Madeline (M.M.) Gornell has nine published Literary Mystery novels, some of which have garnered awards, such as Uncle Si’s Secret (PSWA award winner), Death of a Perfect Man, Lies of Convenience (Hollywood Book Festival Honorable Mention), Reticence of Ravens (finalist for Eric Hoffer 2011 fiction Prize, the da Vinci Eye for cover art, and the Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book), Counsel of Ravens ( London Book Festival Honorary Mention and LA Book Festival Runner-Up), Rhodes The Mojave-Stone (Honorable Mention in the San Francisco Book Festival), Rhodes The Movie-Maker received Honorable Mention in The Great Midwest Book Festival, Rhodes The Caretakers. Her latest, Rhodes Never Forgotten, recently received Honorable Mentions in the LA Book Festival, The San Francisco Book Festival, and The New York Book Festival.
Settings and character uniqueness are her inspiration, and she currently continues to be inspired by the Mojave Desert—its beauty and all the human tales—as she likes to say, “blowing on the Mojave winds…”
Madeline lives with her husband and assorted canines in Newberry Springs on Route 66.
For some, the unknown future is far more interesting than past or present realities. The Mojave Desert, especially along Route 66, offers endless possibilities for exploration into past happenings, experiencing the intensity of the desert environment in the present, and positing unknown futures. And, of course, for creating fanciful fiction spanning all time periods.
Thank you so much, George, for inviting me to your blog! For me, scenery and characters are writing’s “Holy Grail,” and I think I will be answering several of your excellent questions by just talking about setting and characters in terms of my novels.
For sure, settings have inspired all my books. Years ago, we lived in North Bend, WA, at the base of Mt. Si. Thus, the inspiration for Uncle Si’s Secret—my trying to share the magnificent and grandiose Pacific Northwest. And tell a story—and a murder—at the same time. It took many rejections before finally being published. And of course, when it was, I was on cloud nine!
When leaving Puget Sound and before ending up in the Mojave, we looked around several western states from a base in Ridgecrest, California (with two dogs and a cat!) That locale inspired Death of a Perfect Man. One particular street in the town seemed to call to me and plays in several key scenes. Setting had worked its magic again. When finally settling in San Bernardino County, CA, in the high desert, all my other books have been inspired by the “new to me” at the time, and now still awesomeness of the Mojave Desert in my area.
My characters are completely made up (I think!). They are people I would like or be interested in knowing more about—even the villains. And indeed, to your character questions, getting the right name is part of my development process. I’m fond of Welsh names and managed to squeeze “Delyth” into my latest.
For me, characters are the vehicle for a reader to experience my story. Through their eyes—actually all their senses—a reader experiences(I hope) my plot. What they see, the smells, the touches—not just their dialogue and my narrative. I have nattered on in past writings about developing characters, and honestly, I am still challenged by telling my story through their eyes the best I can. For me, writing isn’t an end accomplishment but a continuing process. To your question about aspiring writers, that would most probably be my advice—always challenge yourself to do better. As an aside, I write in 3rd person, and my lead characters are of the opposite sex.
And to answer one more of your excellent questions, my favorite authors are Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh, and P.D. James.
Finally, I’d like to put in a plug for Public Safety Writers Association. I haven’t been able to attend conferences lately, but PSWA writers are the nicest and most supportive, information-laden and eager to share, group of writers I’ve ever met. My first novel was a prize winner at PSWA, and again put me on cloud nine!
Good morning, George, and I’m honored to be here! Thanks so much for the invite
Glad to have you pay us a visit.
Loved this. Madeline is another good friend of mine. We’ve been to several conferences and conventions together and were roommates at one. I’m a fan of her books–especially those about the Mojave. Not my favorite place in California, but when she writes about it, it becomes magical.
Thanks for stopping by, Marilyn, and your kind words. Oh, I remember our conference and convention adventure, so well. Fond memories I’ll keep forever–especially staying up late and gabbing and laughing. And yes, this desert living isn’t for everyone, and it still surprises me I like it here! You never know…
I like Madeline’s books. She could almost lure me into liking the Mojave.
Hi Mar, it’s been along time since we were both at a PSWA conference, but I still remember you, and your kindnesses to me well! Thank you for stopping by. This Mojave desert is sometimes quite a challenge–especially like this summer with 100+ weather every flinging day! But I’ve definitely come to appreciate the beauty out here…and for me personally, the isolation. I’ve always guessed I was a hermit…but now I know it! Thanks so much for stopping by.
Maddie is one of my favorite people and is also a fabulous writer. I loved Counsel of Ravens and highly recommend her books. I’m hoping to see her again at the next conference. Until then, take care and write on!
Thanks for your kind words, Mike, and your kind thoughts are reciprocal! I sure hope to make a conference pretty soon. Funny thing, my ravens don’t come around that much any more. Owls, I think? So glad you stopped by.
Nice blog post, Maddie. You are one of the good guys- a great writer, and a truly nice person! Hope to see you at the 2022 PSWA conference!
Haven’t seen you in ages, thank goodness for FB. Looking forward to see you down the road. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, means a lot to me.
Informative post, Madeline. I had no idea you lived in so many different places. I love to spend time with the characters in your novels, and the settings always take me away to places I would never have thought to visit. Looking forward to reading your next novel.
Your comment about your characters being the vehicles through which the reader experiences the story was profound. But that is how your stories carry us along. And of course your scenery comes alive in every one of your books. A great inter.
Thank you so much, for stopping by, Evelyn! We’ve been here a long time now…I guess the desert has captured us. (Born and raised in Chicago through, and hubby also lived in Great Falls, Montana for one winter! and Houston Texas for one summer! And thank so much for the kind writing words. Makes me feel like it’s worth it.
Thanks for stopping by, Gayle, I’m guessing you’re a pretty busy lady right now! But your electronic visit makes me feel like you’re still in the area! And you are the one who knows about characters and scenery…and fortunately share your writing advice with us all. As you say, write on!
What a profound statement you made about your characters being the vehicles with which you take your readers on the journey through your books. You do that so well along with painting those vivid landscapes through which you also transport us readers. I always enjoy the trip.
I’m looking forward reading one of your books.
Thank you Lynn! Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy my books.