Giveaway & Guest Post: Character Development by Mark Reutlinger, Author of “A Pain in the Tuchis”

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Character Development

by Mark Reutlinger

I am sometimes asked how I write my novels: whether I begin with a detailed outline or synopsis, or I simply take a general idea and run with it. The truth is that I do a little of each—I make a not-so-detailed outline of my ideas and then begin and let the story, and the characters, develop as I go.

The reason for this is my view of a novel, at least in its formative stages. To me a fiction manuscript is a living, organic entity, capable of growing in several directions, none of which is entirely predictable. Sometimes what begins as a short story unexpectedly grows into a full-length novel, because I discovered I had much more to say about the characters and/or their story than I had thought. (The opposite can be true as well, of course.)

This too is how my characters develop, as real human beings who sometimes reveal themselves to have good and bad characteristics that I did not expect when I created them. (I find the creation process itself a fascinating subject, but I must leave that for another time.) Let me give you a couple of examples:

When I began writing my first published novel, Made in China, a political thriller in which all of those goods that are “made in China” (meaning almost everything) are suddenly unavailable, embargoed by a hostile Chinese government, I originally planned to have two protagonists, one male and one female. (This, of course, makes for easy creation of love interests, sexual encounters, role reversals, and so forth.) The male protagonist, Jack Conway, a systems engineer, is living with his “significant other” Annie when he loses his job due to a takeover by a Chinese conglomerate. He ultimately catches on with another company following an interview with its personnel manager, Linda. Annie was to be a “partner” of Jack throughout the book, whereas Linda was just a minor character passing through. But when I came to writing the scenes involving Jack and Linda, I found that I liked Linda more than I liked Annie, and that Jack had more in common with Linda—that she would make him a stronger and more interesting partner—than Annie. Annie also seemed to offer a much more limited scope for development than did Linda. So I altered the plot, wrote Annie out after a brief appearance (she leaves to enter a post-grad program across the country), and offered Linda the position of female protagonist. She accepted and we never looked back.

My characters in Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death developed somewhat differently, but still in many ways unexpectedly. I knew when I began the novel that Mrs. Kaplan’s best friend (and fellow retirement home resident) Ida would be narrating it and act as Dr. Watson to Mrs. K’s Sherlock Holmes. I knew the two ladies’ approximate ages and personalities, in part because they are an amalgam of many such women I have known, including both my and my wife’s grandmothers. But despite starting with this familiarity, I didn’t really know what kind of people they would prove to be when confronted with the kinds of unusual challenges I had in store for them, such as Mrs. Kaplan being suspected of murder. I only found out for sure when I reached those points in the story. And even after I had written the final (I thought) draft, my editor suggested that perhaps Mrs. Kaplan and Ida might themselves stage a burglary that I had written for two much younger women. I didn’t know how that would play out, but when I had let it percolate a while, considered what I now knew about them that I didn’t know when I began, and finally wrote the scene, I found they handled it quite well, adding an extra measure of humor to the story.

As Ida would no doubt say, “Who knew?”

A Pain in the Tuchis
by Mark Reutlinger


pain in the tuchisA Pain in the Tuchis:
A Mrs. Kaplan Mystery

2nd in Series
Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Alibi (November 17, 2015)
An Imprint of Random House LLC
Publication Date: November 17, 2015



Combining the classic charms of Agatha Christie with the delightful humor of M. C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin novels, Mark Reutlinger’s Mrs. Kaplan mystery series returns as a notorious crank meets an untimely fate.

Yom Kippur is a day of reflection and soul searching. But at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors, Vera Gold misses this opportunity to atone for her many sins when she up and dies. Indeed, Vera was such a pain in the tuchis to all those around her that when her sister claims Vera was deliberately poisoned, the tough question isn’t who would want to kill her—but who wouldn’t?

Having already solved one murder with her dear friend Ida, Rose Kaplan has a sleuthing reputation that precedes her. It’s only natural that Vera’s sister turns to Mrs. K for help. So do the police, but when her conclusions conflict with theirs, they tell her to butt out! This case has more twists than a loaf of challah. And with a homicidal scoundrel on the loose, Mrs. K has to act fast—or she might be the guest of honor at the Home’s next memorial service.

Praise for Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death

“Is there kosher food in jail? These two heroines have gotten themselves in quite a pickle! Well, it’s a matzoh ball mess, really. Too deliciously funny!”—Rita Mae Brown, bestselling author of Nine Lives to Die

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About This Author

Mark Reutlinger is the author of the novels Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death and Made in China. A professor of law emeritus at Seattle University, Reutlinger was born in San Francisco, graduated from UC Berkeley, and now lives with his wife, Analee, in University Place, Washington.

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Tour Participants

November 10 – Mallory Heart Reviews – Review

November 10 – View from the Birdhouse – Interview

November 11 – 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy,  &, Sissy, Too ! – Spotlight

November 11 – Bubble Bath Books – Review

November 12 – Jane Reads – Review, Guest Post

November 13 – Cuppa Tea With G – Review

November 13 – Frankie Bow – Interview

November 14 – StoreyBook Reviews – Review

November 15 – deal sharing aunt – Interview

November 16 – A Fold in the Spine – Review

November 17 – Musings and Ramblings – Guest Post

November 18 – LibriAmoriMiei – Review

November 18 – Michele Lynn Seigfried’s Blog – Guest Post

November 19 – Tea and A Book – Review

November 20 – Community Bookstop – Review

November 21 – Laura’s Interests – Review

November 22 – Cozy Up With Kathy – Interview

November 23 – Socrates’ Book Reviews – Review, Guest Post

November 23 – THE SELF-TAUGHT COOK – Spotlight

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