What Fresh Smell
by Jeffrey Marks
So What’s in a Book?
I write a number of mystery series and non-fiction books, but the Marissa series has a special place in my heart. It is the one that cuts closest to home for me. The main character is loosely based on my sister, who actually worked at a department store selling perfume. My two nephews provide the source material for Zach, even down to the hospital stay portrayed in The Scent of Murder.
So how did this book come about? First, each of the stories in the series is set against a particular holiday. I did this after realizing that the first book is set against Valentine’s day, and the prequel uses Christmas as a backdrop. I always liked the way that Ellery Queen used holidays in Calamity Town, and so my later stories all have intentionally included holidays. I chose Mother’s Day for What Fresh Smell, since it would be a spring book, and there’s an air of rebirth and rejuvenation in the book. I teach, and I wanted to toy with the idea that parents and teachers don’t know each other very well these days. Parents rely on daycares, but who really gets to know the backgrounds of the teachers who work there?
Having that in place, then I started to think about the plot. I decided to use a twist that I particularly admired in one of my favorite Agatha Christie novels. Once all that was in place, I could start writing. It was fun looking deeper into Gavin’s past. Marissa’s life is more of an open book to the reader, but Gavin is known more for the here-and-now of the story than his life before Marissa. It was interesting to get to see him in more depth.
For me, the first draft is always the easiest. I love the creation aspects of writing, this whole new world that comes alive in the writing and seeing the ideas take a more tangible form. While I have friends who love editing, that’s always my slowest part. I’m like one of the students at Zack’s daycare who drags their feet when it’s time for something unpleasant.
The title caused me consternation. I went through several puns for the title until I finally came upon What Fresh Smell, which is “loosely” based on the Dorothy Parker quote. I felt that it captured the essence of the book in its endless small battles.