Why bookmobiles?

Why write a mystery featuring a bookmobile?

Not so very long ago, I was searching for an idea for a new mystery series. This can be a very hard thing to do because there are so many wonderful series out there. Almost everything you can think of has already been done.

A series featuring a town filled with bookstores? Done. A series featuring a yarn shop? Quilting/embroidering/crocheting/scrapbooking? Done. Say, how about a series starring a professional organizer? Done. There are mysteries about libraries, about cats, dogs, dog walkers, bookstores, bed and breakfasts, ghosts, ghosts in bed and breakfasts, golfing, wedding planning, doll making, gardening…and that’s just the beginning. (You can trust me on this one, honest.)

Other than knowing that my editor had a yen to see my intrepid cat, Eddie, prominently featured in the book, I had no ideas whatsoever. Well, that and I wanted to set the series in Michigan, where I live. Eddie. Michigan. Huh. I needed a leeetle bit more than that.

So there I was, trying to think. There was no way I’d be able to make a fictional Eddie be anything but what he is, a completely loveable dork of a cat. Okay. So write a series featuring Eddie doing…what? Eddie in a china shop? Perish the thought. Eddie in a hospital? Not going to happen. Eddie in a newspaper office? Maybe, but…nah.

Sadly, I have no clear recollection of how the idea sparked into my brain. I do know that it blossomed during an email conversation with mystery writer Krista Davis. (Krista claims not to remember this, but I’m not making this up.) At some point I jokingly said something along the lines of “I could do a series about a cat in a library that’s somehow different than other libraries…hey, how about a cat in a bookmobile!”

Almost immediately, I knew I had something. Say the word “bookmobile” and it’s hard not to smile at the images you’ve summoned. Bookmobiles are personal and cheerful and … hopeful. Books, happy faces, more books, and a little bit of Eddie. Bingo! I had my idea!

There was only one problem. The only bookmobile I’d ever set foot on was many decades ago, when I was but a wee child. I can still remember where the picture books were, though. Up the stairs, turn left, halfway down on the right side, bottom two shelves.

BookmobileladiesBut, hey, writers are all about research. Within a few weeks, I’d become a member of the Association of Outreach and Book Services, contacted a few bookmobile vendors, and watched enough YouTube videos starring bookmobiles that I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I could do this.

Three chapters in, I knew that I couldn’t. What I needed was some hands-on experience. What I needed was to find a bookmobile and take a ride. Happily, that turned out to be relatively easy, thanks to the fine folks at the library in LaGrange, Indiana and OBS, Inc.

Eighty-odd thousand words later, the book was done and I was relatively sure that I hadn’t made any egregious bookmobile errors. Now, if I can only get a bookmobile to come to Eddie…