Ladies of Intrigue conference offers clues to mystery writing

Event at the Hotel Huntington Beach will include discussions on plots, settings and characters.

March 25, 2014|By Michael Miller
  • Mystery author Gayle Carline is organizer of the first annual Ladies of Intrigue event, held this Saturday at Hotel Huntington Beach, which will feature a dozen women mystery writers.
Mystery author Gayle Carline is organizer of the first… (KEVIN CHANG, HB…)

When Gayle Carline walked into the Hotel Huntington Beach for the first time Monday, she scanned the lobby and saw a multitude of possibilities — all of them lethal.

The piano in the corner of the dimly lighted room could fit a corpse inside, as could the hosting counter outside the ground-floor restaurant. And the sign a few feet away, which read "Please Wait to Be Seated," could easily be tweaked to "Please Wait to Be Murdered."

Welcome to the psyche of a mystery author. Carline, who has written four novels in the genre, often finds herself scrutinizing new locations for possible plotlines — in particular, places where a body's discovery can set a plot in motion.

"Mystery authors can be kind of a strange bunch," the Placentia resident said. "So while you're touring some really beautiful scenery, like my girlfriend who writes for the Wine Lover's Mystery series — she was up in Napa touring the vineyard and started thinking, 'You know, I bet you could hide a body here.' I mean, it sounds macabre, but we kind of do go out and go, 'I think you could hide someone out here, or some thing.'"


Carline has kindred spirits in that regard, for sure. When she spoke recently to a local women's club, one member asked her to set a mystery inside the venue — and within moments, the women were brainstorming about possible locations for the victim's remains.

For others with similar imaginations, Carline will join 17 other female mystery authors at the first Ladies of Intrigue conference Saturday at the Hotel Huntington Beach. The daylong event includes lunch, book signings and seminars, plus panel discussions on international plots, strong female characters and the importance of setting.

While Carline will give the introduction Saturday, the featured speaking slots will go to Carolyn Hart, author of the "Death on Demand" series, and Rhys Bowen, an English author with three series to her credit.

So what kind of personality spawns a mystery author? Jill Amadio, a Dana Point resident who will appear on the character panel, credits her work to innate curiosity.

"I think we like puzzles," she said. "My book is a cat-and-mouse game with the murderer and the sleuth — the amateur sleuth. It's fun to see where it goes. Some of us don't always know, until we start writing the mystery, where it's going to go. Sometimes things will show up on my computer screen, and I'll look at it and think, 'Oh, that's interesting.'"

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