The concept intrigued me, and not just because of the tangible link to my novel. The reality is, we all have skeletons, if not in our attics, in our proverbial closets. Our characters, if they are to be believable, need to have secrets as well. Some of those secrets might be shared with the reader; some may stay hidden, at least for the time being.
In the case of Skeletons in the Attic, my protagonist is Calamity (Callie) Barnstable, and while Callie has a few secrets of her own, the book’s title refers to the skeletons she uncovers when trying to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance thirty years before.
It’s not that Callie necessarily wants to delve into the past, but her father, recently deceased in an “unfortunate occupational accident,” has left her a house in the town of Marketville—a house she never knew existed—under the proviso that she finds out who murdered her mother. A mother Callie has always believed left for “the milkman or some other male equivalent” when Callie was just six-years-old.
Callie accepts the assignment with some reluctance, and before long she finds herself discovering things that might have best been left in the past. But not every skeleton holds an unpleasant memory. There’s the trunk in the attic filled with memories: the sweatshirt from John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow tour—her father’s favorite musician. The mother-and-daughter matching outfits—leotards and legwarmers—prompting Callie to remember laughing with her mother as they tried to follow along with Jane Fonda’s aerobics. Her mother’s grease-stained, handwritten recipe for peanut butter cookies; Callie was always allowed to make the crisscross pattern on the top with a fork.
Allowing our protagonists to have skeletons, good and bad, helps the reader to identify with the character. How much of my protagonist’s past is my past, you might ask. That’s a secret for another day…though I will admit to owning that sweatshirt, along with a souvenir program from the Scarecrow tour.
Always did love John Mellencamp’s music.
Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series,
Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Find Judy on her website/blog at www.judypenzsheluk.com, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.