Howdy! I’m starting a series of blogs to count down to the premiere of “Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery” on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries (June 4, 9-11pm). So I’m starting off with the basics: who is Emma Fielding?
Emma is an an archaeologist, and the protagonist of my first six mysteries—Site Unseen, Grave Consequences, Past Malice, A Fugitive Truth, More Bitter Than Death, and Ashes and Bones. She got her name while I was writing my first mystery, and I happened to glance over at my bookcase. There I saw a copy of Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding, and a copy of Emma, by Jane Austen, and I put the two names together. It wasn’t for a long time that I realized how appropriate that name was—it can be read as a play on words for her job, someone who spends time in the field. I had another character point out the joke to Emma in a later book, but I felt pretty silly for not having seen it myself right away!
And when I suddenly realized I was going to start writing a mystery (more about that in a future blog), I needed to figure out who my hero was. Since my career at the time was in American historical archaeology (studying the past through archaeology and first-person documents, like diaries or wills), that’s what Emma does, too. This turned out to be a real benefit for an amateur sleuth, because archaeologists need many of the same skills as detectives (which I’ll also discuss in another blog).
I get asked a lot if Emma is based on me. That’s a tricky question, because while her adventures are based loosely on my own experiences (very loosely—my life isn’t that exciting!), we have a lot in common. We both are academics and love puzzles; we’re both New Englanders to the bone. She’s a little more serious than I am, and she probably wouldn’t know what to make of my geeky sense of humor. On the other hand, Emma actually got me to start jogging; the great thing about a fictional character is that Emma’s knees won’t ever give out from all the fieldwork! Emma is braver than I am—she actually surprised me a number of times, by running toward trouble when I expected her to quite sensibly hide—but then, she never tried to write a novel. She’s very loyal to her friends and her family, and she never gives up on a challenge. She’s passionate about what we can learn through science, history, and archaeology—and so am I.
NEXT: What it’s like to work on a dig