Sunday, August 12, 2007

Where In The World Did This Story Come From?

by Marta Stephens

Embarking on my first virtual book tour has taken time and a bit of work to come up with a fresh approach to many of the same questions I’ve been asked over the past several months. The best thing about a virtual book tour though is that I haven’t had to move from my desk. I must say that the process has been as enjoyable as it was enlightening.

I thought I knew my characters and the story line, but this has forced me to analyze my motivation to write Silenced Cry and the other three books in the Sam Harper Crime Mystery series. One of the best questions I received was, “How much of yourself is in the book?” I didn’t dwell on the question at first, but surprisingly, it forced me to think more than I had anticipated.

Consider the plot and setting. Silenced Cry is a detective crime mystery that takes place in a fictitious city of Chandler, Massachusetts. I’ve never worked in law enforcement and although I’ve always wanted to visit Massachusetts, I haven’t yet had the pleasure. That’s probably why I chose it as a backdrop for the book. Ah! I’ve influence the setting. My sister claims that Homicide Detective Sam Harper has my dry sense of humor. Maybe so, but aside from that similarity, the greatest “crime” I’ve ever committed was not putting enough postage stamps on an envelope filled with my bookmarks destined for a library event this past July. Thanks to my oversight and a late notification from the post office, they didn’t quite make it. As far as the characters, I’m pleased to say I’m nothing like them. I’ve never dealt in drugs, killed anyone, been arrested or raped so the question remains, where did this story come from?

I’ve loved mysteries since I was a little girl; the more complicated, the better. My passion began in grade school with ghost stories and eventually led to Agatha Christie and other greats. Since I am the whole of my life experiences, my writing has also been influenced by the classic noir films I’ve enjoyed over the years. So as I thought of how I would answer the question, I decided to first consider the emotions that millions of people around the world relate to: grief, anger, joy, fear, resentment, worry, suspicion, etc. Next, what would trigger those emotions in my characters and how uniquely would they each respond?

It took some doing getting into the antagonist’s skin and viewing the world through his or her eyes. But in truth, I thoroughly enjoyed writing their characters. It was what I would call a liberating experience. These contemptible creatures do all the vile things I would never dream of doing. Still, as much as I tried to step back away from my own viewpoint, I think it has every bit to do with the way the main character, Sam Harper feels about the case. His hatred for one of the suspects and his desire to avenge his partner’s death nearly pushes him over the legal line. He struggles with his sympathy toward one of the victims who snaps, retaliates, and becomes his next suspect.
The story could have ended any number of ways, but knowing Harper as well as I do, there was only one path for him to take.

Maybe that’s where I’ve snuck into to book; my idea of morals and ethics, the belief in the golden rule, acknowledging the difference between right and wrong, and the expectation that justice will prevail. Then again, one reviewer called Silenced Cry a “... convoluted and complex story that demonstrates a vivid imaginative gift ...” Alright, imagination or not, I’m sure a part of me is in there someplace. I only hope Silenced Cry is as enjoyable for others to read as it was for me to write.

(The entire interview mentioned in this blog was posted on August 9, at


Camille Minichino said...

Welcome, Marta.
You've helped me answer the same question: how much of me is in my books.
I've always wanted to say simply, "It's all me. I wrote it."
Whether it's "realistic" or "imaginative" or anything else, it's still from me.
Best to you on the rest of your tour!
Camille/Margaret Grace

Marta Stephens said...

Hi Camille. I imagine our family and friends probably notice our personalities bleed into the writing more than anyone else. It's unavoidable, isn't it? :)

Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Sounds like a wonderful book! Look forward to reading it. So glad you joined us on your tour. Best, Kathryn

Anonymous said...


Indeed, it was very enjoyable to read! I look forward to the next one, as do many of my customers here at Muncie Public Library.

Jenny L