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!