Huntertown native Dawn (Listenberger) Merriman wants the world to know that northeast Indiana can be an exciting place to live.
“Most mystery novels are set in cosmopolitan cities like New York or Los Angeles, or in charming locales like a New England beach town or the wilds of Oregon,” Merriman said. “The farmland of Indiana can be just as intriguing, especially if you place a mysterious murder there.”
Merriman, a local author who lives just south of the DeKalb County line, recently released her fifth mystery novel set in fictional towns on the outskirts of Fort Wayne. The book is titled “Message in the Grave” and is the third in her “Message of Murder” trilogy.
“The small towns in my books are based on actual towns in this area, but mashed together,” Merriman explained. “When I start a book, I picture a local area, or details from several local areas, and create my own world.”
Many of her books also involve elements of farming. “I grew up on a pig farm. I still live on a pig farm. A lot of people have no idea what rural life is actually like,” she said. “I like to include fields and livestock and daily chores to my novels where appropriate. To readers who’ve maybe never seen a pig outside of TV, it seems very exotic.”
She said her characters have a “unique skill set” from living in rural Indiana. In her thriller “Marked by Darkness,” the protagonist lives alone in the woods, raises pigs, drives a tractor, uses a chainsaw, bow-hunts for her own food and takes down a serial killer. In her very first novel, “Field of Flies,” Merriman drew heavily from her own surroundings.
“Setting the location for that book was easy; I just had to look outside my window,” she said. “I even named the pig ‘characters’ after real pigs that I raise.
“The people and places around me are full of inspiration.”
One of the characters in her “Message of Murder” trilogy is a tribute to her mother-in-law, Betty Merriman of Huntertown.
“She’s run a beauty shop from her farm for over 50 years. All while raising a family and staying very close to her grandkids and great-grandkids,” Merriman said. “She can still plow a field, drive a backhoe and cut her own wood. How could I not use that in a novel? Grandma Dot is as tough as Grandma Betty and has a huge heart to match. Readers really connect with her.”
Merriman wrote her first novel in middle school, and completed a second one during her freshman year at Carroll High School.
She attended Carroll High School until the beginning of her junior year, before completing high school in Vero Beach, Florida. She and her husband have six children between them.
You can find all of Merriman’s mystery novels on Amazon or at DawnMerriman.com.