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A Perfect Place for a Mystery … (or even a murder)

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Once I was lucky enough to stay in a lighthouse. The second after thinking how wild and beautiful and extraordinary it was, came the thought that it would be a perfect setting for a murder mystery.

Finding somewhere atmospheric to set your story can be a really great place to start – let your imagination run. For mystery stories, atmosphere is key. And for murder mysteries, the best place of all is somewhere remote, with the whiff of danger, and everyone looking over their shoulder and wondering who the baddie is.

The lighthouse I stayed in was reached by a treacherously long and winding cliff road. No problem for us to drive up and down it several times a day. But two families used to live there all year round to keep the light working. They couldn’t come and go.

In a mystery story you need to gather people together who might have very good reasons not to get along. Abandoning them somewhere they cannot leave creates a bunch of stresses and you can just wait for their arguments and accusations to brew.

Visiting places is great, but collecting pictures of fascinating buildings, even rooms, can be a great starting point for sparking ideas. Look for pictures of people and places that interest you. What sort of people would live here? What would it be like?

Most book ideas start simply, with a single impression: an image, a setting, a scene, a character – something that just gives a little spark that then develops. Don’t expect the story to come to you all at once. Wait for your characters to tell you their stories.

It’s good to jot things down, places, people, thoughts and feelings. You never know when you might use them.

I didn’t write The Bad Luck Lighthouse until many years after I stayed in that lighthouse. But I could still remember the intense feelings of being there when a storm blew up, and from that moment I knew I would have a whole story to write about it one day.

The Bad Luck Lighthouse by Nicki Thornton is out now, priced £6.99. Please contact us at if you would like to order a copy.

Read more about Nicki, her books and current blog tour on her website You can also connect with Nicki on Twitter: @nicki_thornton