Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Cozy Mystery Week ~ Paty Jager on Location, Location, Location for a Cozy Mystery


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.

Location, Location, Location for a Cozy Mystery 
by Paty Jager


Location, location, location. That’s what you hear from Real Estate agents, entrepreneurs, and yes, agents and editors. A good location for where you live, where a business is set up, and where your story is set can make a big difference in having a happy life, a good business, and a successful story.

Most cozy mystery books and series are set in a small town or village where if the amateur sleuth doesn’t know someone, they do know someone who knows that person. In a cozy mystery the person solving the mysteries is usually an amateur sleuth with little or no access to police information. Being in a small community allows the sleuth to talk with the people in the community who knew the deceased.

For this reason, it is good to have a location that 1) is a small town, village, or community 2) as in the case of several of Agatha Christie books, a derailed train, or snowed in resort, so the suspect pool is close at hand and small.

When it comes to cozy mysteries, having an amateur sleuth in an occupation where they come in contact with many various people can help keep the reader from thinking everyone in the sleuth’s life will be killed off soon.

Occupations that help you pick a good location for setting your cozy mystery or series are:

  •         Caterer- because they would come in contact with many and varied people.
  •          An owner of a bed and breakfast- this would give them access not only to the community but different people coming and going.
  •          Gardener- this person would know many people around the community both as clients and where they purchased their plants, fertilizers and such.
  •          Librarian- would know the community and have easy access to information.
  •          Bookstore owner- again, know many people in the community and have access to information.
The list could go on. But this gives you an idea.

When you establish the occupation of the amateur sleuth, you can then decide the location. For instance, if you picked the bed and breakfast owner, you’ll want a spot that would bring tourists to the area, and decide how involved the sleuth will be in the day to day upkeep of the B&B. That will play into how well she knows her visitors, her staff (if she has them), and the community. Is the B&B for extra income because her job at the bank doesn’t pay enough for her two children and mother since her husband died or divorced her. These are all things to think about when deciding on the location.

While it seems one might be able to just say, my sleuth is a baker, his shop is in the middle of town, and my town has 12,000 people. That isn’t enough to knock the socks off an agent, editor, or reader. You need to make the character unique and put him in a unique location.




For my Shandra Higheagle mystery series, I came up with the character first. She is half Nez Perce, an American Indian tribe that lived in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. They are now on two reservations. One in Idaho and one in Washington. I wanted a character with this background to go with my branding. Next, due to her heritage and my brother being an artist and knowing a potter I could talk to for inspiration and knowledge, I made her a potter. A unique occupation that fits with her heritage. To make the occupation and her more unique, she digs the clay for her projects on land she owns. There is a whole process that must be done to purify clay. This process is one that plays into her art and her ancestry. And is something I learned from the potter I interviewed for my character.

Then came location. I like to keep my books in the Pacific Northwest. It’s where I live and easier to go to locations and experience the area and learn history. With this in mind, knowing the clay could be found on mountains, I picked a real area with a small ski resort and then plopped my fictional ski resort, county, and town on a fictional mountain in Idaho. This put my sleuth within 6-8 hours of her mother and step-father in Montana and her Nez Perce relatives in Washington (a whole other story).

This small community at the base of the mountain where there is a ski lodge, is my small town/village location for most of Shandra’s sleuthing. She’s built up friendships and business acquaintances in this small community where they also have a big art show every June (bringing in out of town people for new victims and suspects, just like the ski resort). But I also have a friend who lives on the reservation where Shandra’s family lives, which is real, in Washington. With her help, I have placed, part of a book and one whole book so far on the reservation. Again, a small community where everyone knows everyone else and is ready, with the help of Shandra’s relatives to talk about people in their community.


Both of these locations, the ski resort and town and the reservation have a small population, are community-minded, and have a realistic aspect of new people in the communities to befall a death or become a suspect.

The best location for a cozy mystery is a small town, community, or area cut-off from others that is unique in some way to make the mystery and characters stand out and make for a unique and enticing read.



Blurb
Book one of the Shandra Higheagle Native American Mystery Series

Dreams…Visions…Murder

On the eve of the biggest art event at Huckleberry Mountain Resort, potter Shandra Higheagle finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She’s ruled out as a suspect, but now it’s up to her to prove the friend she witnessed fleeing the scene was just as innocent. With help from her recently deceased Nez Perce grandmother, Shandra becomes more confused than ever but just as determined to discover the truth. While Shandra is hesitant to trust her dreams, Detective Ryan Greer believes in them and believes in her.
 
Can the pair uncover enough clues for Ryan to make an arrest before one of them becomes the next victim?

This book is FREE at all ebook venues. It is also available in print and audio.
 Amazon | Nook | iTunes

Bio:
Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 30 novels and over a dozen novellas and short stories of murder mystery, western romance, and action adventure. All her work has Western or Native American elements in them along with hints of humor and engaging characters. Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it. This is what Mysteries Etc says about her Shandra Higheagle mystery series: “Mystery, romance, small town, and Native American heritage combine to make a compelling read.”

Find Paty:
Blog / WebsiteFacebook / Paty's Posse / Goodreads / Twitter / Pinterest






26 comments:

  1. Hi Paty,
    The Pacific Northwest is a lovely setting for a mystery. Think of "Twilight" set in Forks, WA. although it's not a Cozy, the famous vampire story could be considered a mystery subgenre. I live in Anacortes on Fidalgo Island. I have a mystery set on nearby Lopez Island (not out yet). Strong setting can become a character themselves is written well. Thanks for the great post!

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    1. Hi Kathy, My dad talks about Anacortes a lot. He lived a couple years up in that area when his dad and uncle worked in the ship yards during the war. I agree setting can become a character. Thanks for being part of this week.

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  2. Paty, I love the way you explained why small towns/ villages are such good settings for cozies! I really get into Pacific Northwest settings, and I love that you set parts of your books on a reservation, too! Thanks for a great post!

    Light,
    Nancy

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    1. Hi Nancy, Thank you. The reason so many people love cozy mysteries is because they can relate to the small communities and the characters. The books on the reservation take on their own feel. As it should be, given it is a different setting from Huckleberry Mountain.

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  3. Paty, this is a great article on helping a writer and reader get clued in (sorry couldn't resist that pun) to why location plays such an important role in the story. I loved your Huckleberry Mountain for Shandra, it grounded her, added context to her character.

    So glad you're here for Cozy Mystery Week.
    Hugs
    Leslie Ann w/a L.A. Sartor

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  4. Thanks, Leslie! LOL! I'm glad I could join all these wonderful mystery writers this week. It's been fun and enlightening.

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  5. I'm from a small town, so I enjoy stories set in such a location. No wonder I like to read and write cozies. My latest mystery is set in a funeral home and the funeral director's daughter is the main character. Thanks for sharing your book free. I'm not familiar with the setting, so I am looking forward to reading it. Best wishes with your next writing project!
    JQ Rose

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    1. JQ, I also grew up in a small community. The town where I lived was 200 people the town where I went to school was 1600. We didn't skip school because someone would see you and tell your parents. Your book sounds interesting. One of my reoccurring secondary characters is the son of the funeral home director. He helps his father, drives the ambulance and is part of the search and rescue team.

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  6. Paty, You mention that smaller towns with a captive audience work better for cozy mysteries. Do you ever mention the population of your towns, or just use descriptive words to indicate size?

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    1. Leslie, I don't mention the population. I show it by the three man police force, the diner where all the locals meet, the two gas station/mini-marts. One grocery store, small medical clinic with only one doctor. How the town does events to help bring in tourists and revenue.

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  7. Paty, thanks for the helpful information about settings for cozies. Long live the small village, island resort, manor house, and all matter of intimate settings where crime is solved. Cheers

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    1. Marilyn, I'm glad my information is helpful to others.

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  8. Hi Paty,
    I love seeing how you piece together your mysteries. Location makes or breaks books, IMO. I love how setting becomes a character in the book...especially a cozy! Thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. HI Audra, I'm glad you enjoyed my process. I agree. Location can make the book. Thanks for stopping by!

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  9. Leslie, this is a great week you've arranged to showcase the building of a cozy mystery. Thank you for having these great authors share their words (and works).

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    1. Thanks, Audra. This has been so much fun and more to come. I'm learning tons of information and reading the books have been a blast.

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  10. Great post Paty! I enjoyed learning about how and why you use the locations you do in your stories.

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    1. Hi Diana, Thank you for stopping in! I'm glad you learned a bit about my books and process.

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  11. So you all, my cozy series is going to be set in a "mythical" ski town in Colorado. Wealthy like Aspen, cozy like Breckenridge. Wealthy, b/c my heroine is a jeweler, as I once was and Breckenridge b/c cozy is the sense I want and will add conflict b/c of .... well, I'm not going to tell you all just yet.

    What do you think?

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    1. It sounds like a good place. You can have a group of people who are secondary characters from the community.

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  12. Paty, thanks for educating me about these aspects of cozy mystery. As I read your article I started to mentally scroll through the mysteries that worked well, whether written or on the movie screen, and they all had the elements you talked about in your post!

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    1. Hi Dena, I'm glad the information is helpful and you found it in other mediums. Thanks for stopping by.

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  13. I set my books in actual towns and cities I know well. I find it much easier to remember where things are located that way and don't have to reinvent the wheel. I also find that readers love to identify with places they've been to. I don't set my books in small towns. They take place in cities and the surrounding suburbs, but my books are more amateur sleuth than cozy.

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    1. Hi Lois, I have a map of my town, ski resort, county, and mountain that I drew so I can keep things straight. I did that because it was easier than finding a place that worked for my story. Though the stories set in the reservation are set in a real place and I have to stay on my toes with those. And my Shandra books are more amateur sleuth than cozy as well. Sounds like you know exactly what you want need to make your stories shine. Thanks for stopping by.

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  14. Thanks for the helpful information writing cozy mysteries. With so much information available to police today, I love the idea of using an amateur.

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    1. Hi Mary,
      An amateur sleuth makes it easier to put myself in her shoes when making decisions. And it's fun! Thanks for stopping in and commenting!

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