About three years ago, I was ready for a change. I wanted to write something different. I didn’t know what, exactly; I just knew it had to be anything but romance.
This presented a challenge, since I’d written nine romance/romantic comedies.
No problem there. Who doesn’t love a good rom com? But writing another book with a “she hates him, she likes him, she really hates him, she actually really loves him” premise just didn’t appeal. No matter how much the pair disliked each other at the start, by the end they’d be in love. No suspense there. End of story.
I was burned out, bored, and out of ideas.
I pondered the possibilities. Maybe I’d write about a Navy SEAL. Or a cop. Or a homicide detective. Something more action-y. Maybe I’d try penning a thriller. They’re popular, right? Maybe a historical romance. But none of those really grabbed me, either.
I read an article about writing (I read a lot of those) and something the author said clicked. If you don’t know what to write, the article advised, think about what you loved to read growing up.
And I thought about it. And I realized I loved to read . . . mysteries. Nancy Drew. Agatha Christie. Barbara Michaels. Elizabeth Peters. I’ve spent many hours over the years watching countless episodes of Midsomer Murders, Murder She Wrote, Murder She Baked, Monk, Garage Sale Mysteries, Miss Fisher’s Mysteries, Father Brown, and (my absolute favorite) Agatha Raisin.
Suddenly I knew I wanted to write mysteries. Cozy mysteries.
What, you ask, is a cozy mystery? What makes it a ‘cozy’? The story typically occurs in a small town or perhaps an English village. Everyone knows everyone else. Shopkeepers greet visitors with either a cheery good morning or indifference, and there’s usually a neighborhood busybody, someone with a secret, and a philandering husband or wife (or two).
Then someone is murdered.
Enter the amateur sleuth. He or she has no background in police science, no private investigator’s license; only a talent for picking up clues and a burning desire to figure out “who done it.” Why? Because our sleuth has a personal stake in the outcome. Perhaps the victim was a friend, or a family member is accused of the murder. Or perhaps the sleuth is accused of the murder. Whatever the case, the true culprit must be found.
Readers expect certain things from a cozy. They want to be entertained, certainly. They want to be puzzled as they consider the clues right along with the sleuth. They want the murderer to be caught and they want justice to prevail.
And, best of all, there’s room for a little romance in a cozy mystery, too. The detective must deal with an intrepid amateur sleuth who annoys, obstructs, and frustrates him every step of the way, and yet . . . Well. Let’s just say that love can bloom in the oddest places.
I created my own amateur sleuth, a college professor and Jane Austen scholar named Phaedra Brighton, and dropped her smack in the middle of a murder mystery in a small Virginia town. The stakes are high – her best friend is wrongly accused of killing her husband and it’s up to Professor Brighton to find the real culprit. Will Detective Matteo Morelli help or hinder her attempts to investigate?
Because I really loved the subject matter, I wrote Pride, Prejudice, and Peril with an enthusiasm and joy I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I fell in love with writing again.
The three-book series sold to Berkley Prime Crime, I got my writing mojo back, and now I look forward to sitting at the computer and tapping the keys.
No mystery there.