I told my mother I was writing a book.
"What's it about?" she asked.
I said it was a murder mystery.
"Oh," she said, unable to hide her disappointment, "why would you want to write about murder?"
The answer begins with my addiction - to mysteries, mostly cozies, - from the queen of the genre, Dame Agatha Christie, to Janet Evanovich, and everything in between. I adore Carolyn Hart's Death on Demand and Henry O series and Joan Hess's Claire Malloy, Arley Hanks, and Theo Bloomer books. I relished every installment of Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I'm a fan of Charlotte McLeod's Peter Shandy mysteries and Maddie Day's Country Store stories. My newest favorite read is Catie Murphy's The Dublin Driver.
I finish a cozy at two in the morning and immediately begin searching for another book by the same author. During those middle of the night quests, I often speculate on what makes readers want to start the next book in the series before they turn the last page. In a burst of enthusiastic hubris, I decided to try my hand at creating that kind of magic. It took about a year, but I've produced an almost three-hundred page manuscript that I think is pretty cozy.
I agree with Debbie Young, at IngramSpark.com, who calls the cozy "the gentlest subset of the broad genre of crime writing." Yes, there is usually a murder, but a cozy mystery contains no gore, gratuitous violence, or explicit sex. Instead, each turn of the page takes you to an interesting place, populated by quirky, likable characters, where you might learn something new, like how whisky is made, the secret to growing a rare flower, or what it's like to drive a limo in Dublin. The book's amateur sleuth may encounter danger, but always survives relatively unscathed. And, as a fun bonus, you are challenged to solve a mystery before you reach the end of the story. The whole experience is, in a word, cozy.
Amanda Flower, a bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author of more than twenty cozy mysteries, says: "A cozy is a brief escape from the troubles of the real world." For me, writing about murder provided a respite that was at least equal to reading a favorite cozy, maybe even greater. Each day as I began to write, I was enveloped in a world that I created, where I had total control, at a time when the real word seemed to be descending into chaos.
The year I spent writing was marked by personal loss and national malaise. My father, and a favorite aunt, died within a month of each other. The isolation of pandemic lockdowns was punctuated by news of mind-boggling Covid death tolls, protest and unrest in the streets, and escalating political craziness. Creating an amateur sleuth and having her solve a murder was a kind of therapy, a respite from the ever present troubles of the real world.
So, here are my Six Reasons to Write About Murder.
- It's a Tradition; a long standing and fascinating one, practiced by some of my favorite authors.
- It provides an escape from the real world (see above)
- It' s an Intellectual Challenge; figuring out the who, when, where, why and how is like solving a puzzle.
- It's fun; creating enough clues to keep things interesting but not give away the mystery is exhilarating.
- It provides the raison d'être for the amateur sleuth you will create to solve it
- There's an audience; by all accounts people like to read about murder, or at least the mystery surrounding it.
I'm hoping to find an agent and a publisher soon. Then you can tell me if I've created the magic I was aiming for, if reading my cozy, murder notwithstanding, provides you with that "brief escape from the troubles of the real world". And, if you happen to be looking for the next book in the series before you turn the last page, stay tuned...I'm working on it.
Meanwhile, check back every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday for a new blog post. And, if you happen to be in the neighbor hood, please help me build my social media presence by following @KarenKamenetsky on Twitter and KarenKamenetskyMusic on Facebook - and sign up for the mailing list on this website.