Where did you get the idea for Scented?
Essentially, that opening scene — the prologue– happened to me. I was leaving for a meeting at the library, and my son, who was three- or four-years-old at the time, and he told me I stunk. Only, I didn’t stink. There was absolutely no smell whatsoever, but he was adamant. So, I left, and I wondered why he kept saying it, and as I drove, I convince myself that he could smell the stink of death on me. That he’d freaked because I was about to get run over by a Mack truck. So, I drove uneasily to the library, attended my meeting, and drove uneasily home. No death. Yay. My kid was just weird that night. But, I never forgot that, because I thought that it would make an interesting story.
Are there any other personal tidbits in the story?
Yes, there are. This book, given its contemporary nature, probably borrows the most from my life. We kept finding dead squirrels and birds in our yard, likely for the reasons described at the end of the book. However, the final event of the book did not occur near us. Lauarline’s friend’s name is Ethel after my maternal grandmother. Lauraline’s great aunt is named Rosetta, after my paternal grandmother. Milton is the name of one of my favorite uncles. Having actually been a journalist, all the Ethel reporter intern stuff comes from my experience as a reporter. My editor asked me to look into the deaths of two siblings that came into the obit department, and they’d been electrocuted when their grain silo hit a power line.
Do black people really have red hair?
Yes. Red hair is rare in any population, regardless of skin color. Only one to two percent of the population has red hair, in general. So, seeing an African American with red hair is odd, but it’s also striking. There’s a whole photography project devoted to it. I liked the idea of a red-haired Lauraline, and was absolutely convinced when I saw one of the girls in my daughter’s gymnastics classes who was an absolutely adorable red-haired African American.
Why Were Both Their Mothers Dead?
This story, in my own mind, started out as squarely Bryan’s story. I wanted a girlfriend character to be of help, but I also wanted her to have her own issues. And around the time I was writing, a woman I knew because her daughter and my daughter were in classes together, died when a tree fell on her car during a violent thunder-storm. Of course, it was horrific and I just kept thinking how traumatic that would be for the daughter, and that’s when I realized that was Lauraline’s story. That was her issue that she needed to overcome. So, with me clearly honing in on that as the backstory, I thought it created a nice symmetry for the characters. Their lives, in that they’ve both survived this tragic loss, are similar. But, they’ve also had very different post-loss experiences.
Is this book part of a series?
At this time, I do not intend to write a sequel. In my own mind, there’s only one question I think I’d like to explore. It’s the question Lauraline asks her grandmother after she realizes what is going on with her ability. (Spoiler alert here) She wants to know why she doesn’t have her own visitor, and while I made peace with her not needing one, I wonder in the future if she might. But, there are no plans for a sequel at the moment.