...for readers who love animals, and animal lovers who read!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Turtles and Sharks

by C. Hope Clark

I didn’t realize how inherent animals and wildlife were to my mystery settings until the reviews started coming in.
Raised in South Carolina, and choosing to live in South Carolina after having seen the country, I defined my mysteries with this beautiful state. The locale meant I could write what I knew since I’d traveled and worked in all 46 counties and lived in six. But when I created settings for each of my four books, the animal factor somehow managed to slip in, too.
A pet lover isn’t fulfilled without animals in her life, and if that person is a writer, that means just what you think it does . . . no matter the story, animals matter in the telling of it. In my Carolina Slade series. I started with pets, giving the protagonist a dog and a cat. Just like she raised two children, I felt two pets gave perfect balance. They became entwined in the mystery as well, in their own unique ways whether standing between the children and a bad guy, or soothing a stressed character. My mysteries are not cozies, so the stress ranked pretty darn high.
The crimes played out mainly in the country in the Slade series, and suddenly egrets, alligators, deer, and ducks came into play. Mother Nature is indeed beautiful, and green is about the most beautiful color on the spectrum, but you do not come full circle in appreciation for her without hearing and appreciating what lives in her flora. Who can visit a lake without the katydid and tree frog serenade at dusk, cutting off abruptly around ten? Who can visit the coastline without water birds swopping overhead or dancing along the sea foam along the sand? I realized that setting wasn’t complete in my books without it showing other signs of life than just human.
My new release came out in September, Murder on Edisto, the first in the Edisto Island Mystery Series. Callie Jean Morgan had enough baggage for ten people, so she was petless. It wasn’t long, however, before she showed a keen interest in the loggerhead turtles that nest along the South Carolina coast. Outside her beach home at dusk, she listened for the clicking of raccoon searching for a loose garbage can lid and scurrying of squirrel up and down the palmetto trees. In one scene, she jogs introspectively only to be yanked from her thoughts by a kid playing with a baby hammerhead shark, and his parents enjoying a photographic moment as the ten-inch shark suffocated.

Animals are in our lives, whether we own pets or not. They comprise a part of setting just like weather, trees, architecture, and horizon visages. They don’t have to be front and center in your story or play major characters, but animals exist wherever a story takes place. From insects to birds, mammals to reptiles, the animal kingdom deserves a mention in your story to give it three dimensions and make it more real to your reader.
C. Hope Clark is author of The Carolina Slade Mystery Series and The Edisto Island Mystery Series, published by Bell Bridge Books. Her latest release is Murder on Edisto, September 2014. She is also founder and editor for FundsforWriters.com, an award winning website chosen by Writer’s Digest Magazine for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for over a decade. www.chopeclark.com


  1. HI Hope, I'm here at Edisto and heard you already had your book signing. I look forward to reading your new series. Sounds wonderful. Let me know when you are in Greenville so we can chat!

  2. Aaahh, I already miss being down there. Sorry you missed the signing, but there should be books in the store unless Karen Carter sold out (again).