Behind the Scenes: The Candidate (A Rookie Reporter Murder Mystery Novella)

by | A Writer Writes, Amateur Sleuth Mysteries, Behind the Scenes, Fiction, James Lalonde, James Lalonde Universe

Hello, Book Lovers!


On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I realised the first book in my new Rookie Reporter mystery series. And I thought I would share a little of the behind the scenes or the making of the novella that as a reader you never get to see unless I take you along with me. In this blog post, I’m going to answer a few questions about The Candidate and the Rookie Reporter series.


But first, before I forget here are the links to the online ebook retailers.


Apple Books
Barnes and Noble
Google Play


At present, the paperback has not been released and is still in the final stages of the publishing process. Right now, I am waiting for a proof copy to be sent in the mail. Fingers crossed, all goes well.


As always, if you love leaving reviews and would like an advanced reader copy of The Candidate, you can get a free copy from BookSirens.


What can I expect from the Rookie Reporter series?

Five years before, James Lalonde was the editor for the Northampton Tribune and discovered that the legendary sword, Excalibur, was stolen from Elizabeth James’s home in Missing. He was a gofer dreaming of writing his first byline for the Northampton Tribune. The Rookie Reporter mystery series follows James Lalonde’s first year as a journalist, starting with his first-ever case in The Candidate. Essentially the books are his professional highlight reel.


Each novella in the series will be a self-contained story under 20,000 words, with no cliffhangers, a satisfying conclusion, and will hit the popular tropes in the amateur sleuth mystery sub-genre. Technically, the books are short novellas or novelettes with around 80 physical book pages. That was the plan. Book one has 130 pages, so it’s a little longer than intended, but that’s what the story required. You get it; the story comes first.


Throughout the series, I plan on taking James to a few different places around Europe, including Cannes and Strasbourg. Unfortunately, due to the current situation, I cannot travel, but my husband has been to a few different places, and I can go vicariously through him and by watching travel vlogs on YouTube. But, I have been to Strasbourg close to Christmas time, and I have a vlog on my YouTube channel for those of you who are curious.


What inspired you to start writing the Rookie Reporter mysteries?

On a hot summer’s day on June 12, 2019, I decided to write a short story using Rory’s Story Cubes. My murder mystery novella, The Candidate, is the result of a roll of those die; almost all of them. One of the dice had a flower, which I forgot to include in the story. Unless you associate flowers with a hospital visit, but that’s a stretch.


As I cast my eyes over the die with the walking cane, arrow, file, earth, and liquid, I envisioned the very first scene in The Candidate. At the time, Albert was merely a nameless old man staggering through a pristine-white hallway after being stabbed in the chest with an arrow. After this, I imaged the scene he left behind him. A pool of blood on the floor, splatter on the antique globe, the bodkin arrow was laying on the floor next to a walking cane.
Honestly, these scenes came to mind in quick succession. And, I added the floor to ceiling bookshelves and the mediaeval amour in Albert’s home study because that’s my dream office scenario.


At the time, I cast the story idea aside to finish editing and publishing, Missing, the first book in the James Lalonde series. Next, I started working on book two in the series and the second edition of Missing.


One year later, while we were all in lockdown, writing became difficult. Creatively, I struggled to function. Then an idea came to mind, and I loved it. I decided to write a series of novellas set in James Lalonde’s first year as a journalist, starting with his first-ever case. That’s when I remembered the idea and scenes I documented after using the story cubes.


During fourteen days, I created an outline for the story, created the characters with strong motivations, and established the timelines for the story. After that, I put the outline aside, perhaps out of fear. Then nine months later, I started writing, revising, and editing this story, and I’ve finally reached the finish line. Today, I look back at that journey, and I’m glad I took my time and wrote the Candidate.


How many books will there be in the series?

There will be twelve books in the Rookie Reporter mystery series. However, I have an idea for book two and a super vague idea for a book set in Strasbourg around Christmas time. Beyond that, I have no further thoughts; I’m going to see where inspiration takes me.


Why did you call the first novella, The Candidate?

The opening scene or the prologue follows Albert Harrington’s final hours after he was fatally stabbed with a bodkin arrow by an unidentified individual who had fled the scene, believing that he had died instantly. All of this occurs the day before he is due to be sworn in as the magistrate of the Northampton courts. The story is about unravelling the mysteries surrounding his death and uncovering the secrets that led him to be silenced—and bringing the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice. You get it the novella is about Albert.


To be honest, no other name fit the story, in my mind, at least. I originally toyed with the idea of calling it “A Candidate to Murder,” but that title gave off a strong, cozy mystery vibe, which I thought was misleading.


Why did you choose to start the story with Albert’s death then jump back in time?

Much like a good murder mystery, the story begins off the page, the unseen events that led to Albert’s murder. These events are brought to light through James Lalonde’s investigation. If the events were told in chronological order, the story would read like a thriller instead of a mystery.


So, it’s a stylistic choice.


spoiler alert (click to read spoiler)

There is a part of me that wanted to dig deeper into Albert’s point of view and share how the case surrounding Yvette Spencer’s murder, almost twenty years ago, still niggled in the back of his mind. And how he couldn’t help but jump at the chance to look into the case again after Yvette’s daughter turned up on his doorstep the previous morning. I wanted to explore how he felt before and during his confrontation with the killer in his study around midnight, after a family dinner with his brother and wife.

Going down this road would take something away from the investigation aspect of a murder mystery. It defeats the purpose of writing and reading in the genre. The reading experience is all about picking up the clues and piecing together the puzzle alongside the Amateur Sleuth or Detective. To me, this made the time jump necessary. I wanted to stick to the murder mystery genre tropes.


Did you include any real-life locations in this book, as you did in Missing?

The short answer is no. Now for the long answer.


I was inspired by many real-life places and some that are merely pictures of beautiful places found on Google. For example, the parish church of All Souls was heavily inspired by the interior of the real-life parish church of All Saints, which can be found in the inner city centre of Northampton. Its interior is breathtaking, according to the photos.


Tragically, you can’t shop at the Book Bin because that too is fictional. While searching for images to help me describe the setting a little better as I wrote the first draft and I came across the first image. This book shop is perfect and exactly how I imagined the Book Bin to look in real life. I particularly love the floor to ceiling bookshelves. And you can find this used book shop in the 3rd arrondissement in Paris.


And then there’s Hammer and Nail. That, too, is fictional. Again, I was inspired by my local hardware store. It, too, is a narrow, one aisle-wide shop and is a common find in the larger cities in the united kingdom. The second image contains an image similar to what I envisioned for Hammer and Nail.


Last but not least, in the first chapter, there is a reference to Delapre Abbey and a reenactment of a famous battle. That is a real event held in July where they reenact the mediaeval Battle of Northampton, which was a major battle in the war of the Roses. Every year they hold a similar mediaeval reenactment. I thought this would be something that James would have to research in his job as a research assistant at the Northampton Tribune.


What are you writing next?

At the moment, I am working on a special project for my James Lalonde Insiders; it’s a holiday gift for my subscribers. This gift will be a short story or more likely a novelette, I can never tell the length of these projects until they are finished, but I’m hoping to get it out to my email list before the end of the year.


So, I’m on a tight deadline.

A Used book shop in the 3rd arrondissement in Paris that inspired the Book Bin.

A similar Hardware store to what I envisioned for Hammer and Nail.

Thanks for reading this behind the scenes sneak peek at The Candidate.


Happy reading, book lovers!

Amelia xx

Amelia D. Hay

Amelia D. Hay

I’m Amelia. I write amateur sleuth mystery novels under the pen name A. D. Hay and I’m the author of The Candidate, The Locked Room, The Lawn, Suspicion and Duplicity. I’m also the host of the Mystery Novel Nerd Podcast and The Authorpreneur Podcast™️. Right now, I’m writing the first novella in a cozy mystery series, and writing the third book in the James Lalonde Mystery Series. When I’m not writing, hosting my podcasts or coaching aspiring authors, I love to travel around Europe with my Husband, drink tea, and eat pizza.

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