Charlotte Stuart has taught college courses in communication, gone commercial fishing in Alaska, and was the VP of HR and Training for a large credit union. Her latest challenge is writing lighthearted mysteries. The first book in her Cameron Chandler Mystery series is Survival Can Be Deadly.
All about relationships
“Survival Can Be Deadly is a lighthearted mystery that I’ve grounded in relationships – with family, friends and work colleagues,” Charlotte said. “For example, when Cameron tells her two kids that she has finally landed a job, her son’s response is not surprising. He tells her ‘that’s great,’ then turns back to the television.”
As part of this emphasis on relationships, Charlotte said she wanted her protagonist to be both strong and vulnerable. “She’s as close to a ‘real’ person as possible given the circumstances she finds herself in. As in this scene:
There seemed to be a lot of trails on their property. I hoped … they didn’t patrol them during the day. If there was anyone around, they would undoubtedly hear me. Although I was trying to walk quietly, I wasn’t exactly the last of the Mohicans. My shoes found things to crunch and grind no matter how hard I tried to be quiet.
Keeping it real
Charlotte said catalyst for the book came from several sources. “I visited a commune in a remote location, had friends who were making plans to survive a disaster, and came across a small detective agency in an offbeat neighborhood near downtown Seattle. The latter started me thinking about unusual locations for detective agencies. Researching survivalists revealed a goldmine of information. And, having spent time in the San Juan Islands, one of the islands seemed like the ideal place to locate a survivalist camp. After that, the storyline followed.”
When writing, Charlotte likes to keep the actions and events grounded in reality. “None of my characters have super powers,” she said. “Things that happen could happen. And, although violence and negativity are ubiquitous in today’s world, I lean toward writing about camaraderie and situations that hopefully make the reader smile from time to time. In my mind, humor and excitement are not polar opposites but good working partners.”
Charlotte and her husband take a daily walk, during which time they often talk about her writing. “We’re often on narrow paths in the woods and don’t always hear other people coming in our direction until we’re quite close. I always wonder how much of our conversation they’ve heard about such things as ways to sabotage cars, blood splatter, floaters, and great places to murder someone. I wouldn’t be surprised to find a police officer waiting for us at our car at the end.”
Interviewing the interviewees
After developing several workshops on interviewing for HR professionals, Charlotte decided she wanted to hear stories about the process from the interviewees’ point of view. The results were quite surprising.
“I quickly discovered that everyone has at least one bad interview that haunts them. I spent almost a year collecting interviews and used them in a book I wrote to use in my consulting practice. I hoped the stories would offer solace and a few laughs to interviewees and would provide perspective for my clients.
“Sometimes people were slow to open up, but when they did, many had multiple stories to share. They may not have landed the job they were trying for. And most kicked themselves for mistakes made. But in the retelling, they saw the humor in what had happened. One of the interviewees suggested the subtitle for my book: the comic, tragic and just plain ugly.
“As I collected these stories, I also learned a lot about interviewing techniques. For instance, one person explained how to beat a polygraph. First, you need to put a tack in your shoe so that your pain registers the same on the screen for all of the questions. Second, there’s the pad that you sit on. If you bunch up your butt cheeks or move your feet, that’s a sign that you might be lying. So, put a tack in your shoe and relax those buttocks. You’ll pass your polygraph and land the job of your dreams.”
Learn more about Charlotte Stuart at www.charlottestuart.com