by Amy Saunders
Amy Saunders, author of The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries, joins us today to talk about how career choices affect her characters.
When my characters make career choices, drama happens. Work is a pretty natural place for life to go right – and wrong. And my series, The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries, is no exception.
Belinda Kittridge, the main character, comes from a wealthy family. She’s never had to be career-centric, but when the series opens, Belinda is putting her money to good use (based on advice from her beloved nana) and getting ready to open tourist-driven Portside’s first-ever cupcake boutique with a twist.
It’s on wheels.
So she’s got a large learning curve ahead of her running a mobile cupcake boutique on top of all the mystery and danger she stumbles into all the time. (Courtesy of me. Sorry, Bels!)
Bennett Tate, on the other hand, leading man of the series, worked his way through school doing odd jobs. After a short-lived experience as a police officer, he started his own event security business. So he’s busy providing security – and lending his expertise to the police sometimes – at private parties and the many and varied events going on in Portside. And Tate Security is the reason Belinda and Bennett meet, so I daresay he thinks highly of his career choice!
I figured out that Bennett owned his own security firm when I first started working on the series concept. But Belinda was another story.
I didn’t know what her focus was. So I started thinking about her background and situation and personality, and it occurred to me that she could use her money to open a business. And I love to bake, and cake is one of my favorite desserts, and I pictured Belinda loving to bake and cook too. I’m also in love with food trucks, so I merged the two ideas and her cupcake boutique sprouted wheels.
It’s tough to balance the focus of each novel (solving a murder) with these subplots. But what happens with the main plot often leaks into their private lives, so their businesses and the murder investigation are not always mutually exclusive. The cupcake truck opened up new misadventures for Belinda and gave her a clear direction. And events in the course of the story affect both of their careers. So in the end, these career choices make the overall story much more interesting, and raise the stakes for everyone.
Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Auf’d (The Belinda & Bennett Mysteries, Book Two)
Belinda Kittridge hurried toward the waving hand (hurried being a relative term wearing heels on grass) with her red-headed friend coming in and out of view as people passed in front of her. Even in three-inch wedges, Victoria was still far below Belinda’s eye level.
It was May in Portside, Rhode Island, and Belinda inhaled the chilly air off the water, a reminder that the ocean hadn’t quite caught up with the air yet. Excitement and anxiety filled her bones. It was Belinda’s first time helping to organize a fundraiser event—a runway show specifically—and it was getting close to time for the attendees to start showing up.
“Our plan worked!” Victoria hopped up and down then stopped and grabbed her stomach in panic. “Is that bad, you think?”
“Maybe you should just stand there and I’ll hop up and down.” Afraid to actually go airborne in her heels, Belinda bobbed up and down on her knees so her friend, only weeks pregnant, could avoid anything potentially hazardous. “Our plan did work. That was much smoother and less irritating than last time.”
Victoria laughed. “Yeah, when we were both cursing the other’s existence because we didn’t have a planned meeting spot.”
“That’s not entirely true.” Belinda drummed her fingers along her jaw, staring up at the clear sky. “The planned meeting location was ‘whoever gets here first gets a seat and the other one finds her,’ which almost ended our friendship.”
“Thank goodness for Dan.”
“Thank goodness, indeed. If he hadn’t come and found me, I would have left the show and never spoken to you again.” Victoria’s husband saved the day, and then told them they were on their own next time.
“Runway show equals death of lifelong friendship.”
“Tragic.” Belinda kept glancing up and around whenever anyone passed her. She could blame it on her tendency to be distracted, but she knew that wasn’t quite what was wrong with her at that moment.
Victoria grinned. “Have you seen Bennett yet?”
“When they first got here to set up this morning, but we’ve both been too busy to talk. And we haven’t really dealt with each other the past week because of the show.” She’d recommended Bennett’s event security firm, thinking it would mean they could see each other more while the show ate up her life. At best, it just meant Bennett had no more free time than she did.
“Well, I daresay you should get back there then before anyone misses you.” Victoria winked. “I’ll be in these seats with my mom.” She handed Belinda a piece of paper with the row and seat numbers scribbled down. “Meet us there afterward and we’ll go out to eat.”
“Your new favorite thing to do.”
“My baby gots to eat.” She placed both hands on her stomach and laughed.
Across the lawn, a raspy bellow interrupted their joy about their future and coconut cake. Belinda looked over apprehensively, knowing what she was going to see. A man who reminded Belinda of a meatball with legs flailed his arms, his face visibly red from where she stood.
“Uh-oh.” Victoria glanced at her sideways. Belinda’s face drooped as she nodded. “You want me to find Mrs. Sykes?”
“I–I can handle this. I don’t want things to explode.” She smiled tentatively. Victoria squeezed her arm for encouragement and strolled over to the seats flanking the runway, glancing behind her every few seconds.
Belinda wove her way across the lawn away from the stage, which was set up on the mouth of PortsideHarbor so the audience faced the water. It offered a refreshing breeze (maybe too refreshing sometimes) and a view of the bay and bridge. A triple threat location.
The server on the receiving end of the bellowing saw Belinda and glanced at her pleadingly. Belinda straightened her back as much as possible as her heels sunk into the turf. She should’ve worn flats, but she faced more important issues than her balance right then. “Is everything all right?” she cut in, trying to raise her voice without screeching.
The meatball with legs, aka Mr. Sykes, shifted his beady eyes to her, his toucan nose bright red. Anger or sunburn? “No, Ms. Kittridge, everything is not alright. I want to know who authorized an outrageous payment to these imbecile caterers.” He glared at the server, waving an invoice in the man’s face.
Belinda looked apologetically at the server. “He didn’t mean that.” Mr. Sykes opened his mouth to protest, but Belinda cut him off. “Please return to whatever you were doing. Excuse us.” With nothing but sheer willpower, Belinda forced Mr. Sykes away and the server offered a short bow of thanks to her and ran for cover.
“What are you doing?” Mr. Sykes said. “This is none of your concern.”
“It is in every way my concern, sir,” she said firmly but with as much respect as she could muster. “You know I’m half of this fundraiser, and my family name is on this, too.”
“Did you know then that most of this event is coming out of my pocket!”
Belinda took a deep breath. She’d always been a tad afraid of Mr. Sykes. She’d never spent that much time with them, though one of their sons was in her grade at school. All she knew was he was a far cry from her own easygoing papa and she never cared for him. But Belinda had a show to put on, and this was no time for this conversation.
“No, I didn’t,” Belinda said calmly. “And I’m happy to discuss reimbursing you, but–”
Belinda’s eyes fluttered. She’d hoped to calm Mr. Sykes down and usher him away before his wife—soon-to-be ex-wife—found him on the premises. But Belinda had just failed and felt her entire gut drop to her feet.
“Stop acting like a horse’s rear end,” Mrs. Sykes said in a harsh whisper. She organized the annual runway show/fundraiser, which benefited a different charitable organization each time. This year’s winner was autism awareness.
Mrs. Sykes had the fashion connections, and she brought Belinda on as her lieutenant this time to do basically everything else (including hiring the catering company, who would probably blacklist her now) as she came to realize too late. If only she’d talked to her mother before she accepted the position! Not to mention, the Sykes’ divorce had been more intrusive than she anticipated.
“This is little Bels Kittridge.” Mrs. Sykes placed a proverbial mama bear arm around Belinda. No one had called her little Bels Kittridge since she was like five. “She went to school with Aidan, for heaven’s sake.”
Mr. Sykes sighed and gave Belinda a shrug. She supposed that was his idea of an apology.
Mrs. Sykes, on the other hand, offered a verbal one, looking mortified. “Please go, Belinda. I’ll handle this.” She emphasized this like it was a mess to clean up and not her husband.
Belinda backed away, worried that the runway show might be preempted by the divorce apocalypse. But she couldn’t very well say that aloud, so she listened to them argue about when they should argue about the money until they were out of earshot.
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Amy, thank you for stopping by. This sounds like a great series. I’m sure Amy would love your comments below.
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