    • Laurie King on January 31, 2017 at 9:45 am

      Probably. Just not something I should be writing in 2017.

  19. Noel Bailey on January 30, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    I used this quote tonight about a Great Blue Heron that has its head tucked down – the song is still in my mind and works here, too. “With her head tucked underneath her arm she walks the bloody Tower.” I hope that won’t happen to Mary!

  20. Mary Toomey on January 30, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    As always, looking forward to another adventure with Mary Russell. While rereading some old favorites, I started wondering if the intriguing Uncle Jake might show his face again.

  21. Alice on January 30, 2017 at 11:06 pm

    You have me at the edge of my favorite reading chair already . . .

  22. Guy on January 31, 2017 at 7:19 am

    I took some visiting Americans to the Tower of London a couple of years back and they were entranced by the Yeoman Warders (more colloquially known as ‘Beefeaters’), big ex-military NCOs who are responsible for various ceremonial duties and also acting as guides for the tourists. This huge Beefeater, about a foot taller than my friend from California, fixed the crowd with a stern expression and asked if there were any visitors from the United States? When a dozen or so people raised their hands he frowned and said: “Just think, if you hadn’t gone and spoiled it, a thousand years of history could have been yours!”. A great tour, strongly recommended, especially if you like suits of armour and really big jewels.

  23. Ida Umphers on January 31, 2017 at 8:11 am

    Can’t wait! Sounds incredibly exciting. Thank you for sharing about your creative process.

  24. Claiborne Ray on January 31, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Thank heavens! I just ran out of Russells! No hurry, you understand, but please hurry! You have been a lifesaver since the election.

  25. Claiborne Ray on January 31, 2017 at 12:36 pm

    Thank heavens! I just ran out of Russels, which have been my retreat since the election. No hurry, you understand, but please hurry. And thank you.

  26. Karen Holmberg-Smith on February 1, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Something to look forward to! I try to space out my Mary Russell stories, because I can’t afford to buy them all at once, and I really like to have every volume on my Kindle. I know these are books that I will be rereading. I’m about to begin Garment of Shadows. Your novels kept me company while I was traveling in Europe and England this last summer and autumn; your details are so wonderful I was surprised to find out you didn’t live there! Thank you for your subtle ways of sharing women’s rights, and care for others who are different, without focusing on those things.

  27. Laura Bruce on February 1, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    I knew I needed something to keep me going In my post-election despair, I just didn’t know what it was. Now I know, another Mary Russell. Glad so many others get the same support with your books.

  28. Annette Lessmann on February 2, 2017 at 11:34 am

    This is kind of like waiting for Christmas, knowing something wonderful will be under the tree. Thank you!

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