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How do you write a mystery book?  We unravel the processes involved in the creation of young adult mystery series Triple Nine Sleuths with the author, local educator and first-time writer Maranna Chan. The first three books in the series, Dangerous Limelight, Dangerous Despair and Dangerous Island were released in the first half of 2013.

How did the Triple Nine Sleuths series come about?
It all started when my husband was trying to describe to me what a decomposed body smells like. He visited a friend that lived in a one-room where an elderly neighbour had died without anyone’s knowledge. He said the smell permeated the entire floor and even after a week, the smell still lingered. That sparked the beginning of book 1. I ended the first book with a cliffhanger and wanted to continue with the second book but when I told the story for book 2 to my husband, he said that should be the main plot that runs through a series and revealed only at the end. So that was how the idea for a series began.

How did you develop the characters Corey, Colton and Stacy?
The first draft was actually about Corey and Stacy only but I was given feedback that it would only appeal to girls and cut my readership to half so I added in Colton. Corey was going to be the smart, shy one and Stacy the funny, outgoing one. I decided if there was going to be a boy, he should be the one that wants to get to the bottom of things.

What makes the Triple Nine Sleuths series different from other mystery series for young adults?
Firstly, it’s set in Singapore. It’s fun to read about a mystery in a setting that’s familiar to us. Secondly, it’s fast-paced. The suspense often starts from Chapter 1. Thirdly, there is another mystery about Stacy’s parents that runs throughout the series.

How do you do research for your books? Do you rely a lot on technology, like the Triple Nine Sleuths? Or, are you inspired by the locations you visit, like St John’s Island in Book 3, Dangerous Island?
Like Colton and Corey, I live in Serangoon and there’s a Primary and Secondary school just next to my block. There’s a one-room type flat opposite my block, a basketball court below my flat, a new elderly care centre at a void deck of my neighbouring block. The NEX mall is close by and I often visit the library there. The places in my books are based on what’s around me. I used to visit St.John’s Island yearly…Till the bed bugs really got to me.

You’ve mentioned you enjoy crime shows on television. Which are your favourites? Do you draw from these in writing your books?
The Mentalist, Bones, Hawaii Five-O, CSI, Castle, Psych, NCIS. I usually like those that have some humor in them. Yes, definitely, they are written mainly in dialogue so they read like a television series. I think some readers would like something light and entertaining. That’s what the Triple Nine Sleuths series is.

You have a background in education, having worked with Montessori kids up till secondary school students.What advice would you give to parents who want to encourage their kids to read?
Start when they are very young. Read to them regularly even when they’re babies. Bond with your kids as you read to them and make it a pleasant experience. They will always have a good memory about reading and it will become a part of their lives.

What advice would you share with young aspiring writers?
Don’t let criticism discourage you but let it help you improve your work instead. Be humble and be willing to make changes to your work.

We’re now editing Book 4, Dangerous Schemes, and you’re hard at work on Book 5, Dangerous Message. Can you give us any hints about Corey, Colton and Stacy’s upcoming adventures?
Later in the series, Stacy will be framed for a murder. It also brings her closer to finding out what happened to her parents ten years ago. Look out for that one in Dangerous Mistakes.

For more information and updates on the Triple Nine Sleuths, click here.