|Writing on the Road: Novelist Sue Henry, by Jaimie Hall|
It's no surprise that many RVers are would-be writers. While most RV writing consists of how-to or destination pieces, we now have a fiction series whose main character is an RVer. Sue Henry's sixty-something woman RVer isn't the usual protagonist in a murder mystery, but it works. The first whodunit in the series, The Serpents Trail, finds Maxie McNabb and her mini-dachshund Stretch traveling in her Minnie Winnie from Alaska to Grand Junction, Colorado, to her dying friend's aid.
I was introduced to author Sue Henry's writing and characters Maxie and Stretch on a trip down the Alaska Highway. We stopped at Dawson Peaks Resort near Teslin in the Yukon, the setting for the final scenes in Dead North, another of Henry's mysteries. The story unfolds along the Alaska Highway, so it was fun reading about places we had visited like Liard Hot Springs. Readers enjoyed Maxie, so now she has her own series.
I recently spoke by telephone with Sue Henry
who was at her home in Alaska. Though she had dreamed of writing
a novel, it didn't happen until she was in her fifties. Murder
on the Iditarod Trail was going to be her only book
but it won awards, and readers liked it. She has been writing
ever since. The twelfth, Murder
at Five Finger Light, will be out next spring, and
she's working on the thirteenth, The Tooth of Time,
which will be published in spring 2006.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Curious about the writing process, I asked
Henry how she chose her setting for The Serpent's Trail.
She had visited Grand Junction several times and her father
was born there, so it was familiar. Readers there are delighted
she got the names of streets and businesses right. Did she
own a dog? Stretch is based on her neighbor's mini-dachshund,
and the neighbor's RV bears a sign, "Stretch lives here."
The titles for the Maxie and Stretch series come from local landmarks. Who could resist "The Serpents Trail" in Colorado National Monument, especially when located between the Devil's Kitchen and Cold Shivers Point? "The Tooth of Time" is a prominent landmark rising high above the Philmont Scout Ranch outside Cimarron, New Mexico; the second Maxie and Stretch book will be set there and in Taos.
Henry has owned and rented motorhomes for many years, though she is currently between RVs. Driving RVs came easy after driving the Fairbanks bookmobile in the 1970s. Designed especially for Alaska, it had an 18-wheeler cab, galley, an electrical umbilical cord, and a big propane tank for starting the motor in sub-freezing weather. Henry has also traveled the Alaska Highway four times in a motorhome.
ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON A ROLL
I asked Henry for advice for would-be RV writers. "You need a laptop," she said. "It saves having to carry reference books."
- Use the places you go for your stories.
- Take notes and photos.
- Make local contacts.
- Pick up brochures and maps at Chambers of Commerce
- Pay attention to local talk and mannerisms.
- Get a local telephone book.
- Give people who help you credit.
After thoroughly enjoying The Serpents
Trail, I eagerly await the next Maxie and Stretch
mystery,The Tooth of Time.