- by Laura Resnick
In the “where do you get your ideas?” department, my new novel, Doppelgangster, is an example of how bits and pieces come together in a writer’s warped mind the way paperclips of all shapes and sizes suddenly cling to the same magnet when it’s passed through a random assortment of them.
A friend said to me one day that he or she had seen my doppelgänger. I can’t even remember, on this particular occasion, whether the friend was male or female, let alone who it was, because I’ve heard this comment so many times in my life. (I evidently have a very common look, because people whom I meet often think they’ve met me before, or else they say I look exactly like their neighbor, their cousin, their sister-in-law, their boss, their client, etc. Similarly, a number of my friends over the years have mentioned meeting people who look remarkably like me.)
A doppelgänger is a perfect double whose appearance portends death. Seeing your own doppelgänger traditionally means that you’ll die by nightfall.
I happened to be reading a book about organized crime at the time, which has been an interest of mine ever since living in Sicily (birthplace of the Mafia) years ago. And when my friend made the above comment to me, somehow the word “doppelgänger” merged in my head with the word “gangster,” and I heard “doppelgangster.”
I was, at the time, thinking up story premises for the new urban fantasy series idea that I was working on. Esther Diamond, the heroine of this series, is a struggling actress in Manhattan who gets involved in supernatural adventures with her friend Max, a 350-year-old sorcerer whose day job is protecting New York City from Evil. Her love interest in a skeptical cop named Lopez who thinks they’re both crazy and possibly dangerous.
The word “doppelgangster” immediately led me to thinking about a fantasy premise wherein Mafia wiseguys in Little Italy start dying in supernaturally mysterious ways shortly after seeing their own perfect doubles.
The resultant storyline is summarized by Publishers Weekly as follows:
“This gleeful, clever [novel] teams up actress and singing waitress Esther Diamond with the magic-savvy but utterly unworldly Max the Magician and his slobbering canine familiar, Nelli, to discover how and why New York’s mobsters are being magically duplicated. Complicating matters is Esther’s suspicious would-be boyfriend, handsome Irish-Cuban police detective Connor Lopez, who would prefer a straightforward investigation involving neither Esther nor magic. Resnick introduces a colorful cast of gangsters and their associates, including a thrice-bereaved mob widow and an attractive young priest, as she spins a witty, fast-paced mystery around her convincingly self-absorbed chorus-girl heroine. Sexy interludes raise the tension between Lopez and Esther as she juggles magical assailants, her perennially distracted agent, her meddling mother, and wiseguys both friendly and threatening in a well-crafted, rollicking mystery.”
As for how I got from “wiseguys start dying supernaturally after seeing their own perfect doubles” to a 100,000 word novel involving multiple characters, a plot, subplots, red herrings, a looming mob war, and a solution to the puzzle… well, that’s part of the long, long, long road of hard work (which includes, oh, writing the book) that comes after you get the story idea!