Today Phyllis Smallman joins us to talk about the inspiration behind her new novel, Long Gone Man.
Inspiration for a book can come from anywhere, a song, an overheard conversation or a homeless person you meet on the street. The first inspiration for Long Gone Man came from my love of Agatha Christie. In the fifties, she wrote a play called the Unexpected Guest. It had the best opening scene of any mystery ever, a car goes off the road in a fog and the driver walks to the nearest house. The door is opened by a woman with a gun. The beautiful woman lifts the gun and says, “Come in.”
Salt Spring Island is one of over two hundred islands off the coast of British Columbia. There are two ways to get to the island, ferries or boats, but both take planning so a hasty crime and escape is out of the question. But still, with a boat you can come and go and no one is the wiser. A month after I moved to the island I met a homeless woman living in a van, at least at the time I thought she was homeless. This woman was different from other homeless people. She seemed to be in control of her life and exactly where she wanted to be. Years later I realized that she may well have been one of the many tourists who wander through the islands on boats, bicycles and in vehicles. It didn’t matter. She piqued my curiosity. As I walked around down town, doing chores, and then climbed back up the toe of the mountain to where we live, I created a back story of a homeless singer who had come to Glenphiddie Island for revenge. I started writing that day.
The third part of the story came from a magazine story about an old rock and roll artist. I can’t remember his name now but he was important at one time. He talked about the drugs sold at concerts by band members. Sometimes the bands made more of their money from selling drugs than they did from ticket sales. And then there was one small piece of the puzzle to add. What would have happened to Janice Joplin if she hadn’t overdosed back in 1970? Would she have ended up homeless and singing on the streets?
Minds are wonderful things. Like a bird building a nest, they take a piece of string from here, a twig from there and down from their own breasts and weave it into a story.
Phyllis Smallman’s first novel, Margarita Nights, won the inaugural Unhanged Author award from the Crime Writers of Canada and she has received two awards from the Florida Writers Association. Champagne for Buzzards is shortlisted as the best Florida book for 2012. Her work has appeared in both Spinetingler Magazine and Omni Mystery Magazine. Long Gone Man is her 6th book.