How Real Life Shapes the Fiction We Write — Mary Dodge Allen ( + GIVEAWAY )

Today I’m happy to welcome author Mary Dodge Allen to the blog to discuss how real life inspires our fiction. Read through to the end to find out how you can enter her giveaway.

Most authors tend to be observant. I know I am. When I am out and about, I take note of the things others say or do – a bit of snappy dialogue, a humorous story –  and I tuck them away in my memory for possible use in my writing. My own real life experiences also influence my writing.

When I was plotting my recent mystery/suspense novel, Hunt for a Hometown Killer, I wanted to begin with a scene where my main character Roxy locates the damaged car used in her husband’s unsolved hit and run murder. I asked myself:

  • What if a sinkhole suddenly opens up in front of main character Roxy and quickly drains a retention pond, uncovering the shocking sight of the damaged car used in her husband’s unsolved hit and run murder?
  • And what if Roxy, the town’s mail carrier, turns amateur sleuth and uses her sharp photographic memory to recall images of people, activities, vehicles, as she makes her deliveries?

I live in Florida, where sinkholes tend to form, and nearly forty years ago, a massive sinkhole opened up less than a mile from where I now live. It measured more than 350 ft. wide, 75 ft. deep, and it swallowed a luxury car dealership, five Porsches, a community swimming pool and a private home (the family left in time). It is now a pond named Lake Rose, in honor of the homeowner. I’ve passed by this pond on my walks.

I’ve been asked how I came up with the idea of a mail carrier as an amateur sleuth. Years ago, during a college break I worked as a USPS substitute mail carrier. I realized that mail carriers can move around town freely, while remaining ‘invisible in plain sight.’ And they can learn a lot about the people on their routes by the mail and packages they receive. 

In describing the twists and turns of the reopened murder investigation, I drew upon my years of experience as a volunteer at our local police department. Roxy works closely with Kyle, the town’s handsome detective, and their relationship grows close. They identify a new prime suspect, who attacks Roxy before dropping out of sight.

            Roxy stubbornly refuses to back out of a ‘wilderness women getaway’ canoe trip she’s planned with her best friends. She’s convinced the suspect won’t follow her into this remote area, and she’s hoping to find solace in the peaceful beauty of Florida’s Ocala Forest. The many canoe/camping trips I took with my close friends in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness helped me to write these scenes. Plus, it was fun to add Florida dangers like gators, snakes and bears.

During this getaway trip, Roxy and her wisecracking friends improvise as they face humorous camping challenges. At the end of the first day, the women are sitting around the campfire, exhausted. I held a vivid picture in my mind as I wrote: 

“They went quiet, as the burning limbs snapped and cracked against the background of crickets chirping. Glowing red sparks rose from the gyrating flames and merged with the gray smoke curling upward toward the dark sky. Heat from the crackling campfire warmed Roxy’s face, arms and legs. As she sat in the flickering firelight and gazed at the faces of her closest friends, a powerful feeling of love and gratitude surged. She remembered something she’d learned in her grief counseling group, about savoring the special moments in life. This was one of them.”

I stopped, and as I read what I’d just written, a powerful feeling of longing surged inside me, triggered by real life – all the months I’d spent at home writing during the Covid-19 lockdown. I realized how much I missed being with my family and dear friends, and I vowed I would never take any gatherings with my loved ones for granted again.

Thanksgiving is drawing near. During this holiday season, may we feel a deep gratitude for the blessing of being with our loved ones (even those people who sometimes irritate us). May we give comfort to each other where there has been loss. May we freely give where there is need, and may we reflect on what is truly important in our lives.


Those who leave comments on this blog post will be placed in a random drawing. The winner will receive in the mail a paperback copy of Hunt for a Hometown Killer.


Two years to the day after Roxy Silva’s husband was murdered, a freak sinkhole drains a retention pond, exposing the car used in his fatal hit and run. The skeleton of the presumed prime suspect, the car’s owner, is found inside the trunk, thrusting the investigation in a new direction.

Detective Kyle Ransom is determined to find his best friend’s killer, and Roxy is equally determined to help. As a mail carrier, she can remain invisible as she moves around town. Using her total recall memory, she observes activities and captures images of people, vehicles and license plates, as well as the addresses on mail and packages she delivers. Roxy has no idea her amateur sleuthing will place her life in danger.

Together, Roxy and Kyle uncover a shocking trail of deception and secrets. As they work on the cold case, their relationship heats up. Kyle’s wife died years ago, and he’s ready for a commitment. But Roxy is recovering from the depression triggered by her husband’s murder and other sudden and tragic losses in her life. She’s struggling with a deep-seated fear of loss, her faith, and finding meaning in a chaotic world. Complications arise when Roxy’s first love comes back into her life, wanting a second chance. Old feelings of attraction and bitterness surface, as she confronts a long-buried secret in her own past.

Kyle identifies a new prime suspect, and the killer drops out of sight. When Roxy leaves on a ‘wilderness women getaway’ camping trip with her wisecracking friends, she finds herself in danger as the killer stalks her. She returns home, and the killer follows. Roxy is plunged in a fight for her life when she’s taken captive, and she must use her wits to survive.

Click on this link to buy:

Hunt For A Hometown Killer: A Novel: Allen, Mary Dodge: 9781952369704: Books


Mary Dodge Allen has won two Royal Palm Literary Awards from the Florida Writer’s Association. She and her husband live in Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She’s been a Counselor and Social Worker, and she worked as a USPS mail carrier during a college break. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate. Website:


15 thoughts on “How Real Life Shapes the Fiction We Write — Mary Dodge Allen ( + GIVEAWAY )

  1. I had not experienced what I call a “page turner” for a long time until I read Mary Dodge Allen’s book, Hunt for a Hometown Killer. Finally! A book I had a hard time putting down. Suspenseful, joyful, mysterious, and funny all wrapped into one! Hope there is a sequal!

  2. Loved your blog post Mary! Look forward to reading your book and seeing you in December! ❤️❤️🙏🙏🙏❤️❤️Jesus loves you and so do I! Xxoo, Tina

  3. Hi, your book sounds and looks very intriguing! I love a good page turner and your book sounds like it is a great page turner! You are a new to me author. I will be adding your book to my TBR list, thank you so much for sharing about it. Have a great week and stay safe. aliciabhaney(at)sbcglobal(dot)net

  4. I love Mystery books. Love the cover, title, excerpt and interview…. Would love to read this book and find out what secrets Roxy and Kyle find and are they both ready for a commitment?? Would love to read & review this book in print format.
    Good to know you’re writing a sequel to this book.
    Happy Thanksgiving
    Blessings to you

  5. I was glued to this book with anticipation of every page I turned. I could relate to so much of the story, being a life long Florida resident.I love the detailed description from scenes around Florida.Mary is quite a writer. The characters were interesting,all different but flowed perfectly with the story. I will definitely look forward to her next book.Thank you Mary for time well spent.

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