Monthly Author Profile: Sue Grafton

Character Development

Recently at one of our Sisters in Crime meetings I had the opportunity to speak about one of my favorite female mystery authors, Sue Grafton.

First of all, I admire anyone who has written about the same character, like Kinsey Millhone, for as long as Sue Grafton has. W is for Wasted is the latest book in her alphabet series. It is the twenty-third book in this series with three to go. To accomplish sustaining this character throughout the series means Kinsey is a rich character. This didn’t come by accident but was very well thought out. Reading Sue’s series is a study in character development.


Secondly, I also admire the way she weaves her subplots into the story as she reveals her main plot. She does this in such a way that she has an intricate tapestry where every word written affects the next word. She is not afraid to introduce a new subplot wherever it is required to tell her story. In T is for Trespass she introduces a new character shortly before the climax of the main plot.

In the new subplot a young girl, Peggy Klein, helps Kinsey discover information about the villain. The other subplots going on here are Kinsey trying to find information about the villain’s past, working under a restraining order so she cannot approach the villain, while trying to keep her friend, Gus, safe from the villain who is his caretaker. Peggy is also in pursuit of this caretaker who murdered her grandmother and then absconded with the family inheritance. This young girl also tells Kinsey that the police are looking for this caretaker.

All this takes place in one scene towards the end of the book, and it happens so smoothly. The new subplot fits flawlessly into the rest of the story in a masterful manner.


Sue Grafton is one of the most generous writers I’ve come across. As a writer, I know that while I am writing my novel my creativity gets bombarded constantly with other ideas, most of which are distractions. What writers end up doing is putting these interruptions in the margin, on a post-it note, or in a notebook. Sometimes they are ideas for another project or they might affect what the writer is presently working on. What Sue has done is keep a journal of these distractions and questions on five of her novels, and she has published them on her webpage for the world to see. You can find them in the right-hand margin of her home page under Sue’s Journals.

These are some of the reasons I admire Sue Grafton.


About Lawrence and Suella Walsh
Managing Editors of Mystery, Ink. Novels. Taught writing for 20 years at Johnson County Community College. Freelance writers with 12 published books and more than 100 articles and short stories in national magazines. Owners of Walsh Writing Services.

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