My second novel, Murder Over Kodiak, is based on Kodiak Island, Alaska, where I live. Most of the story takes place in the town of Kodiak, where Jane works as a biologist at a marine science center. Later in the novel, Jane travels to the west side of Kodiak Island to Uyak Bay to collect clams to test for the presence of a natural toxin. Her campsite on this field trip is approximately fifteen miles from my actual home in the Kodiak wilderness, so describing the ambient temperature and other weather conditions Jane might encounter on a July day, as well as what she would likely see and smell, is easy for me, because I’ve spent many July days in this pristine wilderness. At one point, Jane has an encounter with a bear, and since there more than 3500 Kodiak bears on the Kodiak Island Archipelago, seeing a bear in the woods or on the beach is a common experience.
When thinking up an idea for a new mystery, I like to think, what if . . . . In the case of this novel, I thought, what if a floatplane crashed not because of bad weather, pilot error, or a mechanical malfunction, but what if the cause was something much more sinister such as a bomb? How would the residents of Kodiak react when problems from the outside world invaded our normally peaceful island?
Kodiak Island is beautiful with lush vegetation, steep mountains that rise nearly straight up from sea level, fjord-like bays, and at times, some of the worst weather on the planet. We see a few storms each year where storm-force winds spawn waves towering over 30 ft. Throw 3500 bears into the mix, and you have an awe-inspiring setting that can evoke many “what if” questions in an author’s mind.
The rugged men and women who call Kodiak home include commercial fishermen, bush plane pilots, guides, fish and wildlife researchers, and Coast Guard pilots and rescue swimmers, all who do their jobs by being willing to brave the challenging environment in which they live and work. I don’t have to use much imagination to create colorful, inspiring characters for my books. In fact, I know some actual people who are so colorful that no one would find them believable as characters in a novel.
I am lucky to have this rich, unique environment to inspire me when I write. I think and hope my novels will appeal to readers who love mysteries, but also to people who enjoy reading about Alaska and the wilderness.