Many moons ago when I was working on a story involving my heroine, Mallory Petersen, the idea for the sequel started to take shape. I truly could not tell you from where the plot originated. Maybe after listening to another writer in my critique group read his selection or hearing something on the radio. Anyway, the idea of Mallory (martial arts instructor/private investigator) searching for a kidnapped child took me away from the original story and the sequel became the first Mallory Petersen mystery. (If that makes sense.)Even though I had established the main character in the first effort, I had to re-establish her for this one. The old advice about writing what you know played a big part in the development of the kidnapping of the girl and Mallory’s subsequent involvement. I knew I wanted to have several components: Inclusion of Des Moines area businesses (even though I’d change the names of real companies); a scene or two in the town where I currently live, Oskaloosa; and several business in the Quad Cities, an area where I spent many years either growing up and working; a theme of child pornography throughout the story; and humor to offset the serious nature of the subject matter.
I know the FBI is heavily involved in many kidnapping cases and investigating people associated with child pornography. However, I tried to keep their role in this story to a minimum. Even though I made light of one of their past mistakes in judgment, I, in no way wanted to demean the organization. Mallory is the heroine, so she has to stay a step ahead of the Feds.
Instead of a logically deducing detective a la Hercule Poirot, I wanted Mallory to follow a trail leading her from one segment of the child pornography ring to another. Along the way, she learns about the girl’s family and develops suspicions about this particular case.
I encountered several obstacles while writing this. Secondary character development, time passage within the story, reworking some chapters and scenes to move the story along, inclusion of modern technology. (Regarding this last, DVDs, modern computers, and digital cameras weren’t as popular at the time I started the book, so I had to explain the usage of darkroom materials and 35 mm cameras.)
I would say the major issue I had to overcome was how to understand the actions of child pornographers. Who they were, how they acted, what they did. Without delving too much into the psychosis of these people, I centered more on the child herself and what she suffered. I wanted a logical, realistic progression of events: from the moment the girl was kidnapped, through the days while Mallory is on the case, to the time where Mallory finds the girl. Running parallel with this is how much graphic material to include. I hope I’ve given enough detail without going overboard. I want the reader to really feel for this child. Similarly, I want the reader to feel and understand Mallory’s thoughts and emotions.
I think with Mallory being a taekwondo instructor, in charge of classes filled with children, and her taking on a case where she encounters people whose actions destroy kids, is a powerful combination. I include a scene with her speaking with one of her instructors about a potential case of abuse or neglect with one the students. One of Mallory’s informants was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. She makes a connection with the investigator in the Quad Cities because of the nature of the case. She makes this case personal because of the relationships she has with children.
In developing the story, the characters, and the individual scenes, I sought the advice of members of a few critique groups. They showed me where I needed to soften Mallory’s character while upping the masculinity of two male characters. They offered very welcomed critique for the scenes with the girl and the kidnappers.
There are hundreds of stories about kidnappings and each throws in a different angle on the detective, police officer, the kidnapper, or the victim. Knowing where to focus attention will affect the mood and the emotion of the story.