April 14, 2010 in City

Retired Coeur d’Alene teachers co-author second whodunit

By The Spokesman-Review
Kathy Plonka photo

Retired teachers from Coeur d’Alene High School, from left Vikki Moormann, Susan Schreiber and Yvonne Deitz in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday. They have just released their second murder mystery novel.
(Full-size photo)

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If you go

Susan Schreiber, Vikki Moormann and Yvonne Deitz will sign copies of “Murder is a Pain in the Neck” at 1 p.m. today at Coeur d’Alene High School, 5530 N. Fourth St.

Three retired Coeur d’Alene High School English teachers who have collaborated on two murder mystery novels say they followed Mark Twain’s advice to “write what you know.”

The one exception: “The hardest thing is to come up with a good way to bump someone off,” said Vikki Moormann, one of the three authors. “Obviously, we don’t have any experience with it.”

Other than that, the stories are set in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Coeur d’Alene; the heroine of both books is a retired English teacher; and the personalities, even the pets, are familiar.

The second book by Moormann, Susan Schreiber and Yvonne Deitz, “Murder is a Pain in the Neck,” was released in February by CreateSpace. The three authors will sign copies today at Coeur d’Alene High School.

“Murder is Skin Deep,” their first book, sold more than 600 copies. “People just kept bugging us to write another one,” said Moormann, 63. But like the first book, it took three years to finish because the women are busy with other activities, including baby-sitting their grandchildren, traveling, substitute teaching and giving violin lessons.

When the women get together to write, “we’ve already hashed out a vague outline. Then we figure out what we want to do in the next three chapters,” Moormann said. “We each take one chapter, and then we get back together and make sure everything flows together and each chapter has the same voice.”

The reason co-writing works, the women say, is because they know one another so well.

“We worked together writing English curriculum when we taught, and we thought a lot alike,” said Deitz, 75. “We had similar ideas when it came to literature, like what would be good for the kids to read.”

It also helps that Deitz and Moormann have been friends since 1969; they met Schreiber about 20 years ago. In retirement, the trio meets regularly for coffee or lunch.

The women take pride in people not being able to tell which one of them wrote a particular chapter.

In “Murder is a Pain in the Neck,” heroine Jean Smiley returns to Coeur d’Alene High School as a substitute teacher. While she’s there, a popular English teacher dies suddenly in the classroom next to her.

“The two classrooms are the ones we taught in the most,” Moormann said.

Smiley, who is described as an “amalgamation” of the three authors, is affectionate and loves kids, likes to travel, and is loyal, organized and “dedicated to doing a good job, no matter what it is,” Moormann said.

Her companion is a black cat named Mrs. Robinson with the combined personality of two of the authors’ cats. Smiley’s sidekick is her neighbor, a retired Spokane police detective.

The book is available at Hastings and Amazon.com, and next month, at Auntie’s.

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