Where did the names come from? – The Winterpols

Ken Winterpol, the victim in Suspects, is a scoundrel. I didn’t want to insult anyone I knew by making Ken in any way similar to them. And just as importantly, I didn’t want someone I didn’t know to sue me for defamation because Ken’s name was similar to their own. Not only did I want a unique and obscure last name for Ken, I wanted it to be very clear where I did get his name so no one could accuse me of appropriating theirs.

Unique and obscure? Winterpol is the name of a ski resort in Poland. There is hardly anyone in the United States, and no one in Oregon as far as I can tell, named Winterpol. Best of all, the name was clearly derived from a famous and horrible fictional character named Kenneth Widmerpool in Anthony Powell’s series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time.  The Wikipedia entry for Widmerpool says “Initially presented as a comic, even pathetic figure, he becomes increasingly formidable, powerful and ultimately sinister as the novels progress.” I was particularly attuned to Powell’s character because, in the midst of my business career, I met a woman at a party who thought she was intellectually and culturally superior to my money-grubbing, career-minded, and hopelessly dull-witted self. She turned to her husband and said, “He’s just like Kenneth Widmerpool, don’t you think?” meaning to insult me and reveal my total lack of sophistication in the same breath. I told her I certainly hoped I was not like Kenneth Widmerpool. “Why?” she said, realizing I knew who the character was and trying to cover up her bad manners. “Because he is the most despicable character in all of twentieth century literature,” I said. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said.

Candy Winterpol’s first name might imply that she is sweet, attractive, and uncomplicated. Candy is attractive. She is also a talented artist and a good skier. She can be appealing and persuasive when she wants to be. But Candy’s name is intentionally misleading. She is a complex character, with mixed motivations, and she is, at heart, anything but sweet. She’s a bit of a riddle but she may be the most interesting character in the book.

In future posts I’ll describe where the Martinez family and some of the other characters got their names. Also Dan Martinez’s law firm, Oxton, Rath, and Flynn. Is it a coincidence that Rath is also the last name of a former Attorney General for the state of New Hampshire?

Where did Sunriver go?

Upriver Ranch, the Oregon resort community where the murder takes place, is fictional. But Upriver seems to be located right on top of a real place called Sunriver. So why didn’t the author, who seems so wise in other regards, not just say Sunriver? Well, I had several reasons.

Fiction is meant to exercise the imagination. Just as the reader pictures the characters in the book as someone they don’t know but would be an interesting person to meet, I felt readers would enjoy a setting that is slightly different from what they can find on Google Maps.

I think to tell a good story you need to put in everything you need and leave everything else out. Suspects is more focused, I think, if there is only one community instead of four (Sunriver, Crosswater, Caldera Springs, and Vandevert Ranch). The story only needs one golf course, not three, and doesn’t need an airport or a waterpark. I think Craig Johnson made the same kinds of decisions when he created Durant, Wyoming for the Longmire series instead of simply describing Buffalo, Wyoming – the real town that Durant is based on.

Also, there are things I can only do with an imaginary community. The hero, Dan, practices his mountain biking skills on a short course he adapts from an elk trail back in the woods. There might be enough wild forest at Vandevert Ranch to do this but unused land like that would be hard to find in Sunriver or Crosswater. Next, I wanted the Deschutes River Trail to come into Upriver but, in fact, it doesn’t come anywhere near Vandevert Ranch or Crosswater.  Further, I wanted Upriver Ranch to have a gatehouse but neither Sunriver nor Vandevert has one.

In its own way, Upriver Ranch hopes to join a long list of imaginary places that readers have come to know and enjoy – Yoknapatawpha County, Twin Peaks, Empire Falls, St. Mary Mead, Macondo, Pemberley, and, of course, Absaroka County.

How I Came to Write “Suspects”

I wanted to write a book that both friends and complete strangers would enjoy. A murder mystery, the most popular kind of fiction, was the obvious choice. I wanted to set the book in Central Oregon, mostly around Sunriver and Bend, because I know and love the area. Central Oregon is rapidly growing while it still maintains something of its pioneer heritage. I wanted to urge the area’s local literature forward in my own small way. (There already are some serious writers here. See the Central Oregon Writers Guild and Hometown Reads for Bend. For poetry, Ellen Waterston and Jarold Ramsey.)

The characters had to be interesting in their own right and I wanted the book to measure up to the standards of a novel, not a basic whodunit. Readers could get happily involved, I decided, with an amateur detective who is using his brains and his persistence while coping with people who aren’t telling him the whole truth — a hero who is himself suspected of the crime and in danger of becoming the next victim. Love, lust, fear, and moral ambiguity have important roles. A little sex and violence, too, but not too much.

Almost no one minds that the victim is dead. In fact, he did more harm to people in his life than his killer did in murdering him.  Uncovering his story is part, I think, of what makes the book interesting.

So I started the book with the setting, some of the characters, and some idea of the plot. But as one of my favorite writers, Lynn Stegner, told me (and she probably wasn’t the first to say it) “Writing is a process of discovery.” The story evolved and changed as I wrote it and rewrote it. Settings changed as I went out and looked at lakes, brewpubs, running and biking trails, and as I learned more about criminal law, triathlons, and a host of other subjects. Characters took over parts of the story. Interesting asides grew into plotlines. When I took paragraphs or pages out of each draft I saved the discards in a file I called “Scrap”. At the end, the scrap file came to 30,000 words – more than a third as long as the finished book. The final book is a distillation of a lot of research and thought.

For now everyone who has read the book has liked it and, using a more objective measure, they finished it. So I have hopes that many more readers will like it as well.

 

Anticipation

As I write this first post, my new book, Suspects, is at Ingram, a book printing and distributing company, ready to be shipped to bookstores for the May 15 “on sale” date. It makes for a unique and slightly odd time for an author like me. The book is done, done, done, but only a few people have read it. Fortunately, they’ve liked it and I think many more readers will as well. I’ve received some glowing endorsements from people who are excellent writers themselves and posted what they said at www.tedhaynes.com.

I’ve sent Suspects to all the newspapers and magazines in Central Oregon where the book is set. I’ve also sent sample copies to all the independent bookstores in the area. In May the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association will send a notice to all the independent bookstores in the Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska) with my offer to send them a sample copy. At about the same time, Ingram will notify booksellers across the country (and perhaps around the world – I’m not clear on that) about the availability of Suspects.

As early as April I will send copies of the book to five readers randomly selected by Goodreads. About 60% of Goodreads readers who get books this way write a review of the book and I’m hoping for some good ones.

Comments and questions are welcome. Please email me via my publisher – Publisher@robledabooks.com