Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Motherhood and Murder

By Kay Kendall
Author Kay Kendall and bunny Dusty

When I conceived of my mystery series featuring Austin Starr, amateur sleuth, I knew she would become a mother by book two. My heroine would have the temperament of Nancy Drew, if only she had grown up, gotten married, and—wait for it—had a baby. And so it came to pass. That book launches next week on July 7. In Rainy Day Women, Wyatt Starr makes his first fictional appearance. He is three months old.

Sad to say, his gestation and birth were not easy. Even though I tried to make him an integral part of the story, when I took new pages to writing group on Wednesday nights, one member invariably asked, “Where’s Wyatt?” Sometimes the woman said, “Doesn’t Wyatt need a clean diaper now?” I admitted it was difficult caring for a child—even a fictional one—while solving the murders of  women’s liberation activists. Eventually after many sessions like this, I internalized the voice of that group member. She seemed to sit beside me as I typed on my PC. “What’s Wyatt doing now?” she whispered in my ear.

A man in our group once pounded his fist and asked, “Can’t you get rid of Wyatt? Austin Starr doesn’t need to be a mother.” I replied, “Yes, she does. Her pregnancy is announced at the end of book one, and she will not miscarry.” All group members agreed we had come to comprehend more fully why so few children are found running through murder mysteries.  

Determined to retain baby Wyatt, I needed to ensure I didn’t make any missteps about him on the page. After all, my own child was now in his forties. What did I recall about the day-to-day care of an infant? Visits with my two darling grandchildren weren’t enough to refresh my mind sufficiently.

Houston writers Cathy (l.) and Emily
That’s where two budding novelists came into the picture.  I met Cathy and Emily at a previous writing group I attended. Cathy was married and had children who were four and seven years old, and Emily’s children were even younger. As we all became good friends, I saw how much they had to juggle in their lives. Viewing their unending childcare duties refreshed my memories of how my own life had once been that hectic too, when my son was small. Both women were kind enough to read through my manuscript before I sent it to my editor and found a few details to tweak that related to Austin Starr’s baby. For their diligence, Cathy and Emily earned hearty thanks in the acknowledgement section of my book.

But one last read-through was required. My college friend Regina had earned
Dr. Regina Miller
her Ph.D. in child psychology, and she agreed to read my manuscript looking for missteps too. In fact, she did triple duty. Her command of the Russian language is better than mine so she checked my occasional uses of Russian. Similarly, being of Jewish faith, she reviewed my references to several characters who were Holocaust survivors. Regina is also gratefully thanked in my acknowledgements section.

I encourage you to read Rainy Day Women and decide for yourself if Wyatt's welfare is adequately tended to. Just keep this in mind. The mystery takes place in August 1969—so long ago that no laws existed to require the use of car seats for children. Austin Starr was following the custom of the day—and would not have been considered negligent—when she cuddles her son while she is a passenger in a car. Children have come a long way, baby!
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Kay Kendall is a long-time fan of historical novels and writes atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit and turbulence of the sixties. She is also an award-winning international PR executive who lives in Texas with her husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to her bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she's a Bob Dylan buff too. RAINY DAY WOMEN publishes on July 7--the second in her Austin Starr Mystery series. The E-book and paperback are available for pre-order now--for purchase on July 7th. The audio-book will be soon. 

8 comments:

  1. Looking forward to seeing how you cared for all of your characters - particularly Wyatt. Taking the time to keep him in was important as a miscarriage, while sad, would have belied the juggling modern Nancy Drews and women have to balance (perhaps more so in 1969 when the image of the super woman was coming into play)

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    1. Exactly so, Debra. It becomes a running thread in the book...how to care for Wyatt...first when Austin wants to fly across the continent to help out her friend Larissa, fingered for a crime she didn't commit...then what to do about childcare to let Austin go nosing around. The funny thing about the woman in my writing group who kept saying "WHERE's Wyatt and what is he doing now?" is that she was the only female in the group who had never had children!

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  2. It takes a village to take care of Wyatt and Austin . . .
    Looking forward to reading this one and vicariously solving crimes while caring for the little one. You've reminded me of the "good old days" when we could pile as many kids as we could fit into a car. Of course, cars were more solid, and generally driven slower than now, so we survived.

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  3. storytellemary, you wouldn't believe the problems I had with Wyatt being in a car! I wanted everything to be historically accurate, but once you get rid of all the newfangled stuff that is now required by law, then what do you do? I could not exactly remember. I had to check with several people. It really was an exercise in going way back in time. And I could have written pages on what we did before disposable diapers were common...but didn't since it would have been a distraction. I spend half of my time--or more--these days living in my head in the sixties, and I am acutely aware of how much was different...technologically and in social mores. I think it is important for people to understand how things have evolved. That's why in each of my books I make sure that poor Austin Starr is always running around looking for a phone!

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  4. Can't wait to read about Austin's new adventures and find out how she juggles Wyatt.

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  5. Thank you, Marjorie. It was an interesting mental exercise, relearning how to care for an infant again, full time.

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  6. I'm reading Rainy Day Women now--received it from the publisher--and what I've read so far is definitely intriguing. Yep, juggling kids while doing anything else is tough--had five of the darlings--wrote and had many different jobs over the year.

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  7. OH, Marilyn, that makes me so, so happy to learn you are reading it now. I don't know how you did it--five kids! I had one and was an only child...and I've marveled over the years when I read about the authors who have, say, three kids and sit down at the kitchen table and whip out a book, and then the kiddos come home and the authors return to being mom. My issue is that, although I CAN juggle, I look to go so far into a project that I don't like to come out again.... I thought it was perfect/fitting to have Austin Starr be a new mother when she starts learning about women's lib. I hope you enjoy the read! Thanks so much fir reading it!.

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