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From Million-Dollar Listings to Solving Murder Mysteries

By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine

Vicki Doudera started gathering fodder for her mystery novels from day-one of her first real estate class back in 2003. Real estate intrigued and inspired her. She remembers sitting in the classroom, listening as the instructor discussed all the things that could go wrong in a transaction, while jotting down ideas in the margins of her paper. “Bludgeoned Buyers! Slaughtered Sellers!” And who would solve these crimes? Why, a savvy real estate agent, of course!

But before she put her pen-to-paper to tell the tales of suspense, murder, and real estate that danced in her head, Doudera got to work becoming a savvy real estate agent herself. A resident of mid-coast Maine since 1986 and a former inn owner, Doudera directed her skills and knowledge of the area to grow a successful business with Camden Real Estate as a broker and top-producer. She also wrote a book called Moving to Maine: The Essential Guide to Get You There and What You Need to Know to Stay (Down East Books, 2007).

In 2010 came her first novel, A House to Die For (Midnight Ink, 2010), which launched Doudera’s Darby Farr mystery series. Darby, the main character, is a vivacious real estate agent with a tragic past she is trying to leave behind in Maine. But she goes back to close a multimillion-dollar sale of a waterfront estate and ends up in the throes of a who-done-it murder after a man is found dead on the property.

Doudera’s second book in the series, Killer Listing (Midnight Ink, 2011), was released last April, which has Darby investigating a mysterious murder once again – this time a Florida broker who was in the fast-lane of multimillion-dollar listings, big-time commissions, and real estate deals (and love affairs) gone bad.

Doudera spoke with the Weekly Book Scan about Killer Listing and the Darby Farr series – including a sneak peek of Deadly Offer coming out this April.

What attracted you to the mystery genre?

I’m a big Nancy Drew fan, Clue is my favorite board game, and it really has been a lifelong dream to write mysteries. But it wasn’t until I went into real estate that I decided it would be a good backdrop for a mystery series. As a REALTOR®, you see so many properties and interesting houses – and you’re continuously meeting people from all over. There’s a lot of drama in real estate as people are selling their homes or making a purchase of a lifetime – it’s personal and there’s a lot of money involved, which is a good mixture for a mystery.

What else makes a good mystery to you?

I like a mystery that’s fast-paced and keeps you turning the pages. I don’t want to guess who done it at the end; I want to figure it out right along with the sleuth. I like to play fare with the audience, but I think a lot of great twists and turns will provide the element of surprise and make you keep reading.

Who is the audience you envision reading the Darby Farr series?

I think anyone who likes a good mystery will enjoy it, whether they’re in real estate or not. But Darby is dealing with a lot of the same things that we as agents deal with, so my fellow REALTORS® will see that and be able to relate.

Is Darby Farr autobiographical?

She is in that Darby and I are trying to do the right thing. It’s importing to me to keep Darby very ethical because I think the majority of real estate agents are very ethical for their clients and try to go above and beyond. She’s also from Maine, where I’ve lived for 25 years.

I love Darby. I love her spunk and I love that she’s an outsider. She’s an Asian American raised on an island in Maine and she sticks out like a sore thumb. I have a niece in Chicago who is half Japanese. She’s so beautiful and exotic looking, no one can pinpoint her ethnicity – I put some of those characteristics into Darby. She also has the gift of extraordinary senses, which I would love to have.

Which characters are your favorites to write about?

I like writing in the third person and writing from multiple viewpoints. Tina Ames in the first book comes back in the fourth book and her character is developing many more dimensions. It is true that characters evolve and new facets emerge as you write. I can now see what writers mean when they say their characters are taking over. I also like Helen Near in Killer Listings, the golfer who’s drinking mojitos all the time.

What are your plans for the series?

The third book is coming out, and four and five are under contract – I’m publishing one every year in April. I enjoy doing it and I think that comes across in the writing. Darcy has a lot to figure out from her past and the tragic death of her parents. There is also the World War II mystery involving her grandfather that comes out in Killer Listings. And Darby has her relationship with Miles. I’d like to see Darby grow and see where the series takes her.

How has your career influenced your writing?

I’m so thankful for this career in real estate and for the flexibility it allows me to write these books. Not only does real estate inspire me, it also gives me the opportunity to get out there, meet people, and sell homes, which I love.

Can you give us a sneak peek into the third book, Deadly Offer?

Darby travels with her assistant Enrique Tomaso Gomez (ET) who we met in the first book, to California’s wine country where his sister is found dead in her hot tub. She was selling her boutique vineyard and there were three very rich, very eager buyers. Darby quickly realizes that this wasn’t an accident.

Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at echristoffer@realtors.org.

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