Apr 20, 2022 | 2022 Articles, Books & Tales, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Nancy Herriman

Authors are often asked how they came up with the idea for their book. I don’t know how others answer that question, but for me the reply is that it’s rather a puzzle. Often, inspiration has been triggered by random events: a snippet of overheard conversation that suggests an intriguing conflict (one reason I missed working in coffeeshops during the pandemic—all those lost opportunities for a new idea!), an article in the newspaper that presents a host of fascinating possibilities, or even something as obscure as the definition of an unusual phrase found in an old dictionary (which led to the basis of the first novel I ever published).

So, how did these ‘bolts from the blue’ play out in my Mystery of Old San Francisco books? The idea for the first book in the series took root when I discovered accounts in the San Francisco Daily Alta describing the often violent anti-Chinese movement that emerged in early 1867. How might that play out, I wondered, if my heroine and chief sleuth had a Chinese patient (Celia Davies is a nurse) who is found drowned in the bay? Another newspaper article about a succession of arsons plaguing San Francisco gave me the idea for my most recent release, No Refuge from the Grave. Who might stand to benefit from insurance fraud? And how might dangerous people from Celia’s past become involved in the crime, entangling her as well?

I haven’t returned to the coffeeshops yet, but I’m always on the lookout for the next unlikely source of inspiration. And if you’re an aspiring author, my best advice is:

• Soak up the world. Listen and observe.
• Read widely and maybe even randomly, especially outside your genre.
• Go for a walk outside, weather permitting. Even a stroll around the house might work.
• Immerse yourself in a mundane task, like vacuuming. I can’t tell you how often I’ve had fresh ideas while dusting (and not just about how much I hate dusting).
• Refill the creative well. For me, I might achieve that by going to an art museum or listening to music.
• Relish quiet time. Meditate.

Or do what works best for you. You just might find the kernel of an idea that will grow into your next novel in the most unexpected way.

Nancy Herriman

About No Refuge from the Grave

Book 5 in the Mystery of Old San Francisco series once again pairs nurse Celia Davies and Detective Nicholas Greaves, who discover that sometimes the past refuses to stay buried.

When yet another fire destroys a struggling business in the heart of San Francisco, Detective Nick Greaves is fairly certain they’ve got an arsonist on their hands and that lucrative insurance claims are the motive. But before he can act on his suspicions, Celia Davies alerts him that she has discovered the dead body of a notorious loan shark, murdered and left on the doorstep of the very insurance agent Nick suspected of fraud. An agent whose wife has only recently hired Celia to retrieve a stolen locket, accusing an old rival of being the thief.

As she and Nick pursue their few murky leads, they discover a shadowy network that counts some of San Francisco’s most prominent businessmen as members. And when a policeman at the center of it all is found dead, Celia and Nick must sort through the ashes of a conspiracy to bring down a ruthless killer.

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Nancy Herriman has fronted a bar band, acted on stage, and worked in the tech industry as an engineer. Writing is her current and most long-lasting passion. Her work has won the Daphne du Maurier award, and Publishers Weekly says her ‘A Mystery of Old San Francisco’ series “…brings 1867 San Francisco to vivid life.” She is also the author of the Bess Ellyott Mystery series set in Tudor England and two stand-alone historical novels. After twenty years in Arizona, she now lives in her home state of Ohio.
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Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


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