For the second year in a row, I am turning over the blog to guest posters for the month of December. And for the second year in a row, we’ve had a great response–thirty-three requests for spots! For the next month you’ll be hearing from writers, editors, and other pros on a variety of topics. I always let the guest writers choose their own subject and give them carte blanche while they’re here. There are no limitations on topic or language, and this time we’ve got everything from favorite words to sexsomnia! Since I will be hunkered down doing revisions on the first of my new books for NAL/Penguin, I am turning comments off for the month. Most posters will include links to their own sites if you want to follow up with them. So, I wish you all the best of holiday seasons–peace, prosperity, good health, and a fabulous start to 2015. See you in the new year!
Today we welcome Linda Reilly.
First, a huge THANK YOU to Deanna Raybourn for giving me this opportunity to guest post on her blog on the eve of a brand new year ~
Years ago I stumbled upon a charming cozy mystery set in a small New England town. In this quaint fictional locale, the theme is books. The main character owns a mystery book store, and she’s surrounded by a slew of delightfully quirky characters. By the time she solved the murder and tied the loose ends into tight little knots, I was completely and irrevocably hooked. I wanted to read cozies! More important, I wanted to write cozies. Thinking back, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Back when paperback mysteries cost seventy-five cents, Agatha Christie had been a big favorite of mine. She evoked such enchanting visions of old-world English villages that I longed to travel to England, a dream I later fulfilled.
Ah, but what kind of cozy would I write? We’ve all heard the old saw write what you know, but was it really the best advice? I honestly wasn’t sure, since I’d read opposing views. But writing what was familiar sounded awfully good to me.
To write what I know, I had to rely on my day gig as a paralegal/title examiner. Wait . . . don’t nod off yet. Examining titles in the Registries of Deeds, where evidence of land ownership is recorded, is actually the most fascinating part of my daily routine. So my main character, I decided, would be a paralegal and an expert at examining titles. She would work for a tiny law office and live in a fictional town called Hazleton, New Hampshire. And because she needed a sidekick, I gave her a sixty-something aunt—a Realtor who tools around in her dead husband’s old gas guzzler and plays Beatles music around the clock.
To create some of the clues, I first invented a diary–the diary of lovesick banker Frederic Dwardene, circa 1949. Each chapter opens with one of his journal entries. Each entry moves forward in time in sync with the main story, which takes place in the modern day. I had such fun with Frederic’s flowery, old style prose . . . not to mention his bad poetry! His despairing affection for the woman he adored was both a challenge and a pleasure to write.
But my favorite clue, and the one I had the most fun with, is the one hidden among the weighty volumes in the county Registry of Deeds. Once my main character slides the final puzzle piece into place, the killer’s identity pops into her brain in a sudden Aha! moment. That is . . . if he’s the real killer.
After many false starts, the mystery finally came together. A detailed rejection from one insightful editor set me on the path to a better story. I was grateful that I’d chosen to write what I know, because late in 2011 Five Star Publishing accepted Some Enchanted Murder for publication. The mystery debuted in March of 2013, and was a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award in the category “Best First Novel: Cozy, Traditional and Historical.”
I’m currently writing a cozy series for Berkley Prime Crime called Deep Fried Mysteries. The main character is restaurateur Talia Marby, whose recently acquired fish and chips shop in the Berkshires morphs into a “deep fried” eatery. Talia and I are both new at the job, so together we’re experimenting with tasty recipes . . . all while solving murders, of course. The first book in the series, Fillet of Murder, will debut in May 2015.
And now, I raise my glass to each of you. Here’s to a year filled with laughter and surprises, and all of the other good stuff. And finally, may your shelves overflow with the kinds of books that bring joy to your heart.