Camden mystery author Vicki Doudera said her "aha!" moment as a novelist came when she was taking her first class to become a real estate agent.

Growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, she had always devoured Nancy Drew mysteries and Agatha Christie novels. After coming to Maine in 1986, she had gained some success as a nonfiction writer, publishing books and articles including "Moving to Maine."

"I always wanted to write fiction, but never could seem to come up with a world to set it in," she said. "…The very first day I'm in class and the teacher is talking about all the things that can go wrong in real estate, and I thought, 'boom!, this is what I could write a mystery series about'. …It was like the light bulb went on."

She began writing novels about a real estate agent, Darby Farr, who solves mysteries. Farr, like Doudera is a working agent, making deals on property in a variety of settings including coastal Maine. The sleuth comes from the small, fictional town of Hurricane Harbor, Maine and has personal demons to deal with including her parents’ tragic deaths.

Doudera will launch the fourth in her Darby Farr mystery series, “Final Settlement,” Wednesday, April 3, with an event at Graffam Brothers Harborside Restaurant.

Doudera said she is frequently asked how she manages two careers simultaneously, one selling real estate with Camden Real Estate Company and the other as a novelist. While she loves to write and worked full-time as a nonfiction writer before getting into real estate, as an outgoing "people person," she finds she needs the other career.

"Real estate is the people world, the relationship world," she said. "I thrive on meeting new people. I just love it and their personalities, the way a deal goes down. In 10 years I haven't had the same thing happen twice."

The passion of those interactions helps inspire and fuel her writing.

"Emotions are high in real estate," she said, noting that people are making major life decisions with the bulk of their finances. "You try as a good agent not to have any drama, but it's always lurking there."

Passion and greed are involved, all of the things that make for a good mystery story.

Her stories often start with her asking, "What if?"

"What if this person decided they didn't want to sell? What if you're in someone else's house and the answering machine goes off and you hear a message that gives you leverage to buy that house?"

"My challenge is to give both enough time, especially to give the writing enough time," she said.

She is often asked if her character, Darby, is based on her.

"Well, she has some things in common with me," Doudera said. "She sells real estate. She's originally from a small island in Maine. The series has been her journey back to wholeness as a person from her broken painful childhood."

In addition to solving the latest murder involving a real estate transaction, Darby has family mysteries to work on including the death of her parents in a sailing accident, and issues with her Japanese grandfather, who was involved in World War II atrocities. Through it all, she's not even looking for mysteries to solve. She's the reluctant sleuth.

While her business has taken Darby to Florida and California in the past, the new novel, "Final Settlement" finds her back on an island in Maine during an icy February. The cover has an ominous picture of an ice-encrusted lighthouse.

Doudera is married to a real estate attorney Ed Doudera who has his office in Camden.

"He helps me immensely," she said. "He's always the first person to read my books."

Lynda Chilton at Down East Magazine and Rockport librarian Jane Babbitt, also help Doudera edit her books.

The Douderas have three grown children. Her youngest heads off to college next year.

"The writing has opened up a whole other world of mystery writers, which has been really enjoyable," she said.

In selling her books, she has worn some shoe leather attending both writers' conferences and real estate business conferences. She attends a fan conference for crime fiction enthusiasts in November called Crime Bake. She has also had a chance to meet other mystery writers through her publishing house, Midnight Ink.

Asked about the fans, she said, "They can be a little intense."

Their biggest question is "Why can't you write faster?" A book is downloaded and consumed in a matter of days or even hours, putting pressure on writers to feed the demand for new material.

"I feel I'm doing pretty well getting out a book a year," Doudera said.

With the April 3 launch party for "Final Settlement," perhaps the fans will be satisfied, if only for a short time. The event runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at Graffam Brothers Harborside Restaurant, 16 Bayview Landing. Appetizers and cash bar will be available.

For more information about Vicki Doudera, visit vickidoudera.com.

Courier Publications News Editor Daniel Dunkle can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 122 or ddunkle@courierpublicationsllc.com.