“On Writing, When Murder Mystery Magic Happens,” by Susan McCormick, Author of ‘The Fog Ladies’  

Though I try to plot and plan, my favorite part of writing is when characters I have created do unexpected things and get themselves into trouble. THE FOG LADIES is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. One of my characters, Enid Carmichael, discovers Starbucks lattes at the ripe old age of eighty. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbor’s newspaper to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me.

Sometimes characters create themselves. Chantrelle, ne’er do well teen parent, and Baby Owen wrote their own scenes, and provided a potential murderer in Big Owen, the daddy. Once this threesome was introduced, my story evolved and deepened, yet they were nowhere in my mind when I set out to write.

Twists happen when my fingers hit keyboard keys, and then I have to go back and figure out how to incorporate these unexpected plot turns. One of the Fog Ladies put herself on life support, then expected me, the author, to somehow revive her. These times, when a different part of my brain is at work, are my favorite parts of writing.

After the surprises and joys of first draft writing comes the difficult revision stage. My first draft of THE FOG LADIES did not have enough suspects, so I had to go back and turn lovely, innocent characters into potential murderers. Plot holes, timing issues, inserting red herrings here and there after the fact, this unavoidable stage of writing is definitely difficult.  Revising, rewriting, re-imagining—there is nothing easy or glamorous about this painful part.

But, my feisty Fog Ladies persevered, most of them coming through alive and ready for another cozy caper. Hopefully, that one will write itself as well, until one of the ladies writes me into a box and the revision begins.



The Fog Ladies is a cozy murder mystery set in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bath and drowns. The Pacific Heights building is turning over tenants faster than the fog rolls in a cool San Francisco evening.

Young, overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern Sarah James has no time for sleuthing. Her elderly neighbors, the Fog Ladies, have nothing but time. Sarah assumes the deaths are the natural consequence of growing old. The Fog Ladies assume murder.

Sarah resists the Fog Ladies’ perseverations. But when one of them falls down the stairs and tells Sarah she was pushed, even Sarah believes evil lurks in their building. Can they find the killer before they fall victim themselves?

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About the Author

Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog.



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