Why? I love to read mysteries. Actually I love reading lots of things, but I love the intrigue of a good mystery. When I picked up my pen and began the process of writing, I didn’t think, “What kind of mystery are you going to write?” No, I simple started writing.
My first book began less as a mystery and more as a family saga. But, as I wrote, things started happening that created more and more mystery and suspense. Still at the conclusion, I did not consider The Clock Strikes Midnight a mystery. In my opinion it remained a family saga with lots of suspense. My first professional reader (a published writer), however, informed me that The Clock Strikes Midnight was a mystery, but “Not your typical genre mystery.” In fact, it was considered a general mystery.
After I finished that project, I decided to write a genre mystery. I did this because it’s easier to place and sell a book that fits nicely in one genre or another. A book like The Clock Strikes Midnight is harder to place. Publishers like books they can place in certain categories. Book sellers like to put their books on certain shelves. That’s why I wrote the Jenna Scali series. In my view this was a cozy mystery.
Unfortunately the first book in that series, e-Murderer doesn’t quite fit the cozy category. Although there is no explicit sex or violence and the book features an amateur sleuth, it does center around some pretty ghastly murders. In the early stages of this book, I asked the Cozy Mystery readers on Goodreads to tell me if they felt the book fit the cozy genre. Yes, they liked the book, but a couple of readers said it had too much “blood” to be considered a cozy.
I took a long deep breath and then wrote the second book in the Jenna Scali series, Murder on Moonshine Hill. This time I was determined to write a book cozy readers would recognize as one of theirs. This book features a murder in a nice little mountain lodge around a wedding ceremony. It has a bunch of quirky characters and lots of intrigue. It will be released this fall by MuseItUp Publishing. If this book gets rejected by cozy readers, I’ll just have to give up and simply write what I want.
Okay, you say, why not do that? Why not just write what you want and quit worrying about the sub-genres in the mystery world? One reason is that the sub-genres are very important to help readers find the books they like and for authors to connect with those readers. That’s why I keep trying.
In the mystery world for example, things are very fuzzy.
- Police procedural. This sub-genre focuses on the police conducting an investigation of murder. The characters who move from book to book are police officers. But how is the police procedural different from detective mysteries?
- Detective mysteries. This sub-genre focuses on a single detective who solves the murders. This detective can work for the police (Does make it a police procedural–See the problem?) or can be a private detective. But, what about when the detective is not officially a detective?
- Amateur Sleuth mysteries. This sub-genre focuses on a person who is not an official detective or often not a professional in law enforcement but who solves crimes. What about the medical examiners who solve crimes? Where do they fit?
- Cozy Mysteries. Most cozy mysteries include an amateur sleuth, but cozy readers are very strict in terms of other things. The locale for the mystery has to be “cozy.” A nice ski resort or a cute little town in Maine like Cabot Cove. The story cannot include a lot of blood and guts. People are killed but that happens off stage. We don’t experience the murder. We hear about it.
As you can see, there are some blurry places. Readers and writers get confused. The typical mystery lover enjoys all kinds of mysteries and does not care if its a police procedural or a cozy. But, there are those who congregate around one genre or another and these groups are growing.
But, I’ve also learned that I cannot write toward a genre. I have to write what I want and then try and fit it in the right place. If I was a formula writer–like James Patterson or Sue Grafton, maybe I could churn out books in one genre.
Meantime, when Murder on Moonshine Hill comes out, maybe you can tell me. Is it a cozy?
If you want to get a taste for the e-Murderer take a look at this book trailer.