Diane McKeithen had a succinct answer when asked how she got started on this writing kick.
“I was bored,” McKeithen said with a chuckle. “I got bored one day and I decided I’d sit down and write a short story.”
That short story became the first chapter in her first novel and a sequel later McKeithen has published “Cide Effect”, a departure from her prior two books.
McKeithen will be at Anchored South on Reid Ave. 12-2 p.m. ET Saturday for a book signing.
And all of it was crafted almost by happenstance.
McKeithen was a high school English teacher for 35 years, including six in Port St. Joe while her husband, Frank, served as the county’s sheriff.
The short story she wrote got a thumbs-up from hubby and, slowly, what unfolded, chapter by chapter, a novel with a dystopian theme.
“He said the story was good and I should expand on it,” McKeithen said. “I probably broke every rule of writing,
“I am not a good writer; I write for fun, to entertain the reader.”
One year of writing was followed by three years of editing and the result was “In An Instant,” rumination on how life deals unseen alterations along its path.
McKeithen figured job well done and all but moved on, only to have her readers have other thoughts.
“I had a bunch of people asking me for a sequel,” McKeithen said, adding she made four starts before finding the story.
“It felt awesome that people liked the book. But it was also very nerve-wracking because I was an English teacher.”
In time McKeithen published that sequel “Just In Case.”
Those two novels standalone; beside them now is “Cide Effects” which mixes in the experiences of a teacher and her sheriff husband in a murder mystery involving a student.
“This is the one I always wanted to write,” McKeithen said. “It is about a teacher who teaches in a high school and one of her students is murdered.”
So many of the characters in the book bear names familiar to residents (there is one named for Traci Gaddis, for example).
The subject matter and the details that fill the book are derived in significant portion from real-life.
“A lot of what the things in the book I had seen,” McKeithen noted. “It throws in a lot of experiences and incorporates a lot of what happened in real life.”
And as for some of the criminal details, such as interrogations, who better to provide another set of eyes than a former sheriff?
“He reads everything I write,” McKeithen said. “He is my editor. He helped a lot with small details.”
This writing gig has become so much fun and fulfilling (all of McKeithen’s books are available on Amazon) that McKeithen is already well into novel four.
The book involves a school shooting.
“It is the hardest one to write yet,” McKeithen said.
But, it sure beats boredom.