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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie

GUEST POST: Author Mary Alford & ‘It All Starts With an Idea’


Oh boy! Oh Bowzer! Oh Rin Tin Tin!

Kimber the Magnificent here. I’m doin’ my tornado tail-waggin’ thing today. Know why? Cuz today’s one of my favorite kinda days! It’s a Guest Post Day with a New Favorite Author! It’s also a day when we get to find out where an author gets her ideas – setting, characters, plot and stuff like that. Have you ever wondered about that? We have!

So today’s your Bow-Wow Day! Yes siree, Lassie! We’re getting to know Mary Alford, author of Among the Innocent. (Read our full review here.) And she’s goin’ to answer that question and more! (Think of it as Sirloin Steak Day with a side of T-bone!!)

Ready? Set? Let’s go!

It All Starts With An Idea!

By Mary Alford

Have you ever wondered where authors get the ideas from their books from? I’m sure it’s different for each author, but I find that ideas come to me in many ways.
It can be something I see on TV, or perhaps read about online. Even bits of a dream have made their way into my books before. But I find I get my most valuable ideas while I’m out for my morning walks with my husband. I know—kind of anticlimactic, isn’t it?

But to get a clearer picture of what I’m talking about, let me explain about my walks. My husband and I live on 70 acres in the heart of Texas. Our property is a mixture of pastureland and woods and there is a variety of wildlife that occupy the woods, so you never know what you’re going to run across. Some are innocent little animals: some are not. You never know what’s lurking in the woods.
The idea for AMONG THE INNOCENT, my latest release from Revell, came from one of those walks.

The Plot: Good vs. Evil

In the past, I’ve written many romantic suspense stories, and I’ve always enjoyed setting them in an Amish community because it really spotlights the good versus evil aspect of a story. Taking the innocent ways of the Amish people and pitting them against a dangerous situation that could come from either a drug smuggler, or a weapon’s dealer, or in the case of AMONG THE INNOCENT, a serial killer returning to the place of his past kill to claim his final victim, really intensifies the suspense.

The Characters

After the idea comes to life, the characters are next for me. I wanted the main female character to be former Amish who had lost her entire family to a killer. As the only survivor, Leah Miller chose to leave the Amish faith and pursue a career in law enforcement. Soon, she will come face-to-face with the killer from her past.
The hero was Dalton Cooper, the new chief of police who has taken the job for a reason. Dalton has ties to Leah’s family tragedy in ways that Leah could not have imagined. Dalton’s adopted brother, Harrison, was accused of killing her family simply because he and Leah were friends. When Harrison supposedly died in a fire that he set himself before he could be arrested, the case was believed to be closed, only it wasn’t for Leah or Dalton.

The Setting

When I had the storyline and the characters worked out, coming up with the perfect setting for such a story was key. I knew I wanted to set it in a remote community in the mountains. I tend to gravitate toward the smaller communities because they make the best settings for my suspense stories.

Finding the right Amish community wasn’t easy. There are a few in Montana and I’d researched several in the past for other books. But one community in particular always had me returning to it. The St. Ignatius, Montana community.

The Community

It’s a very small community that is spread-out and backdropped by the rugged Mission Mountains. I loved creating scenes for the book that would feature the mountains because they have a way of changing with the time of day or the seasons adding suspense to a story and making the perfect place for a killer to hide, or to hide a body. They act as silent witnesses to the events taking place below them.

The Research

One of the great things about researching a book is the interesting things you find along the way and how much fun it is to slip those little jewels into a book.
For instance, the Amish community as well as the town of St. Ignatius both are located on tribal lands. They sit on the Flathead Indian Reservation and the Amish community is the only one in the US that is located on tribal lands. The 3 law enforcement agencies that patrol the area all work together to keep it safe. I loved that and was happy to add all three agencies into AMONG THE INNOCENT.
But the best surprise of all was discovering the St. Ignatius Mission. Built in the late 1800’s, the mission has 58 hand-painted murals on its walls and ceilings and is breathtaking to behold.

I loved the mission so much that I had to have it in the book. There is a scene where Leah is supposed to meet someone there who supposedly has information about the killer, only it turns out to be a set-up.

I needed to have a way for the killer to escape quickly, and so I reached out to someone at the mission who gave me the suggestion for the perfect way for the killer to escape. It was so much fun getting to know the mission through the wonderful people who care for it.

The Walk

When I sat out to write AMONG THE INNOCENT several years ago, the idea that came to me on that walk one summer was just the starting point for an amazing adventure in bringing the book to life. And the research that brought the St. Ignatius community to life for me helped to enrich the story greatly.

The Journey

When I get an idea for a story, I never really know exactly where it will take me. Some ideas make it all the way to become a published book while others do not, but there is one thing for certain. The journey is always filled with blessings along the way and you never know what you might discover by taking a simple walk.

All the best. . .
Mary Alford

Social Media Links:


Author Mary Alford.

Mary’s Bio:

Mary Alford is a USA Today bestselling author who loves giving her readers the unexpected, combining unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots that result in stories the reader can’t put down.

Her titles have been finalists for several awards, including the Daphne Du Maurier, the Beverly, the Maggie, and the Selah. She and her husband live in the heart of Texas in the middle of 70 acres with two cats and one dog. Learn more at Mary Alford.

5 thoughts on “GUEST POST: Author Mary Alford & ‘It All Starts With an Idea’

  1. Nice interview. I always wonder how authors get their ideas.

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