Roped In is a cozy mystery about competitive jump rope, a sport most people have never heard of.
The concept for Roped In was born of desperation. My editor had approved three storylines for the Karen Maxwell mysteries, but when it came time to write book three, I knew I had a problem. I told the editor I couldn’t use the plot she’d originally approved because that story (which was about a private zoo) needed to take place in the fall and I didn’t want to skip ahead that far in the relationship between my characters. But another reason I couldn’t write that plot was that I didn’t feel I had the knowledge to write it realistically, and the prospect of that much research on biology was daunting. I wanted something easier. I proposed some other ideas but she said they didn’t fit the mold. By this point I was way behind schedule so I needed to find something fast. My daughter had recently joined a jump rope team so I thought if I devised a story about allegations of sabotage at a jump rope competition, I would have easy access to people I could interview about competitions, events, practices, etc. My editor okayed the idea so I wrote the synopsis and the first three chapters and she approved those as well.
Then the publisher cancelled the series and I moved on to other projects.
Years went by, and although the Karen Maxwell mysteries did not feature prominently in those years, jump rope did. My daughter Meg progressed in her skills to the point where she started performing, and I started coaching. Then she started coaching and competing and I started judging and before we knew it, we found ourselves at a jump rope practice or event five or six days a week all year round. We were living the life of the characters in Roped In. My daughter even had a rope break in one tournament, just like in the book. But instead of blaming it on sabotage, my daughter blamed me for shortening her back-up rope too much. Fortunately for her, “teenage daughter blaming mom for ruining her life” is too common to make much of a novel so I didn’t go back to put her in story.
Meg forgave me soon thereafter and we spent many emotionally-charged years sharing the sport together. I realized that before she graduated high school and moved on to the next phase of her life, I needed to finish my “jump rope mystery.” I even wrote part of the first draft while we were in Long Beach, California for a national competition. My daughter had qualified in only one individual event–triple unders—the same event that figures so prominently in Roped In. At the time I outlined the story, I had never even seen a triple under, so of course I never dreamed my own daughter would be following in the footsteps of my fictional character.
Happlily, though, I think Meg will leave the sport on a better note than her fictional counterpart. She’s had some great experiences and is anticipating more to come this year, including jumping rope in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade this month.
So that’s the story of Roped In, where the characters somehow roped me into finishing their story and living out their own experiences. Thanks for reading!
Kate Dolan began her writing career as a legal editor and then newspaper columnist before she decided she was finally ready to tackle fiction. As the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas, she writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children’s books under the name K.D. Hays. When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a living history interpreter and riding roller coasters with her daughter.
Her latest book is the cozy mystery, Roped In.
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