Muse Wednesday: Lori Armstrong

This Muse Wednesday’s guest author is mystery author Lori Armstrong. Lori is a fellow panelist of mine for the upcoming Bouchercon in Cleveland. Our panel – Murder, Mayhem,and the Mattress Mambo is scheduled for Friday, October 4th at 4:00 PM (EST). If you’re in Cleveland, come see her, me, Heather Graham, Jordan Dane, and CJ Lyons talk about all things romantic and sexy in suspense/mystery/thrillers.

When asked who influenced her to write in the genre she writes, she came up with the following essay. I was happy to see old friends in Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew – Lori Armstrong

Two questions I get asked more than any other, as far as writing, are:

  • Where do I get my ideas?
  • Who are most influential authors/books?

The first question usually receives a smart-ass response—I buy them in bulk at Costco. The second response is a no brainer—Laura Ingalls Wilder and Nancy Drew.

Like most authors, my love of reading led to my love of writing. I can’t recall the first book I read on my own, but I remember the giddy sense of…WOW, I can read anything! And I loved going to the library and loading up on as many books as I could carry—which a suspect now was all they’d allow us to check out.

I’m a native South Dakotan, 4th generation on both sides of my family. Third graders in South Dakota in history class, spend most the year reading about how immigrants came to settle in this part of the country. One of the assignments was to read a Laura Ingalls Wilder book because it chronicled the trials and tribulations of a family finding a place in this new land, through the eyes of a child, about the same age we were. I started with the first book, “Little House in the Big Woods” and was hooked. I devoured all the books in the series and decided I’d been born in the wrong century. I wanted to be a pioneer. Laura Ingalls was resourceful, a hard worker, devoted to her family, sometimes mischievous but she exhibited that can do attitude we South Dakotans are so proud of to this day. For a number of years I’d go back and re-read the series until I got too old…oddly enough, when my daughters were old enough to read the books, I didn’t re-read them because I didn’t want to taint that childhood experience of discovery.

After I finished all the “Little House” books, I was perusing the school library, when I came across a set of books bound in pink. I’ll admit to being somewhat of a girly-girl from a young age, so I picked one up. The main character was a teenage girl who had her own car, cool friends, great clothes, a college boyfriend…and had adventures galore in her smallish hometown. Once again I was smitten.  I had another character to admire and aspire to be like—I just knew I’d grow up solving crimes. Nancy Drew was clever, kind, curious, and loyal. I tore through those books and actually convinced my mother to buy me the ones the library didn’t have. Yes, I still have those books, and like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, I haven’t gone back and re-read them.

It might sound odd—sharing the author/books that have most influenced my writing, and then saying I haven’t re-read them since childhood. Yet, I’ve talked to other writers and other parents who have revisited those childhood favorites and because their perspective has changed, they find things in the books they never noticed that changed how they felt about the book. I’d hate for that to happen to me, so I keep the memories of the book alive by remembering how much I loved them and how they shaped what I wanted to write.

Besides, given my reading choices, I was pretty much predestined to write a PI series set in South Dakota, don’t you think?


Lori G. Armstrong left the firearms industry in 2000. Her first mystery novel, BLOOD TIES, published in 2005, was nominated in 2006 for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel by the Private Eye Writers of America. The second book in the Julie Collins mystery series, HALLOWED GROUND, released Nov. 2006, was nominated for a 2007 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Original, a Daphne du Maurier Award and won the 2007 WILLA Cather Literary Award for Best Original Softcover Fiction. SHALLOW GRAVE, released in Nov. 2007, was nominated for a 2008 High Plains Book Award, a Daphne du Maurier Award and was a finalist for the 2008 WILLA Cather Literary Award. The fourth book, SNOW BLIND, released in Oct. 2008, won the 2009 Shamus Award, from the Private Eye Writers of America, for Best Paperback Original. Lori is a proud fourth generation South Dakotan and lives in Rapid City with her family.

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