I've brought in some of the best cozy authors out there to share their secrets and their insights about the booming genre of Cozy Mysteries.
by Lois Winston
People are very opinionated. It’s the nature of the beast, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I happen to prefer people with strong opinions, even if their opinions differ considerably from my own. One of my best friends is my polar opposite when it comes to politics. We simply agree to disagree on certain topics.
I came to the mystery genre via romance, where I’d previously published two books. Romance authors can be very opinionated about their genre. When some romance authors embraced women’s fiction and chick-lit back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, it created a huge uproar within Romance Writers of America, dividing authors into two camps, the purists who wanted to exclude anyone not writing traditional romance and those who were open to a broader interpretation of the genre.
When I switched from writing romance to writing mystery, I once again found myself in the middle of what apparently was an old argument. You see, I write humorous mysteries. Some people have very strong opinions against this particular sub-genre because they find nothing humorous about murder. Actually, neither do I. However, I do find that it usually helps to have a sense of humor to get through much of what life throws at you, and I try to convey that in the way my characters approach life. (I also prefer to read books that make me laugh, rather than have me constantly checking the locks on all my windows and doors!)
So when I began writing mysteries, I knew I wanted to write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, not police procedurals, thrillers about terrorists who want to blow up cities, or dark, gritty serial killer fare. I get enough of all that reading my daily newspaper and watching the evening news.
However, I firmly believe that there’s a place and a readership for all sub-genres of mystery. Taste is very subjective, and I respect whatever someone else’s particular taste in mysteries is. If someone likes to read or write stories that scare the stuffing out of people, that’s their choice.
Me? I like to make my readers laugh, even if they’re reading about a murder investigation. That’s why when I planned my first murder, the death of the fashion editor in Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun (Book One of my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series), I did it with (duh!) a hot glue gun. After all, anyone can kill someone with a Glock, a kitchen knife, or a vial of arsenic, but how many killers use a glue gun?
My mystery series is also populated with a cast of zany characters. I love taking polar opposites and throwing them together to create conflict. In the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, my protagonist has a mother who believes she descends from Russian royalty and a mother-in-law who’s a staunch communist. Not only are they both living under Anastasia’s roof, they’re forced to share a bedroom. Zany characters + conflict = humor, even though it’s in the confines of a murder mystery.
The problem with writing humor, though, is that you never know if your readership will “get it.” For me, writing humor is the second hardest part of writing a mystery. The first part is creating a story where you keep your reader guessing as to the identity of the killer. As the author, I have to know who the killer is. So it’s difficult for me to be objective. Did I leave too many clues? Not enough? The worst thing in the world is to have your readers figure out whodunit by the third or fourth chapter into the book.
Humor is very subjective, though. I’ve written scenes where I’ve laughed out loud as I’ve typed, then again each time I reread the scene. However, I never know if others will find those scenes funny. So I always hold my breath, fingers crossed, waiting to hear what readers have to say. Some will laugh; some won’t. All I can hope for is that more laugh than don’t.
So you can imagine how absolutely thrilled I was when I received the following starred review from Booklist: “Winston has hit a home run with this hilarious, laugh-until-your-sides-hurt tale. Oddball characters, uproariously funny situations, and a heroine with a strong sense of irony will delight fans of Janet Evanovich, Jess Lourey, and Kathleen Bacus. May this be the first of many in Winston's Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series.”
By George, they got it!
A Stitch To Die For is the newest Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery. I’m currently working on the sixth full-length book in the series. At this point my readers know what to expect from me in the way of humor. My task is to live up to their expectations. With each new book I hold my breath, hoping that I’ve succeeded.
Ever since her husband died and left her in debt equal to the gross national product of Uzbekistan, magazine crafts editor and reluctant amateur sleuth Anastasia Pollack has stumbled across one dead body after another—but always in work-related settings. When a killer targets the elderly nasty neighbor who lives across the street from her, murder strikes too close to home. Couple that with a series of unsettling events days before Halloween, and Anastasia begins to wonder if someone is sending her a deadly message.
Anastasia Pollack’s comfortable middle-class life comes crashing down around her when her husband, Karl Marx Pollack, dies suddenly, and she discovers his well-hidden gambling addiction. Karl leaves her with two teenage sons, no savings, enormous debt, and Lucille, the communist mother-in-law from Hell. As she attempts to dig her way out of debt, Anastasia finds herself stumbling across one dead body after another, forcing her to become a reluctant amateur sleuth.
Assault With a Deadly Glue Gun
Death By Killer Mop Doll
Revenge of the Crafty Corpse
Decoupage Can Be Deadly
A Stitch To Die For
Crafty Crimes (Three Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mini-Mysteries)
When her career is outsourced to Asia, fledgling romance author and empty-nester Gracie Elliott seeks a job that will allow her time to write. However, she soon discovers no one wants to hire her. Undaunted, she starts her own business, only to discover her path to success littered with dead bodies.
Books in the series include:
Bio: USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.”
In addition, Lois is an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.
Visit Lois/Emma at www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at the Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers blog, www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com. Follow everyone on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/anasleuth and onTwitter at https://twitter.com/Anasleuth. Sign up for her newsletter at https://app.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/z1z1u5