When I was doing research for Open Season, the first book in the Seasons Mystery Series that features two women homicide detectives, Sarah and Angel, I needed to find out some things about piano wire. It is used as a murder weapon, so I wanted to find out if there is any way to determine what piano a piece of wire came from, as well as the age. It was important to know those facts as I decided what kind of a piano the killer would have.
The initial draft of this book was written before Al Gore gave us the Internet, so I had no idea how to find the information I needed. I called my local reference librarian to see if she could help, and her first reaction was, "You need to know what, why?" After getting her past the shock about killing people with piano wire, she did say she could do some research, but it might take several days before she could get back to me. Then she suggested I call a piano tuner.
Good idea, so I grabbed my trusty Yellow Pages and looked up "piano tuners." I called the first one who was listed, and he was very helpful once he got past his shock about the murders and all, too. At first, I didn't plan to put him in the story, but after writing down the information he gave me, I thought, why not let him tell Sarah as well. The following conversation is pretty close to the one I had with the man, as I didn't know what questions to ask at first, either.
Swiveling in her chair, Sarah pulled her mind away from the impossible to the nearly impossible. At least she had a place to begin with the case. She picked up the phone book and looked in the Yellow Pages for piano tuners, her finger stopping on an ad that boasted thirty years in the business. Propping the phone receiver between her ear and her shoulder, she dialed the number.
Sarah identified herself, then paused, not sure of what questions to ask.
"How may I be of assistance to you, Detective?" The voice prompted.
"What can you tell me about piano wire?"
"They're called strings." The man chuckled. "But not to worry. Most people make that mistake."
"Oh." Sarah leaned back in her chair and put one foot on her desk. "Are they distinctive?"
"How do you mean?"
"From one piano to the next. Between a Grand and a Kimball, for instance."
"No." The man followed his one-word answer with the beginning of what Sarah suspected could be a lengthy explanation of how wood and craftsmanship creates the unique sound of each instrument. She used her next question to cut him off.
"How about age? Can you determine how old a string is?"
"That would be almost impossible. Strings have been made the same way for over a hundred years."
"So a string from a piano made last year wouldn't be any different from those in a fifty-year-old piano?"
"The old bass strings might be a little dull after so many years. But otherwise, no. The basic elements would be the same."
Well, that was an abrupt dead end, Sarah thought, hanging up after thanking the man for his help. The only good thing to come out of it was that she could correct Roberts the next time he talked about the piano wire.
And the good thing to come out of it for me was that I did not have to worry about what kind of piano I gave the killer.
The Seasons Series which debuted with Open Season, has received great reviews from Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. The second book, Stalking Season, was just released in hardback, and Open Season is available as an e-book.
You can find out more about Maryann Miller's books at her Website and Blog and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter