Friday, December 7, 2012

Off the Beaten Track: Mixed-Up Luggage Leads to Mystery and Mayhem

We’re delighted to welcome three guests this week. Mystery novelists Diane Vallere (, Kendel Lynn (, and Gigi Pandian ( the three authors of OTHER PEOPLE’S BAGGAGE (, a new collection of three interconnected mystery novellas (Henery Press, December 2012).

Diane is the author of PILLOW STALK: A Mad for Mod Mystery, which Library Journal called “a tremendously fun homage.” Kendel is the author of BOARD STIFF, an Elliott Lisbon mystery, which won the Zola Award for Mystery/Suspense, coming April 2013. Gigi is the author of ARTIFACT: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery, named one of the Best Books of 2012 by Suspense Magazine.

Thanks for having us! It’s very fun to be here at Novel Adventurers, because the thing that connects our mystery novellas is travel. The three main characters of our mystery series are on their way out of town when a storm and resulting computer glitch swaps their luggage. We thought we’d each share an interesting tidbit about the settings in our travel-themed collection that planted the seed for our individual stories.

DIANE: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Because my Mad for Mod series features a character who has modeled her life, style, and business after Doris Day movies, when it came time to send her out of town, it was natural to send her to Carmel-by-the-Sea, the town where Doris Day resides. (Sorry the photo isn’t from the interior of her hotel; I was too afraid of looking like a tourist had she popped around a corner!) I’ve always thought a tourist town would make a good backdrop for a mystery, because it would be easy for criminals to go unnoticed. Once I decided to make this a prequel, I knew I could play around with the breakup that’s hinted at in Pillow Stalk, and lay the groundwork for the life Madison is about to begin in Dallas, Texas.

KENDEL: Little Oak, Texas
As a recent Texas transplant, the volume of shopping and restaurants in Dallas truly astounded me. It’s a dazzling mecca of glitzy shops, posh boutiques, and mega gallerias, plus a zillion eateries, from saucy BBQ joints and smoky steakhouses to buttery bistros and creamy guacamole on every patio. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m from LA, so that’s saying something. But drive just outside the metro area, in any direction, and flat lands stretch out for miles. Ranch fencing follows the landscape and round hay bales line up in rows. Always in the distance, a cluster of small houses sits tucked behind a copse of lonely trees. It’s calm and glorious and I always wondered what life might be like for those folks, living in the big state of Texas, yet in a land all their own. And naturally, I just assumed someone would end up dead.

GIGI: Edinburgh, Scotland
I spent some time in Scotland as a kid, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival made a big impression on me. The event is the largest performing arts festival in the world, because everyone is welcome to perform (as long as you can afford the venue and registration fees). Most of the shows are theater and comedy acts, but other performing arts are featured as well. Because the shows don’t go through a selection committee, the quality may vary; but lots of them are fantastic, and many famous actors have performed there in the past, including Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, and members of Monty Python. Edinburgh is such a mysterious city to begin with—it has an old castle looming above the center of the city and small medieval alleyways branching off the most modern of streets. With all the added crowds and commotion during the festival, I thought it would be a great backdrop for a locked-room mystery.

We came up with the idea for this collection of novellas after we’d been critique partners, reading each other’s draft mystery novels and learning that we liked each other’s work. It occurred to us that our characters would get along, and also that if a reader liked one of our mysteries, they’d probably like the other two. But since our characters are based in different cities, how could their lives intersect? When we realized they all had good reasons to have the same vintage suitcase, the rest fell into place. It was a lot of fun to weave the contents of their mixed-up suitcases into each of our stories.


  1. Such an intriguing idea. I can't wait to read.

  2. Wonderful--looking forward to reading it! Congratulations.

  3. What a great idea. Wishing you all the best and continued success!

  4. Thanks for having us here at Novel Adventures! This is the perfect spot for our traveling protagonists.

  5. Thanks for the good wishes, Patricia, Cynthia, and Camille!

    And thanks to the Novel Adventurers bloggers for hosting us today. It was a fun collaboration, since we got to send our characters to interesting destinations, and it's exciting to now have it out in the world.

  6. Ladies, the idea of interconnecting your protagonist's lives in these three novellas is really clever. I'm curious about how you worked it out. Did you each write your separate stories and have each other read them or did you brainstorm ideas ahead of time? A bit of both? Do tell...

    1. Heidi -- We brainstormed ahead of time, and gave each other detailed lists of what they'd find in the mixed-up luggage. Then after reading each other's first drafts, we made further adjustments. It was a lot of fun -- but also more work than I initially imagined it would be! But definitely worth it :)

  7. Thanks for the insight into why you chose your locations. I'm looking forward to reading the novellas!

  8. The minute I heard about this book, I knew I had to read it! I love the premise and I can imagine it would have taken a lot of planning but would have been fun. Congratulations and I look forward to reading your book!

  9. Thanks! What Gigi didn't say is that we had all read each other's writing and thought our characters would get along. We figured out pretty quickly it would be too tough to write a book where they actually meet, so that's where the brainstorming came in. This was a really fun collaboration, especially because we all stuck to our schedule and were serious about the project!

  10. Sorry for the late chime-in but ditto the above thoughts---love this premise (wishing we'd thought of it first, in fact)! ;) Can't wait to read this book, right after the one I started on my weekend getaway--Gigi's Artifact. Loving it so far! Thanks, ladies, for blogging with us, and so fun to hear about the process that went into this too.