Warning: this post contains spoilers for the first 3 books of the Watchbearers series (and HUGE spoilers for Uncertain Murder) and I recommend reading those books first. Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.
It turned out to be a good thing that I’d left Sam and Bailey’s story a blank slate (save for the general idea it would be a whodunit) until after I’d written Centenary Separation. Because by the time I’d finished that, I knew there were things from book 2 I wanted to incorporate into book 3. First and foremost was Turner.
Taking the slow path forward from 1962, Verity’s misplaced husband would eventually run into some of his fellow time-travelers. But who and when and under what circumstances? It would either be Sam and Bailey or Matt and Page he’d cross paths with, and when I looked at what the latter pair would be up to, it seemed obvious it should be the first two. And while Turner could simply notice their appearance in his timeline on his watch’s locator app and then track them down before they left again, that seemed too straightforward.
At the same time I also needed a murder victim and realized Turner’s employer would fill the role admirably, as the kind of person likely to get themselves killed. And Brandt Keener, thirty years on from when Turner first met him, would also be filthy rich, which would allow me to indulge in two classic mystery staples – people marooned on a private island with a murderer and the Reading Of The Will. And given Brandt’s character, I imagined his will would be quite interesting. It would also give me the suspects I’d need – family members and business associates who might stand to benefit (or suffer) from its provisions.
So rather than creating a mystery scenario completely from scratch, I would use a character and plotline already on hand to build from. And by bringing Turner in as an integral part of a story which would already be in progress when Sam and Bailey made their entrance, I was able to weave this book more tightly into the ongoing arc for the series as a whole. To make the most of my opportunities as well as what I’d written in book 2.
Speaking of which, Samantha’s having a price on her head had played a part in Centenary Separation, so I decided to use that as well. While I could’ve set book 3 prior to Kirin putting out that contract, why would I? Having a hitman in the story would add another complication, increasing the suspense and giving the story one more twist. And the reason for a paid assassin being present on the island was immediately obvious. Revenge from beyond the grave.
At this point I had a lot of the important elements of the story – the first corpse and an array of suspects, plus a lawyer and a hitman, trapped on an isolated island for the reading of the dead man’s will. A great setup to thrust Sam and Bailey into, and a volatile situation sure to spark more incidents to follow the initial murder. But there remained basic questions I had to answer before I could actually begin writing.
Next: Part 3 – Fundamental Questions