A long-time friend of mine in Santa Barbara passed away and I drove down from San Francisco to attend the funeral. As I passed the Earl Warren Showgrounds driving home afterward I thought of Sue Grafton and her wonderful series, in which each book uses a letter of the alphabet in the title: A is for Alibi, etc. She writes about “Santa Theresa,” which is based on Santa Barbara.
At the time she was at the letter “S,” and I thought, “She’s going to do it. She’s going to finish the alphabet. But then what? That’s 26 books and nowhere to go, although I’m sure she’ll figure something out. Janet Evanovich is using numbers for the Stephanie Plum series, so she’s not going to run out of those.”
And then I realized that I read tarot cards, and there are 78 cards in the tarot deck. I would run out of me before I would run out of tarot cards. If I just used the 22 Major Arcana, which tie to the Hebrew alphabet the way Ms. Grafton’s books tie to our alphabet, that would make a solid series, and it was feasible for me to tackle that many books, given my age at the time.
For the rest of the seven-hour drive home I thought about who my characters should be and how the tarot would figure into the stories. I dedicated the first book to my friend who had died, Hubert Schwyzer, and I named one of Xana’s dogs in honor of Sue Grafton’s detective, Kinsey. I named the other dog after Robert B. Parker’s character in the Spenser mysteries, Hawk.