Good day, book people. It never seems to fail, but in almost every author interview I’ve seen, heard, or read, the author gets asked a question that is basically “where do you get the ideas for your stories.” I’m pleased to welcome Victoria Weisfeld, author of Architect of Courage, to the blog. Ms. Weisfeld is joining us today to discuss the perennial question: “where do stories come from?” I hope you’ll add Architect of Courage to your summer reading list, I did. For now, please help me welcome Victoria Weisfeld. Thank you, Ms. Weisfeld, for taking the time to join us and share your thoughts on where stories come from. I’ll now turn the blog over to you.
Where Stories Come From
by Victoria Weisfeld
Writers are often asked where their stories come from, and for me, the proper answer is—everywhere! The newspaper, the rich fictional lives other writers have shared, the people I know, my own experiences, and my personal worldview. I’ve been lucky enough to have some thirty of my short stories published, but writing a novel is a totally different project, and it’s surprising really how many disparate pieces eventually come together in unexpected ways.
The murder mystery Architect of Courage is my first novel, and I feel like an archaeologist when I try to unearth its origins. Let’s dig around together for a while.
Yes, the main character is an architect. I wanted someone successful, on top of his professional world, as it were, who would confront serious situations that he was totally unprepared for. He’s not a man accustomed to being in over his head! I didn’t want to make him a lawyer or a doctor, because many writers trained in those professions write thrillers and have the background for it.
At the same time, I’ve always been interested in architecture. My parents were big fans of Frank Lloyd Wright, and my dad designed our house on Wrightean principles. In college, I hung around with the architecture students and was fascinated by the building models they created (dollhouses for boys). And I’ve subscribed to and read a leading architecture and design magazine for more than thirty years.
Rather than my having a detailed knowledge of the nuts and bolts of the profession, I believe I understand how architects think. (I’m delighted to say that a leading architect who read an advance review copy agreed.) As an example, they are accustomed to working in teams, alongside people with different expertise. Unlike the go-it-alone heroes of some thrillers, my architect, Archer Landis, is quite willing to get help when he needs it, in order to work his way through the baffling challenges that confront him.
Another thread came from the news media. At the time I started writing Architect of Courage, I was troubled by the broad-brush anti-Muslim rhetoric I kept hearing, which seemed to assume all Muslims were terrorists. Arch believes he’s fallen in love with a Spanish woman named Julia who is one of his assistants, but when she’s murdered, the police discover she’s really an American and a Muslim. They immediately assume terrorist, that she’s finagled a job with his firm to find targets for bombs. Arch disagrees and sets out to prove them wrong. Not until recently did I recognize how many examples of the corrosive nature of prejudice are in the book, though it is almost never discussed overtly, and the word “prejudice” never appears.
It’s predictable that the police react as they do because the book is set in summer 2011, in the months leading up to the tenth anniversary of 9/11. There were lots of rumors about impending catastrophes going around in official circles right then. So that part of the book—the timing—was based on a real-life situation. Living so close to Manhattan as I do, and having friends with personal tragedies connected to those events, it’s an indelible part of my life. Not as much for people elsewhere in the country, perhaps.
Arch’s lady-love, Julia, grew up in Dearborn, Michigan, now home to the largest Arab American community in the country. It’s the company town for the Ford Motor Company (where my dad and all my uncles worked). I grew up there too, some years before Julia (!). I worked into the story what I know about the town now: the billboards in Arabic on Michigan Avenue, the Lebanese restaurants, the Arab American National Museum (well worth a visit), along with Julia’s brothers’ career ambitions at Ford’s, as locals refer to the company.
Manhattan is a fun setting for a novel because of the great diversity of people who can inspire various characters. Arch came from a middle-class background, but his wife was from Connecticut’s upper crust. His receptionist is Black. His two principal associates are from the Midwest and South Carolina. His lawyer is Irish, and the man who helps him with technical stuff (guns, flashbangs, and such) is Latino.
Arch’s own history includes a stint in the Army near the end of the Vietnam war, an experience he doesn’t talk about. These weren’t conscious decisions, but, looking back at the text now, I see that every time he’s in the most peril (and only then), his war experiences come back to him. Some of the superb books written about that conflict have apparently made their mark on me, and I’ve taken on board some of their insights.
In just these examples, you can glimpse the many threads that come together to weave a novel: personal history and experiences, current events, social attitudes, and stories I’ve read. I think readers will find their own touchpoints in this story. Although I’ve assembled the pieces, many of the pieces themselves, these and others, relate to real-life experiences in our shared consciousness. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did the writing! ♦
Architect of Courage
by Victoria Weisfeld
June 20 – July 15, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
Ordinary Man, Extraordinary Situation
In June 2011, September was weeks away, and the full dread of the approaching anniversary hadn’t yet settled on New York City’s residents. But from One Police Plaza to the FBI’s grim headquarters in Washington, D.C., the top brass harbor a rumbling in the gut. Each person who works for them down the line shares their unease, from every rookie cop walking the beat to the lowliest surveillance specialist. And Archer Landis is about to get caught up in their fixation.
Landis is not one of his city’s guardians, and a different sort of electricity runs under his skin on this warm Thursday evening. A highly successful Manhattan architect—a man you’d say has his life totally, enviably, in order—Landis works the room at a Midtown reception, shaking hands, being seen, accompanying his cheerful greetings with the convivial clinking of ice in an untouched glass of scotch.
When the noisy crowd becomes sufficiently dense and everyone present can say they’ve seen him, he will slip away. Out on Fifth Avenue, he will grab a cab for the run south to Julia’s Chelsea apartment. It’s a trip that will hurtle him into deadly danger. Everyone and everything he cares about most will be threatened, and he will have to discover whether he has the courage to fight his way clear.
Genre: Crime / Murder Mystery
Published by: Black Opal Books
Publication Date: June 4, 2022
Number of Pages: 350
ISBN10: 1953434819 (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781953434814 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781953434821 (eBook)
ASIN: B0B3R5TLN4 (Kindle edition)
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes & Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | !ndigo eBook | Kobo eBook | Goodreads
Vicki Weisfeld’s short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mystery Magazine, Sherlock Holmes MM, and Black Cat MM, among others, as well as in a number of highly competitive crime anthologies, including: Busted: Arresting Stories from the Beat, Seascapes: Best New England Crime Stories, Passport to Murder (Bouchercon), The Best Laid Plans, Quoth the Raven, and Sherlock Holmes in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe. Her stories have won awards from the Short Mystery Fiction Society and the Public Safety Writers Association. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and other crime fiction organizations. For the past decade, she’s blogged several times a week at www.vweisfeld.com. She is a frequent book reviewer for the UK website, crimefictionlover.com.
Catch Up With Victoria:
Twitter – @vsk8s
Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!