Q&A with Michael Allen Dymmoch, Author of Courtin’ Murder in West Wheeling

Michael Allen Dymmoch, author of Courtin' Murder in West Wheeling, found time in her busy schedule to answer some of CrimeHQ's questions about how she got her start in writing, some of her travels, and advice for aspiring writers wanting to add suspense.
 

How did you get your start as a writer?

I found a book at the library titled Maybe You Should Write a Book. The premise was that someone writes books, so if you have an idea for a book, you should write it.

What kind of media (books, TV, movies) had the biggest effect on your writing career?

My grandmother read books to me before I could read (I don't remember the titles), and I was hooked on her stories of life on her farm. When I finally learned to read, I tore through the school library—mostly books about horses or dogs. I was also an avid TV and movie fan—westerns, suspense, and the various Warner Brothers and Quinn-Martin series.

Tell us a bit about world-traveling experiences—what's the wildest story, or most memorable experience you've had in your travels?

In college, I traveled to Mexico—via air to El Paso, then a Mexican bus to Mexico City. I was a naive driver, so I thought night-time travel, at high speeds down mountain slopes and around hairpin curves, was exciting. When the bus broke down near a desert gas station, the layover was an adventure. Three decades later, and with years of experience as a bus driver, I've vowed to never take another bus trip—unless I'm driving.

Were there any real-life events that inspired Courtin’ Murder in West Wheeling?

Crimes, accidents, and odd occurrences reported in the news—a few events that I was involved in, which have been greatly embroidered.

Did any other books inspire or influence this book? 

Courtin' Murder is a sequel that takes off where Death in West Wheeling ended, but I'm sure both books were influenced by The Monkey Wrench Gang and Li'l Abner.

Tell us about your main character. Where did he come from, as a character?

I woke up one morning with the opening scene of Death in West Wheeling playing in my head, with my dad as Granpa Ross. Homer Deters, the protagonist and narrator, was inspired by an instructor I had for a Police Operations course—a man smart enough to earn two masters degrees and a fascinating story teller. 

Tell us about the writing process of this book. How did the story develop or unfold in your head?

I started with an opening scene and asked: “Then what would happen?” and “What else could possibly go wrong?” Police procedurals are fairly easy to write if you know police procedure. The procedure is a roadmap for the plot from which you can deviate to complicate or obfuscate the story.

What makes the setting special, in your mind?

In an imaginary place, anything can plausibly occur, and West Wheeling's rural setting enables me to enjoy the practical and sometimes zany solutions people who live in rural areas have to come up with—many of which would be impossible in our litigious modern world.

What's your favorite part of Courtin' Murder in West Wheeling?

Parts. Homer's off-beats solutions to the problems of litterbugs, nosey neighbors, officious lawyers et al. and scenes where Homer interacts with Rye, Nina and Skip.

Any tips for aspiring writers trying to capture suspense in their writing?

Start with a question, e.g. “Nina, will you Marry me?” and put off the answer until the final chapter. In the interim, construct interesting or humorous scenes that will provide red herrings or prevent the protagonist from making any substantial headway.

 

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Michael Dymmoch is the author of ten novels, including the John Thinnes and Jack Caleb mysteries. Michael ventured into romantic suspense with The Fall and M.I.A.. In preparation for a writing career, she took classes on law enforcement, “Gunshot and Stab Wounds”, crime scene investigation, and screenwriting. She's attended autopsies and worked as a baby sitter, veterinary assistant, medical research tech, recycler, and professional driver. Michael has served as President and Secretary of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and newsletter editor for the Chicagoland Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Michael currently lives and writes in Chicago.

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