Monday, November 1, 2010

Vicki Delany on Negative Image and Constable Molly Smith

This week the Criminal Minds will be interrogating Vicki Delany, author of the Constable Molly Smith series published by Poisoned Pen Press and the Klondike Gold Rush series from Rendezvous Crime. Vicki's newest book is Negative Image.

Question from Lois

Vicki, you've mentioned that you purposely wrote Molly Smith as young, green, and naive at the start of your series because you wanted room for her to grow as a woman and police officer. Did you map out a character arc that will play out over a certain number of books before you even began writing, or do you just go with a vague idea and let the character dictate direction to you as the story and future books unfolds?

First may I say what a delight it is to be back at Criminal Minds. Many thanks to Kelli for arranging it and to you all for asking me such great questions. Please remember that the door at Type M for Murder is open.

Back to Lois’s question. I didn’t think that far ahead. I wanted a female protagonist because even today there aren’t nearly as many women starring in police novels as men. I wanted co-protagonists and it seemed natural that they should be pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum career wise. He’s tough and jaded, she’s shiny and eager. My other books all feature women more middle-aged, and as I have three daughters of my own in their twenties and early thirties I wanted to explore what the world is like these days for women of that age. Not that Molly is intended to be one of my daughters, she isn’t. Here’s Molly Smith in the first book in the series, In the Shadow of the Glacier (the first in the series), thinking about her situation:

It was hard, sometimes, to be a cop in a town where a substantial number of the residents had seen you performing as Number Two Wise Man in the Grade Three Christmas pageant.

And that was about it for long-term planning. I was finishing up In the Shadow of the Glacier when I noticed the young Mountie, Adam Tocek, giving Molly the eye. That hadn’t even been my intention but I thought hum… I could do something with that.

In terms of letting the characters dictate, the best example I have is Sergeant Winters’ wife, Eliza. As I began the scene in In the Shadow of the Glacier where we first meet him, I had him on a date with a beautiful model. He’s bought her a gift he can’t afford because he’s trying to score. By the time the scene ended, and he’s called to the location of a murder, they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. I love that about writing – when the characters just take over. I think it’s your subconscious, knowing better than you do what the book needs. Winters is a better character with a stable marriage behind him, and it provides another contrast with Molly, whose romantic life is always a jumble.

For book number two, Valley of the Lost, I wrote a scene where Eliza Winters is thinking about her past. The whole scene was cut from the final version, but it planted a seed for what became the main plot of the newest book, Negative Image. Here’s a hint.

“You bastard,” she said, shocked at what she’d done. “You know nothing about it. I was young, I was innocent and naive, and I was living in a world where everyone, from my agent to my fiancĂ©, was only interested in making sure I generated as much money as possible.

Back to Molly: one problem with a protagonist outside of your age group: I don’t know all the slang and how they talk. I often call upon my daughters for help with what we call young-people talk. An example: one of Molly’s friends says that John Winters is a doll. My daughters fell on the floor laughing and had me change it to hot.

The first chapters of some of Vicki's books, including Negative Image, are on her web page at


Meredith Cole said...

Thanks so much for being out guest this week, Vicki! I also love when characters do surprising things and lead you to unexpected places in your story. It can be so much fun.

Your description of your characters and their dynamic sounds so intriguing! I look forward to reading Negative Image.

Vicki Delany said...

Thanks, Meredith. A pleasure to be here.

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks for coming on board, Vicki!! It's always an utter delight to get to hear about what mischief you're making for your protagonists! ;)

I love the fact that characters control us, to an extent--they let us know when we don't get something right.

Can't wait to hear more through the week!!


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Welcome, Vicki! Thanks for spending a week here. I loved the line you quoted about being a cop where people had seen you as Number Two Wise Man. What a brilliant summary of character and setting!

Those unruly characters just don't always do what they're told. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes...Not.

Can't wait to see your posts the rest of the week!