Alexa’s Background: Manuscript for Murder was one of the first things I started to write. Those who know me well have often “suggested” that I might have literary ADD–the inability to keep my attention fixed on one work in progress at a time. It’s one reason I have several dozen books in progress at once. So back when I was first working on Aggie and Grace (and Margaret whom none of you have met as yet), I suddenly had an idea for a character. At first, she was just a person who intrigued me. Her name was Millicent, and she lived in a yellow cottage in a tourist town. At this point, I hadn’t even named Fairbury yet. Millicent was a writer–that much I knew. What she wrote, I didn’t know. I suspected it would be incongruous to her personality and character. I tried desperately to create a character in her fifties with an eclectic taste in clothing (with a particular fondness for the Regency period) and she had a dog.
But something happened as I took it from those initial notes to trying to decide what I’d do with her. So, I decided to do what all authors do. I created trouble for her. I sat thinking one night, “What would be the worst thing that could happen to a successful author? My answer: make her life a cliche.
Sometime around this point, Millicent became Annette Hartfield. There was only one problem. I couldn’t call her Annette, and that name refused to leave. At that moment, her background became very clear, and I decided to have her grow up where I live for contrast and to ensure accuracy in anything that took place in her childhood.
Characters: I expected to like Alexa–maybe even Joe–but as characters arrived on scene, I found myself falling in love with all of them–even the ones I hated.
Alexa: Alexa’s character taught me to be comfortable in my own skin in new ways. I’ve always been very “me.” My parents taught me not to care what anyone thought about me with the notable exceptions of the Lord and my direct authorities (at the time, that would have been them. Hee hee). And while I had my own eclectic sense of fashion as a teen (I learned to sew so I could have Nancy Drew’s wardrobe!), walking around in period clothing to the extent she did is something I could only dream of doing. I wouldn’t quite go that far. Well, I might. If I ever lose enough weight not to look ridiculous in the process. 😉
Joe: Joe taught me acceptance. His acceptance of who Alexa is and how she lives her life blesses me.
Chief Varney: I think Chief Varney understands Alexa in a way that many don’t. He holds the same value of old ideas that Alexa does. While hers is showcased in fashion, his is in traditional police work. He found a way to blend the old (cops walking a beat) with modern police practices. He taught me to embrace the best of the old and the new without apology.
Lorie: Oh, to have Lorie’s zest for life amid such trials. I love how she has learned to embrace her life as a gift.
Theme: Justice. At the core of the book is the concept of justice–true justice and misguided justice. A secondary theme would be community amongst the church. I think I was doing a bit of self-reprimanding when reading it. It’s very easy for me to remain too deeply in my own shell. Writing Alexa taught me to remember that God created me to be a part of a community of more than one. 😉
Response: I am always astounded at the response to The Hartfield Mysteries. Alexa has some very loyal readers. In fact, I even have a couple of readers who have left reviews of other books that said essentially, “It’s okay–not Alexa, but not bad” or “Don’t bother–just go read Alexa instead.” Those always make me smile.
I loved this book. I’m not sure if Alexa is my favorite character by Ms. Havig, but she is in the top 3 at least. I cannot wait til the next one comes out. I’m already saving up to buy it… I know I won’t be able to hold out for a free one! ~RJD
Wow!! Chautona is amazing! Her writing just draws me in and won’t let me go!! I love how the characters come to life. I found myself missing Alexa and Joe when I had to put the book down and, man, how I wish I could meet these facsinating people in real life! ~Jonathan Taylor
As I was reviewing the list of books by author Chautona Havig, I discovered I’d neglected her series “The Hartfield Mysteries”, so I went to amazon.com and purchased the first one, “Manuscript for Murder”. I was drawn in by the characters so completely that as soon as I finished, I went back and purchased the second, “Crime of Fashion”…..This has enough twists and turns to keep the story line fresh and moves right along, and enough romance to satisfy the incurable romantic in all of us. I am NOT so patiently waiting for the third book in the series, “Two O’Clock Slump”! ~Lucinda
I don’t usually read mysteries but if Ms. Havig writes it, I’m going to read it.
I almost quit reading it early on. I was so upset with how A. Hartfield was acting…Good thing I got over it and kept reading. I would have missed out on a good mystery. ~JWilly
I look forward to spending time with Alexa, Joe, and Aunt Faye in Fairbury again. Faye’s going to shake up the place. 🙂 Well, and there’s that cryptic message from Alexa to Joe. What was that about? I can’t wait for her to tell me.