Bestselling mystery writer Diane Mott Davidson told the Richmond Times Dispatch that she has an unusual method of staying in touch with her characters. She writes letters to them… and they write back to her.
"The way that I get into the voice of Goldy is to write, ‘Tell me what happened when you went into the law firm and found the body.’ Then she writes back. It just helps me immensely, I guess because I love to write letters
She’s been keeping up with her characters this way since her first mystery, "Catering to Nobody" The latest, "Double Shot," has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for three weeks. It’s the 12th in the series that features a caterer as the amateur sleuth.
But don’t get the wrong idea about Diane’s letter writing: We’re not talking
about some kind of mystical channeling here. It’s simply the way she pays
attention to her characters and lets them lead the way through her books.
It’s also the way Diane, who went to boarding school in Charlottesville,
connects with her characters’ emotions. "You can’t manipulate that. I know as a
reader myself that if I feel manipulated, if a character just doesn’t ring true,
I’m not going to read the book.
"I want to get inside a character’s head, but I also want to get inside a
character’s heart. When I’m writing a book, I need to know: ‘What’s in your
heart? What are you feeling?’ A letter is such an intimate way to find out. It’s
even more intimate than talking to someone in person, I think. Because you’re
not looking at them, you can let your heart spill out.
"This will sound funny, but Goldy has even written me letters that say, ‘I
don’t want this in the book.’"
I’ve never heard of that novel-writing method before. It seems to me like she’s doing twice as much writing as necessary… but hey, whatever works. And it certainly has for her.
I wonder if she actually mails the letters back and forth, just to add that touch of realism to the experience…