SIGRID HARALD SERIES [* Sigrid's Family Lines]
The Sigrid Harald series grew out of a short story that used my experience as the art department secretary at Brooklyn College as the backdrop. Back then, all sorts of exotic--and very dangerous--chemicals were used in the photography and print-making classes. Students could sign out the key to a locked closet and were supposed to bring the key back immediately. In reality, I often had to go hunting for it at the end of the day. It occurred to me that it would be very easy for anyone in the department to help themselves to whatever noxious substance they wanted for whatever use.
I spent the first few years of my career writing short stories and eventually remembered the chemical closet. The story was one of my longest to date, at a time when the short story market was beginning to dry up.
In those days, I was still intimidated by the novel. Much too long for me, I thought. My stories usually ran around 2500 words. A novel needed to be at least 60,000. No thank you.
The first draft of "One Coffee With" used a lightly-sketched NYPD homicide detective named in honor of Niels Bohr, the Nobel Laureate who famously told Einstein to "Stop telling God what to do."
By the time it was rejected all around and I had expanded it to a novelette, then a novella, then finally a novel, Peter Bohr had morphed into Lt. Sigrid Harald. (I kept the Scandinavian descent, but decided there was no point giving critics a chance to crack wise by calling her "the boring Sigrid Bohr.") At this point, I knew that the book was going to be the first of a series and that I would be more comfortable writing from a woman's viewpoint. I knew the series would cover one year in her life and that I would let her change and grow over that year.
I also knew there would be an overarching mystery running through the whole series of how her police officer father was killed in the line of duty and how that past affected her present. Giving her a Southern grandmother was sheer serendipity.
As for why make her a police officer and not an amateur sleuth? Simple. I wanted this to be a series and I did not think I could come up with enough logical reasons an artist or a fashion designer or a quilting mom would keep tripping over bodies in book after book. By making her a homicide detective within the NYPD, I could simply write about her more interesting and puzzling cases.
It was quite a year for both of us.
* Sigrid's Family Connection to Deborah Knott
To explain how Sigrid Harald, Kate Honeycutt Bryant, and Deborah Knott are linked, let's start with Kate and Mary Pat, the little girl from Bloody Kin, who had been orphaned a year or so earlier. They share a common great-grandfather through Mary Pat's paternal line and are therefore second cousins. Kate's second husband is Rob Bryant, Dwight Bryant's brother, so that makes her Deborah's sister-in-law. Together, Kate and Rob have 3 children: Mary Pat, whom both adopted; Kate's son Jake, whom Rob adopted; and the son they had together R.W.
Kate first appeared in Ch. XVI of Death in Blue Folders. At that time, she was married to her first husband, Jake Honeycutt, who was Sigrid's cousin. How she wound up in Colleton County married to Dwight's brother is recounted in Bloody Kin.
Mary Pat is related to Sigrid through her mother's line. Her great-grandfather was a Gilbert and was brother to Jane Gilbert Lattimore, so Mrs. Lattimore is her great-great-aunt. Mrs. Lattimore is the mother of Sigrid's mother, Anne Lattimore Harald. (And for what it's worth, Deborah's mother and Mrs. Lattimore were distant cousins, but don't ask me how!)