Tuesday, February 22, 2011



Okay, not really. I created the aliens myself, and they’re not really aliens. They’re characters in the stories I write.

But they do like to take over. One of my protagonists lived in a house almost identical to mine (how convenient for both the writer and the writee). Someone broke into her house, the fictional one.

She was fine. I, however, couldn’t work on those chapters when I was home alone.

I moved far away, and now live in a rural area of Ontario where textile and needlework shops are hard to find. I sensibly invented Threadville, a village where textile and needlework shops line the main street.

My protagonist, Willow, owns a machine embroidery boutique, In Stitches. When she needs something she doesn’t carry in her own shop, she strolls across the street to the fabric store, the yarn shop, the notions boutique, or the quilting shop.

So there I was, taking a break from writing about her life. I was back in my real life, setting up my computer and embroidery machine to stitch an incredible embroidery design. I needed thread in a particular shade of periwinkle.

I believed, if only for a second, that I could simply cross the street to browse in Threadville . . .

It gets worse.

Last Friday, Willow blogged (see, she really has taken over) at www.killercharacters.com about what happened to her during the beginning of my first story, DIRE THREADS. A bullying zoning commissioner refused to grant her a building permit to renovate the sweet little cottage in her back yard. She wanted to rent the cottage to tourists who would enjoy living next to a river and a hiking trail leading to a sandy beach on Lake Erie.

The zoning commissioner, however, had his own agenda. He planned to turn the hiking trail into an ATV trail, expropriate the land the cottage stood on, and replace the cottage with public outhouses.

Willow made some dire threats. She didn’t mean them literally.

Early the next morning, that zoning commissioner was murdered. In Willow’s back yard, beside her cottage. The wrong people remembered Willow’s dire threats.

She ended her post on Killer Characters by asking if anyone had ever felt threatened by outhouses. (The answer was yes.)

Friday night, only hours after Willow posed the question about outhouses, I was back in my real life. I went to dinner at the home of friends I’d never before visited before. They live in fine 1840’s home in a tranquil, if snowy, country setting.

I’d no sooner removed my coat and boots when my friends pointed through their back window to a quaint building a few steps from the back door. “There’s the outhouse,” they said. “We don’t have indoor plumbing.”

As a writer or reader, do you ever feel fiction taking over your mind?

Janet Bolin writes the Threadville Mystery Series for Berkley Prime Crime (PenguinUSA). The first book, DIRE THREADS, hits store shelves June 7, 2011, and is available for pre-order now.
Janet’s short stories have been published in literary journals including The New Quarterly and The Antigonish Review. Her humorous essays have been read aloud by Bill Richardson and Shelagh Rogers on nationally-broadcast CBC radio shows. Three of those essays were published in the anthology DEAR SAD GOAT, Douglas & McIntyre, 2002.
Janet lives in rural Ontario with a pair of dogs who have a remarkable resemblance to Willow’s dogs.


  1. I do like to fall under the spell of a good book and Threadville sounds like my kind of town. I look forward to reading Dire Threads.

  2. I have caught myself in a discussion about to quote one of my characters - fortunately I've remembered in time. As a quilter I'd love to visit Threadville and look forward to your book.

  3. Sue, I can only hope that if Threadville puts me under its spell, it will put you there, too! But don't expect to find the right size of zipper across the street (hmmm - I wonder what my sewing neighbour keeps in *her* stash...???)

    Joan, I once saw a little girl waving at me from a schoolbus. I thought she was one of my characters when she was little. Uh-oh. It becomes scary.

  4. Oh Janet, the power of thinking! I will try to keep all outhouse thoughts out of mine.

    Characters do make us more than a bit crazy, but where would we be without them?

    Looking forward to more from Willow in Threadville in June!

    Thanks for visiting us at Mystery Maven Canada.

  5. Those pesky characters can take over our lives...but that's all good, isn't it! I can't wait to read your book and look forward to seeing you at Malice Domestic.

  6. Mary Jane and Erika - yes, watch out for pesky outhouses and pesky characters. And pesky characters in outhouses.