A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Riverview, Wisconsin

The first book I ever wrote, Mirror Image, took me twenty-some years to write.

I was in high school when the idea first came to me. I originally thought it would be a just a quick, little short story I would bang out in a day or two, but no matter how much I worked on it, I couldn’t get it right.

I eventually figured out the issue, namely that it wasn’t a short story after all, but a novel. Once I realized that, then more issues came to light, namely that I was starting it in the wrong place AND the story was told by the wrong character. (Yes, there were multiple problems.) But even once I got all that straightened out, it still took me years to write it. In fact, it took so long that I had trouble finishing it because my identity had started to wrap itself around being in a constant state of working on THIS particular project.

Eventually I pushed through and finished it in the early 2000s, when Amazon was the name of a rainforest in South America, I had decided I was going to get traditionally published. I attended a writer’s conference and found an agent and an editor at Bantam Dell who were interested in the project.

Alas, they were not interested enough to buy it, so I was told to write my next book.

Which I did. That one was The Stolen Twin and it took me six months to complete. (Yes, once I got past defining myself in a perpetual state of writing one particular novel, in this case Mirror Image, I was able to finish stories much more quickly.)

Needless to say, the publisher wasn’t interested in that book either and I ended up taking a hiatus from fiction writing for about a decade. (More on that in my Writing Journey posts.)

But, back to the books themselves. They both took place in Wisconsin, because that’s where I grew up, in a city that sounded suspiciously like Madison, which coincidently was the city I grew up in and also where I went to college.

However, I was hesitant to actually say it was Madison. For one thing, if I did, I was going to have to make sure I was spot on for any landmarks, streets, locations, etc., and as I have a pretty terrible sense of direction, I didn’t know if I wanted that level of stress and angst making sure I had everything correct.

But, even more importantly, I couldn’t stop thinking about Derry, Maine.

Derry, Maine, is a fictional town created by Stephen King, along with other fictional towns in Maine, like Castle Rock and Jerusalem’s Lot. King grew up in Maine and still lives there.

What if I created my own fictional world like King, except mine would be in Wisconsin, not Maine?

And that was how Riverview was born.

I set both books in Riverview and then promptly began my writing pause.  It wasn’t until my mother was dying and I could feel the stories inside me start to rebel, that I returned to Wisconsin.

Except this time, it wasn’t Riverview calling me but a haunted little town called Redemption.

I had originally thought I would only have one book set in Redemption. Of course, God had other plans, and eventually I ended up with multiple series taking place in Redemption. (Secrets of Redemption and The Charlie Kingsley Mysteries were the first two.)

But Riverview wasn’t done with me. I started to realize that as strange and twisted as Redemption was, Riverview also had a dark underbelly. Except in Riverview’s case, it was buried underneath the normalcy of a wholesome, midwestern college town.

There was something there. I couldn’t see it yet, but the stories were itching to get out.

So, in 2021, I started to work on The Taking. And, like nearly all of my ideas, I assumed it was going to be a standalone. And, I also started to think that maybe all of The Riverview Mysteries would be standalones.


I paused on The Taking to start working on The Murder Before Christmas. There was something not quite right about The Taking and I felt like it was going to take too long to figure it out and Charlie wouldn’t leave me alone.

When I returned to that book in early 2022, I realized a few things, one of which was The Taking was also a series. Because, of course.

(I’m starting to think at this point, I should assume a book is a series instead of a standalone.)

I’ll share more about the writing of The Taking in my story-behind-the-story, but all of that to say, what is likely going to happen is The Riverview Mysteries is going to resemble the Secrets of Redemption series: There will be one main series arc (that will start with The Taking) but it will also include other standalone books (in this case, The Stolen Twin and Mirror Image).

Secrets of Redemption has the main series arc plus The Third Nanny, which is a completely separate, standalone book.

Here’s where you can see all the current books in The Riverview Mysteries, including a free standalone separate story called Today I’ll See Her.

And here’s an overview of how the Riverview and Redemption are related.

An inside look at how Riverview, Wisconsin, was born and the beginnings of The Riverview Mysteries series. Share on X

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