Friday, February 10, 2012

Dorothy James - A Place to Die - Guest Post

My thanks to Dorothy James for stopping by The Plot Thickens for a guest post during the blog tour for her book, A Place to Die.

Guest Post

How I Developed the Plot of A Place to Die

When I was a couple of hundred pages into A Place to Die, my first murder mystery, I decided to read a book on how to write a murder mystery. I found one easily, and the author argued convincingly that a good mystery needs to be mapped out ahead of time: You need a detailed outline and biographies of the main characters, and then with everything in place, you can concentrate on writing the novel: In control of the basic material, you will not have to grope around discovering what the story is all about. You will be a professional mystery writer.

I thought, he may be right but I can’t do it that way. To me the excitement of writing a murder mystery was not so different from that of reading one. What had kept me turning the blank pages of my mystery so far had been the desire to know what came next. If I had known the main facts from the beginning, if I had known exactly what my characters were like, where would be the genuine throb of interest that would keep me turning my pages?

I did know from the beginning where I wanted to set the novel: In an old people’s residence in Vienna. A running theme in the novel would be the whole fascinating business of growing old. I would use the device of a murder mystery to explore a group of old people, their carers and their families. They would reside in a closed society, as in the traditional country-house murder mystery, and the investigation of the murder would necessitate the interviewing of residents, one after the other.

Thus the murder, which occurred on the first page, long before I knew the murdered man, let alone the murderer, triggered the plot. And the plot of course revolved around the search for the murderer. This search, I decided at the outset, would take about four days, during which the Inspector could plausibly stay in the home himself, living under the same roof as all the “suspects.” The characters would grow out of their interaction with each other—and the plot would be carried forward by the characters.

I had to hold a lot in my head as I went along. The “clues” dropped along the way had to be accounted for. I played a game with myself: Never go back and change details to make later plotting easier but rather make the developing plot fit in with had gone before.

Why did I do it this way? Because I would have been bored stiff, just following details of an already worked out plot. Is it easy to plot this way? No, in fact, I am just coming up to the difficult end of my second novel, and the detective and I have not yet worked out who the murderer is. But for me that’s what makes plotting a lot of fun.

About the Book
A Place to Die

Book Details:
Price: $34.99 hardcover, $23.99 paperback, $3.03-$9.99 ebook
Format: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Published: April 2010
Pages: 436
ISBN: 9781450082709, 9781450082693
Genre: Murder Mystery
Buy Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
Kindle, Nook, iBookstore

Eleanor and Franz Fabian arrive from New York to spend Christmas with Franzs mother in her sedate retirement home in the Vienna Woods. Their expectations are low: at best, boredom, at worst, run-of-the-mill family friction. But when the wealthy, charming Herr Graf is found dead in his apartment with an ugly head wound, the Fabians are thrust into a homicide investigation.

Some residents and staff have surprising connections to the dead man, but who would have wanted to kill him? Inspector Buchner tracks down the murderer against a backdrop of Viennese history from the Nazi years to the present day. Witty, suspenseful, lyrical, this is a literary whodunit that will keep you guessing till the last page.

About the Author
Dorothy James

Dorothy James was born in Wales and grew up in the South Wales Valleys. Writer, editor, and translator, she has published short stories as well as books and articles on German and Austrian literature. She has taught at universities in the U.S., England, and Germany, makes her home now in Brooklyn and often spends time in Vienna and Berlin.

She wrote A Place to Die in her attic apartment on the edge of the Vienna Woods. She has traveled far from Wales, but has not lost the Welsh love of playing with language; she writes poems for pleasure as does Chief Inspector B├╝chner, the whimsical Viennese detective who unravels the first mystery in this new series of novels.

Connect with Dorothy:
Web Site

About the Tour

Tribute Books Blog Tours

A Place to Die Blog Tour Site

Tour Participants:

February 6 (guest post)
Proud Book Nerd

February 6 (guest post)
Bibliophilic Book Blog

February 6 (author interview)
You Gotta Read

February 7 (guest post)
vvb32 reads

February 8 (guest post or author interview)
The Character Connection

February 8 (author interview)
I Am a Reader, Not a Writer

February 9 (review)
Kritters Ramblings

February 10 (review)
A Lovely Shore Breeze

February 10 (guest post or author interview)
The Plot Thickens

February 13 (guest post)
Book Dilettante

February 13 (review)
Books and Needlepoint

February 13 (review)
Tic Toc

February 14 (review)
Reviews by Molly

February 15 (guest post or author interview)
City Girl Who Loves to Read

February 15 (review)
The Book Connection

February 16 (review)
Book Dragon's Lair

February 16 (guest post)

February 17 (review)
Simple Wyrdings

February 18 (review)
Lesa's Book Critiques

February 21 (review)
Words by Webb

February 22 (guest post)
Mama Knows Books

February 23 (guest post)
Fighter Writer

February 24 (review)
Minding Spot


  1. Carol, thanks again for hosting Dorothy today. We appreciate it.

    I love how Dorothy says that even she didn't know who the murderer was at the beginning. It really is written as a true whodunit.

  2. Thanks, Carol, for giving me the chance to write this guest post. Nice to find a blog with a genuine interest in plotting! Look forward to hearing from your readers.

  3. I really enjoyed your post, Dorothy. Thanks for writing it for my blog.