A Newbie’s Adventures in Writing a Series Character – Lloyd A. Meeker
With the release of Blood and Dirt in August, I entered the ranks of authors who write a series. That’s not something I anticipated when I wrote Enigma, the first Russ Morgan mystery, in 2012. For the first year after it came out I thought of it as a one-off short novella—I certainly didn’t anticipate readers’ interest in Russ as a character. Sometimes the author is the last to know what’s going on.
I love series characters, though. I cut my series mystery-reading teeth on Rex Stout, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, just as I’d cut my series fantasy-reading teeth on Tolkien, LeGuin and Zelazny. I happily fell in love with the idea of a story arc lasting longer than a single book—that’s the stuff of epics!
Whatever comes of Russ Morgan’s series of mysteries, however, I’m pretty sure it won’t be epic. No great battles between good and evil, no saga stretching across generations, just Russ Morgan, a decent guy in his fifties, still working on his relationship to the troubled world he lives in. He’s an interesting character to me, for reasons that may border on the narcissistic.
Like every other new-ish author, I received the inevitable advice to write what I know. So for Russ I drew heavily on my own experience, then added some embellishments. Russ is psychically sensitive, and so am I. I don’t see auras like Russ, but I sure feel them when I’m standing next to someone. Being in a crowd takes a lot of energy for me, although Russ is tougher than I am and manages better.
Russ and I both are grateful for long-term sobriety. That’s a truly spectacular thing, no need for any embellishment there. Colorado is my home state, and Russ’, too. I lived in Denver for many years, and it was the natural place to use as Russ’ home base. When Colorado legalized marijuana cultivation, that gave me a natural opening to write Blood and Dirt.
Mostly, though, Russ and I share an introspective, philosophical approach to life. Russ likes to think about things. He wonders about people, their motivation, their wounds and hopes. He ponders moral issues without pre-emptive certainty. He’s fascinated by power differential and the interplay of personalities. He thinks about the human footprint on the natural world. And ultimately, he seeks to live a spiritually authentic life outside the structures of religion. An AA meeting is as close as he cares to come to collective spiritual practice.
So what am I trying to do in the stories Russ has to tell? First and foremost, I want to tell intriguing, satisfying mysteries. Beyond that, I don’t know how to say it succinctly, but I want to write the stories of a deeply human, compassionate, basically gentle man who engages the world with unflinching honesty and a minimum of entitlement.
I want Russ to grow, engage, love, grieve, celebrate—and best of all, solve mysteries that readers enjoy. I know I’ll grow as a writer as I work to deliver them.
Blurb: Family squabbles can be murder. Psychic PI Russ Morgan investigates a vandalized marijuana grow in Mesa County Colorado, landing in the middle of a ferocious family feud that’s escalating in a hurry. Five siblings fight over the family ranch as it staggers on the brink of bankruptcy, marijuana its only salvation. Not everyone agrees, but only one of them is willing to kill to make a point. Russ also has a personal puzzle to solve as he questions his deepening relationship with Colin Stewart, a man half his age. His rational mind says being with Colin is the fast track to heartbreak, but it feels grounding, sane, and good. Now, that’s really dangerous…