Thursday, July 21, 2016


Note from Tracy:  Please join me in welcoming Laurel Peterson, author of Shadow Notes to Killer Hobbies today, talking about how characters can serve their author's curiosities.  Laurel has a love of gardening that she has given to her protagonist, Clara Montague.  Laurel, please tell us more!

Thanks, Tracy, for having me on your blog. I’m honored to be here.

I garden on a third of an acre in Connecticut, where the deer tromp through my yard every evening as if they’ve just come starving from a rave. (Do they still have those? Or does using the word rave make me hopelessly out-of-date?) Depending on where one stands, I have dry shade, clay soil, hot afternoon sun, a drainage issue, and about a half-acre of pachysandra planted by the previous owner. So every year I experiment a bit more to see how the little micro-environments will accept or reject my plant choices, what the deer will eat, whether or not I can keep things growing with the dog romping on it, and, under it all at the moment, moles.

When I designed my character, Clara Montague, the protagonist in my novel Shadow Notes, I made her a landscape architect and sent her away from home for 15 years (after an epic fight with her mother) to visit the great gardens of the world (I’m checking them off my bucket list). Landscape architects are licensed and do the big stuff: think of them as the structural engineers of a landscape: what to do with all that storm-water, how to incorporate the natural environment, how to create large-scale projects responsibly (for example, the landscape around a new building or an office park). I chose it for Clara because I get to study landscapes and gardens as part of my writing journey.

Over the past several years, my husband and I have visited many beautiful botanical gardens, including the one in our backyard, the New York Botanical Gardens. Aside from their beauty, they are also instructive for both me and Clara. If I had the money and could buy Chilhuly glass, would I dot it in a pond as they do at Longhouse? Maybe the roses that cover the walls at Chateau D’Usee would work off my deck. What will grow in my shady spots? (Hostas. Coral Bells. Ivy.) What should I do with a dry, sandy area? (Maybe beach roses, rather than climbers.) Sadly, however, no one yet has an answer for those deer, except fences. Lots and lots of fences.

How does your character serve your curiosities? What things in the world do you get to learn about because you’ve created that character? Thanks so much for stopping by!

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.
Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.
Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?   
Find Shadow Notes at Amazon and at Barking Rain:
Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks Talking to the Mirror, from the Last Automat Press, and That's the Way The Music Sounds, from Finishing Line Press. Her first mystery, Shadow Notes, has just been released by Barking Rain Press. 
Find Laurel at





C. T. Collier said...

I envy you your world tour of great gardens! Even if it's one at a time and sometimes via books and videos.

I created a character (Kyle Pennington, of The Penningtons Investigate) who was born and raised in Cornwall and who's passionate about his homeland. So I got to visit Cornwall a year ago (definitely on my bucket list), and revisit it through mysteries set in Cornwall (Carola Dunn, Janie Bolitho, I'm still on the lookout for more).

Enjoyed your post so very much!!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Belated welcome, Laurel. How cute that you're able to experiment about how to help your local deer. We have deer in our area but not close enough for me to do anything like that. And it's definitely fun to create characters with similar interests to ours. Most of mine have dogs!

Laurel said...

Thanks for dropping by C. T. and Linda! England is beautiful; so glad you got a chance to Visit, C.T. And Linda, I love that you think I want to help the deer! Mostly, I wish they would find another yard!! Ha!