Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Big Keep by Melissa F. Olson

Today on the blog, my friend author Melissa Olson talks about one of the challenges she faced writing her hot new crime novel, The Big Keep

Take it away, Melissa!

Hello everyone, and thank you so much to Karen for letting me appear on her blog today. I’ve published two (almost three) urban fantasies before this, but The Big Keep is my first foray into writing a straight-up mystery. And as I was working on the book, I found myself facing a unique challenge: writing someone’s marriage.

See, as an urban fantasy writer, I’ve tended to blow right through the sections of my books that involved romantic relationships, because I’ve only really written relationships that were either about to begin or very near the beginning. I can write flirting, and banter, and even foreplay*.

However, for The Big Keep, I found myself writing a fully-formed, already-in-progress, five-year-old marriage. And I realized that writing a marriage is almost like writing a whole other character. But unlike most characters, who you can put together using bits and pieces of people you know, writing a marriage is…tricky. Because no one outside of a relationship really knows what goes on inside it. And because every marriage is wildly different, maybe even more so than people.

Lucky for me, my protagonist, Lena Dane, spends much of The Big Keep avoiding her husband, Toby. She’s pregnant, you see (this happens on page 1, so I have spoiled nothing), and although she and her husband are happy, she’s totally unprepared for motherhood. She has, in fact, spent much of her recent time trying not to think about having kids. So Lena does what she always does when faced with an uncomfortable truth about herself: she runs. She throws herself into her work as a private detective, and into her new case trying to track down a missing writer.

And how does Toby react to that? Well, not with a whole lot of surprise, because he knows exactly who his wife is. When I was “building” this couple, I came up with the character of Lena first, and then once I understood her and what drives her, I tried to come up with a male character who would complement that, complement her, but also challenge her a little, push her toward being the best version of herself. That was my way in. So I actually created Lena, then the relationship, then Toby. And I’m really pleased with how my lead couple turned out. I’m not going to lie, I’ve also got a bit of a crush on Toby. Too bad he’s just perfect for Lena.

*I cannot, however, write erotic scenes. I run out of synonyms really early in the process.

Melissa Olson was born and raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After graduation, and a brief stint bouncing around the Hollywood studio system, Melissa landed in Madison, WI, where she eventually acquired a master’s degree from UW-Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs, not at all in that order. She loves Madison, but still dreams of the food in LA. Literally. There are dreams. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dog at


Anonymous said...

I just ordered it on Kindle. I'm always looking for new authors in crime fiction. Thanks, Karen!


Karen McQuestion said...

Hi Marie, good to see you here! i hope you're having a terrific summer. Enjoy the book. :)