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Meet the Woman Who Inspired Dawna

The picture above is of my grandparents, Leoma Dallas Simmons and Rolin Simmons. It was taken in 1967 in their yard and is one of my favorite photos. Leoma and Rolin are the inspiration for Dawna and Bob Carpenter in my Hometown Hardware mystery series. 

At Left Coast Crime a few weeks ago, I was on a panel titled Not Dead Yet: Older Sleuths in Mystery. One of the questions the moderator asked was why each of us chose to write an elderly sleuth.

While Dawna in Hammers and Homicide is 62, I certainly don’t consider her “elderly.” Funny how the older we get, the farther out we push the age that seems “old” to us. Dawna’s not retired, she’s walks to work as often as she can, works in her garden, and is contemplating dance lessons, among many other activities. Like my grandmother at her age, she can still stand on her head. 

What Dawna has done that shows her age somewhat is to stop dying her hair and let her natural silvery sparkles shine through. (Dawna is adamant her hair is silver, not grey!) She’s found that with her silver hair, younger people tend to overlook her, so she can often fly under the radar while she’s snooping. On top of that, she’s reached an age where she really doesn’t care all that much anymore what other people think of her. She’s going to do what she wants and anyone who doesn’t like it can stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine.

The biggest reason I set Dawna’s age at 62, is because she was inspired by my grandmother. When I thought about being a teenager and Grandma running her hardware store, it felt natural to create Dawna about the same age Grandma was at the time. While Dawna quickly became her own person and the two don't share a lot of traits, (my grandmother wouldn’t have told anyone to stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine!), I thought you’d like to meet the woman who inspired Dawna.

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