Reeling from the trauma of her last case, SFPD Detective Kate Barnes heads to the Olympic Peninsula hoping to heal the present by resolving the past. When the ravaged corpse of an unidentified teen is discovered, her search for personal peace takes a back seat to the quest for justice.
As Kate digs deeper, she discovers the victim was not the only one who had been taken against her will. Racing against the clock to rescue the remaining girls, she uncovers a complex series of ever-increasing horrors. In the darkest corners of Washington state, Kate Barnes will come face-to-face with an adversary so ruthless and powerful that it will take everything she has to save herself, let alone the girls.
“Writer on the Road:
Why travel can transform a story and an author.”
Travel and reading are two great agents for personal growth. New thoughts, places, people, and experiences challenge us to grow out of our comfort zones opening up fresh ways of understand ourselves and the world around us. Whether by smelling, tasting and feeling our way through a new destination, or merely imagining it by reading words on a page, we can be profoundly changed.
As an author, my goal is to take readers on an impactful and entertaining journey. A key element in doing so is to transform the setting into its own compelling character. To that end, I always like to push beyond the bounds of print or digital research. For me, the best way to capture the necessary elements of a location is to visit it whenever possible.
My new crime thriller, Dark Obsessions, is set in the far reaches of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. I had gazed upon the region’s thickly wooded shoreline while sailing through the Straight of San Juan de Fuca, and around the Puget Sound, but had never actually set foot there. The region was a mystery to me—one I knew I had to solve before I could finish writing the book.
I made it about halfway through the first draft on traditional research. With my penchant for including real places within a fictional world, I was able to pick out well-known spots as well as those that are more obscure.
With each successive chapter, I continued to dream of a place that I wanted to visit, both to verify the authenticity of my research and to draw inspiration. Eventually, I booked a flight to Seattle, Washington, and put together an itinerary for a solo trip that would include all the key settings in the story.
To ensure my stay would be as eclectic as possible, I booked accommodations ranging from a traditional resort hotel to a “tiny house” cabin. (The latter’s backside nestled up against the Olympic Forest, while its front side overlooked the Pacific Ocean. My stay also included a late night visit from a stranger who growled under my window with the unmistakable authority of a large carnivore. Although it is worth noting that I did not have the boldness to peak my head out and verify said visitor’s species.)
My first concern upon boarding the plane was how much rewriting might await me when I eventually returned home full of information and inspiration. The second concern was how well I would survive the drive along U.S. Route 12 (the coastal road winding along the Straight of San Juan de Fuca). It was a necessary route to reach Cape Flattery (the northwestern most point in Washington state, and the contiguous United States) as well as a key location in the book.
According to some of my research, the drive was to be feared at the level of traversing the sheer cliff sides of Italy’s Amalfi Coast. I came across numerous accounts describing the area in vividly horrific detail, citing its tendency for washouts, landslides, and aggressive loggers who seemed intent on running unsuspecting travelers off the road.
From meeting with local law enforcement to chatting with the kind residents at local coffee shops, I soaked up everything like a sponge. One such visit on the morning of my intended drive on the much anticipated U.S. Route 12, yielded a host of helpful tips for navigating the scenic drive (which turned out not to be anything near as daunting as driving the Amalfi Coast).
By the time I headed back to the Seattle airport, I was brimming with ideas and potential plot twists. As anticipated, there were rewrites to my manuscript, which improved the story in ways I never could have imagined.
All of my new experiences had improved me too. I came back feeling stronger and ready to take on new challenges.
As with all travel, I ultimately learned as much about myself as I did about the areas I explored and the people with whom I visited. Journeys of exploration, whether hiking through the dense forests of the Olympic Peninsula, or reading through the pages in a book, travel never ceases to provide opportunities for growth.
Thank you, Marie Sutro and R&R Book Tours
About the author
Marie Sutro is an award-winning and bestselling crime fiction author. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime whose writing has been inspired by the combined service of her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father in the San Francisco Police Department.
Her bestselling debut novel, Dark Associations, was awarded the Benjamin Franklin Award for the Best New Voice in Fiction. A proponent for literacy, she volunteers with California Library Literacy Services, helping adults learn to read and write.
She resides in Northern California and is currently at work on the next Kate Barnes story.