I've always wanted to write an old-fashioned, single-setting mystery in the vein of Hitchcock's Rear Window or Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. Okay, so Seven for a Secret ended up not being that story (my WIP is, though! Sorta.), but what did stick was having a building essentially be another character, a place where all the main characters could be centralized and observe strange phenomena around them—and not be able to escape each other.
In Seven for a Secret, that building is Camden Court. And in real life, I lived in a very similar apartment building called Hampden Court in Chicago's Lincoln Park (where I also developed an obsession with the Francis Dewes house down the block on Wrightwood Avenue. I used to gawk at that urban mansion just like Kate does at the Hughes house). Fascinated with Chicago history in general and this neighborhood in particular, I'd been told Hampden Court was once a hotel, built back around 1920, and that just gripped me—the idea that so many lives had come and gone through that same space for so many decades. I look at any building that way, which inspires a lot of my writing, but for this story, Hampden Court was my muse.
|Hampden Court Apartments, Chicago, IL|
|Francis J. Dewes House, Chicago, IL|
A friend who lived in the building really did move in after the previous tenant (an old woman) had died there and not been found for a few days. And yes, he had a cat that jumped by the doorway as if someone were shaking a toy above her. I also got locked in the bathroom of my fourth-floor apartment and made an embarrassing cry for help out the window.
So while most of the story is pure fiction, little life experiences like these did plant ideas in my head, either figuring into the plot or just adding texture. The senior citizens populating the local Panera, the old woman at the Starbucks who wanted to bond with me as fellow bachelorettes, the douchebags who hit on me...they're all there. And I used to volunteer at the Adler Planetarium (where, for the record, the volunteer coordinator was not a complete ho-bag. She and everyone else on staff were lovely!). The Atwood Sphere and sundial were my favorite exhibits there, peacefully transporting me through time.
The little black beaded bag I bought at a vintage fair also inspired Kate's first haunting. The scene where she flips it open and sees Olive's eyes came to me years ago when I imagined who the purse's original owner might have been.
The plot itself didn't readily come to me, though, in any single burst of inspiration. The "One for Sorrow" rhyme influenced its direction in part as a guiding framework to work within. I also just knew that I wanted to capture the essence of my twenties in the modern storyline, make it comical and self-deprecating in a Sex & the City way, and realistic in how relationships can go at that age. And for the 1920s thread, I wanted to indulge the drama, capturing the conflict and dazzle of books and films like The Great Gatsby, Chicago, and Atonement. I'm also a freak for all things ghost and Gothic and try to emulate the subtle chills of Rebecca, The Others, and the like. Most of all, as an expat in London, I wanted this to be my Valentine to sweet home Chicago.
This post is part of Rumer Haven's blog tour for Seven for a Secret. Check out the tour's giveaway here!