DEBORAH KNOTT SERIES
People seem surprised when I say that Judge Deborah Knott is the negative to Lt. Sigrid Harald’s positive. They tell me that the North Carolina books feel sunny and light while the New York books are darker and less-apparently humorous. So how could Deborah be Sigrid’s negative?
In setting a series in my native state, my first consideration was “What will she do for a living?” I already knew that she would have to be something connected with the law because I didn’t think I could make a complete amateur completely convincing. Other, more inventive writers can make it seem perfectly logical that a schoolteacher or real estate agent or cookie-baking mom would keep stumbling over murders that they could solve with their civilian skills, but I needed a sturdier reed on which to lean. I also needed to differentiate her from the officer in my first series. Sigrid was a homicide detective with the NYPD, so my new character couldn’t be a police officer of any kind.
Reporters and attorneys had been done many times, so scratch those. A PI? Did I really want to compete with Sue Grafton?
Eventually, it occurred to me that no one was writing about a woman judge. She was of the law, yet not a professional detective. If I made her a district court judge, she would never sit on a murder case, so she could poke around in an investigation without having to recuse herself later. Also, because she was an officer of the court, she could ask questions of the official investigators who might consider her nosy, but couldn’t tell her to butt out. Best of all, I could send her across the state to hold court in different districts from the mountains to the coast, which would let me explore issues related to North Carolina as it changed from an agrarian culture to one more high-tech.
But back to the yin-yang of the two characters.
Sigrid had almost no family, only a mother, a housemate, and a Southern grandmother. I gave Deborah a large sprawling family who would meddle in her affairs and try to boss her around.
Sigrid was a loner, uncomfortable in her skin, awkward in social situations; ergo, Deborah would be okay with her body. She would welcome people into her life both as friends or as lovers.
Sigrid thought before she spoke or acted. Deborah? Not so much.
Sigrid was a professional whose job is to solve murder cases. Deborah is a judge who thinks she’s minding her own business but usually gets drawn in by circumstances or her own curiosity
I looked upon Sigrid’s journey as one from intellect to emotion, so Deborah’s would go in the opposite direction.
When they finally met in Three-Day Town, no one was surprised that they didn’t bond. Opposites don’t always attract, do they?
(If you want more details as to how the two series intersect, go over to the Sigrid Harald page.)