Are you ready for the holidays to start? Less than a week and we’ll be digging into that turkey…hours of preperation and work, gone in under an hour. But we gladly do it for those we love, especially this year. No matter how many gather around your table it will be filled with love, grace and thanks.
Our timing is perfect to meet Anne. She has a new cozy mystery up for pre-order; to be released on December first. And the cover has me smiling as I wait for the publication. Don’t you agree?
Anne’s books are in Kindle Unlimited, and if you sign up for her newsletter you receive 2 free prequels to her series. Now let’s find out a bit more about our guest author…
Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery? My series is progressing through the months of the year and the seasons, so I wanted to write a holiday-themed mystery. I plan to continue indefinitely, so maybe other holidays will get a story in the future.
How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing for a long time! I had the typical drawer full of drafts, although I have to say they were electronic file drawers:) A couple of year ago I discovered the world of self-publishing and as I was royally sick and tired of the traditional process I leaped right in. A year ago, I retired and sort of switched careers. Now I write every day and try to get better at marketing. Poodle Versus The Fake Santa is my tenth book in the last year. Yes, I can hardly believe it myself!
What is the significance of the title? My books are cozy mysteries featuring a 50-something, small-town newspaper publisher and her pampered prince of a poodle, and so I didn’t want to get too dark with the subject matter. There is already some built-in humor in the recurring series titles, and I thought, hey, Fake Santa fits right in with that tone.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Most of the dog humor in the books is true, and inspired by my real-life Rocco.
What do you like to do when you are not writing? Because writing involves a lot of sitting, I try to be pretty active every day. I like all the triathlon sports – but I am not an athlete:) I just like walking, slow running, slow swimming, and leisurely bike rides.
I’m looking forward to Anne’s new holiday book, but her other books look great too. Be sure to check out her website to find all her books. I’ll be back with more holiday cozy mysteries next time. Until then, stay safe and healthy and curled up with a good mystery.
Can you believe how fast the last quarter of 2020 is passing by? Halloween is over, and plans are being made for that big turkey dinner. And then, with a blink of an eye, we are decorating and planning for the Christmas holiday. Our next award winning author writes in a range of holiday mysteries.
Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery? Living in Australia, Halloween is not as celebrated here as much as it is in the US so I love to immerse myself in creating what could be if I lived there. I love all the mystery and intrigue that surrounds the holiday and the chance to dress up. The holiday gives me so much inspiration to create and imagine what could be.
In my mind, there is always a little bit of magic that surrounds Christmas. You can’t beat a great Christmas story that takes you on a journey into the world of the North Pole and Santa’s workshop. A story filled with fun, love, excitement and a little bit of mischief. I love writing about Christmas in winter, the snow, a warm fire and hot chocolate. Living in Australia our Christmases are always hot and humid so to create a winter world I can dive into, complete with Santa and the Elves is such as joy.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be? Writing is my night-time and weekend passion. I am a full-time Drama teacher, but not your normal 9-5 teacher. I am run the Dance and Drama Department at my school, so not only do I have to teach the students, I have loads of admin to do and productions including after school rehearsals. My average day in 7.30am to 6.30pm. As you can imagine, fitting in writing in and around that is pretty hard. Because I self-publish, I also have to try and get promotional time in there which I guess is why I don’t get a lot of sleep.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it? If Pumpkin Pies & Potions were made into a movie, apart from probably fainting at the opportunity of having one of my books on the big screen, Emma Stone would play the main character of Evelyn Grayson. At 11, Evelyn’s parents were tragically killed, and she moved in with her Aunt Edie in Saltwater Cove. This is where she finds out she’s a witch and her life is set on a new path of mystery, magic and mayhem. Her world goes haywire and she finds out life as a witch is not as easy as she first thought. Emma Stone is the perfect fit, beautiful, smart and a little on the tough side. Jason Lewis would play the main character of Tyler Broderick, Evelyn’s best friend. They have been best friends since she moved in with her aunt and while he isn’t a witch, he has mad computer skills which prove useful in solving key clues in various murders. Emily Blunt would play Aunt Edie. Her vast acting knowledge would bring a maturity to the role without making her too old. She is a hip, young aunt that isn’t afraid to take a risk where needed.
Where do you draw inspiration from? A lot of my inspiration comes from my covers. Whether it be romance or a cozy, I have great cover designers and they provide me with the fuel to create my stories. At the start, I had no real idea what a cozy mystery was until I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s covers and brought 13 in one sale and then a writer friend said they were cozies and I had to learn what they were and how to write them. Having been an obsessed addict of Murder, She Wrote and Nancy Drew it wasn’t hard to put pen to paper. I can see a cover and then a story begins festering in my mind and I have to just go with it. I had the cover of Pumpkin Pies & Potions designed by Victoria Cooper and she took the exact idea out of my head and created it brilliantly. I often run ideas by my sister and niece, they are great to brainstorm ideas with and they can send me on a whole new storyline with just one discussion. Problem is, once we start talking over the one idea, it soon becomes three or four books. As a writer, a great problem to have.
What is your favorite childhood book? It’s not so much a book as a series. I LOVE (and till do) the Sweet Valle High Series. I still have the majority of them, albeit some warn and tattered. I wasn’t a fast reader, but if I had one of Francine Pascal’s SVH books in my hand you couldn’t get me to do anything until I finished it. I received a number of groundings from my mum because I wouldn’t put my book down. I must have read the series over twenty times. They were my first introduction to teenage romance, and I was hooked. I also loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that’s why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair. While I write cozies, I also write romantic suspense and contemporary romance under P.L. Harris. I think the love of reading romance has stayed with me since I picked up my first SVH book.
Polly is also part of a great group of writers that have written the Christmas Anthology, Christmas Crackers.
So, there it is; we’ve officially started the holiday book season! Grab you comfy slippers, a cup of hot chocolate, a warm blanket and a spot in front of the fire place-there are plenty of holiday cozies coming your way!
Every once in a while you are lucky to meet someone who gladly gives all she can to her fellow writers. Pam is one of those authors. (To be fair, the writing community as a whole is very giving and more than willing to help you when they can!) I’m honored to call this fun, talented writer a friend.
Pam has over 60 published books, mystery/suspense and young adult. The easiest way to find her books is to go to her website. There you will find her books, blog, upcoming events and releases and now she’s even doing a wonderful podcast. And don’t forget to sign up for her newsletter while you are there.
How long have you been writing? I have little stapled construction paper books that I scribbled stories in before I could read or write. I wrote a short book about an anthropomorphic rabbit when I was ten, and took several runs at writing a novel over the next few years, completing my first novel when I was twelve. I have been writing ever since, but did not start publishing until 2013. I have over 60 titles out now.
Where do you draw inspiration from? My stories are frequently inspired by news stories or people’s personal stories, as well as music, dreams, and random imaginings. My brain is always going. Before George Floyd’s death, I was concerned with deaths in police custody and what I was reading in articles such as this. Throughout the Auntie Clem’s Bakery series, the main character Erin Price was frequently a suspect in murders around Bald Eagle Falls. In other cases, her family or friends were suspected (think Jessica Fletcher’s nephews…) It was time to turn the tables and throw suspicion on the police themselves (and Erin’s sweetheart, Officer Handsome in particular.)
What book is currently on your bedside table? Skeletons in my Closet by Calgary Homicide Detective Dave Sweet.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? Hard to tell without spoilers. There are some high-tension scenes near the end of the book, culminating in the discovery of two injured victims. I think that discovery scene was probably the most interesting to write. There is always some comic relief as well, which sometimes comes as a complete surprise to me.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be? I am getting closer. It is my last year as a salaried employee. I expect to continue next year with fewer hours and an hourly wage rather than monthly salary. I am working hard at boosting my writing revenue so that I can live off of my books. It has taken me a number of years to get here, working a lot of hours at my writing business on top of working a full-time office job.
What is the significance of the title? In this paranormal cozy mystery series, Reg Rawlins has recently gone through a short jaunt through the past, and yes, you guessed it, she made a few changes while she was back there. In the new present, her mother did not die when she was a child, and in Delusions of the Past, her long-estranged mother comes back into her life. Reg and her mother each remember the past very differently.
What do you like to do when you are not writing? Running and walking, reading, playing with the cat, designing covers… there should probably be some stuff in there about people, too. Despite being a hermit, I do enjoy spending time with my family too.
Why did you write a holiday theme mystery? I wanted something to promote during the holidays. I wanted books that could distract people from seasonal stresses and help people to relax and enjoy the holidays.
A big thank you to Pam for taking time from her busy schedule to visit with us and answer our questions. Be sure to stop by her website and explore!
Don’t forget, many authors, including myself, publish “wide”. This means our books might be available in the library. Ask your local librarian for information on how to request a book from my list or any of the other authors I have introduced you to.
Are you getting ready for Halloween? Candy bought (and round one eaten!), decorations up, costumes selected? Yep, it’s getting closer. And to keep in the “spirit”, here is another author with a Halloween treat for us.
Why do did you write a holiday theme mystery? Halloween has always been a most favorite holiday—wonderful memories from childhood and with my own son growing up, moonlight, scary things, the candy corn, the haunted houses—it’s just always made me feel delight. And I thought Ria, my MC, would enjoy a plot that had a haunted, abandoned hospital and an ancient peat bog to explore on Halloween.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who are the celebrities that would star in it? That’s a great question. I can see I’d have Emily Blunt as Ria, Cary Elwes as Gareth, David Leon as Kyle, and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Deidre… in my dreams, anyway…
Share something your readers wouldn’t know about you. I actually reveal it in the first Ria Quinn mystery, Hidden In Stone—her passion for Old English. It is my own…
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
What is your favorite childhood book? Two, really—a beautiful book of fairy tales and Nancy Drew’s The Clue of the Broken Locket that I first read when I was 9.
Well, that’s it for this post. I hear the candy wrapper rustling, so I’d better go run interference, or I’ll be buying more before the trick or treaters arrive! Victoria LK Williams
I’m so pleased to introduce you to another writer who has a fondness for holiday writing…
Morgan Best writes several series (The Kitchen Witch, Witches and Wine, Australian Amateur Sleuth, Sea Witch Cozy Mysteries Witch Woods Funeral Home, His Ghoul Friday, Cocoa Narel Chocolate Shop Mysteries and the Prime Time Crime series) all in the cozy genre and her books can be found on all the major outlets. Her books are also available in print, large print and audio. Wow, I’m exhausted just naming her series, let alone all the fantastic books (43)!
It’s obvious Morgan is a busy woman, so let’s get right into her interview!
Why did you write a holiday theme mystery? I write a Halloween story every year for The Kitchen Witch series. Amelia’s ancestor promised that her descendants would do a Halloween spell for another woman’s ancestors, so the lucky woman is Jasmine. Every year, Jasmine comes to Amelia’s small Aussie town, and Amelia is honor-bound to do a spell for her. Something always goes wrong with hilarious results. This year, Jasmine asks her to do a truth spell.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be? I started writing years ago. Random House solicited a book of mine, but a comedy of errors followed. In 2003, I paid out my literary agent and decided to go Indie. Back then, it was only print. I’ve been a full-time author since late 2010.
What is your favorite childhood book? Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree. When I was a kid, I also loved reading books about animals, but most animals came to a horrible end. I have no idea why authors thought children would want to read about animals being harmed. I think that’s why I write cozy mysteries, where animals are perfectly safe and only people are harmed. 😉
What do you do when you are not writing? I pretty much write every waking minute, but when I’m not writing, I go to football (AFL- Aussie football) games (or watch them on TV), read, do something with the garden, take the dogs for walks, and run or ride the bike.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? Amelia Spelled is a terrible baker. I based her cooking abilities on mine, so I enjoy writing about her baking disasters. In an earlier book, Amelia is making a no-bake cake. She has to soak cookies in sherry overnight. She doesn’t have sherry, so she soaks the cookies in Scotch whisky instead. All the guests get drunk. This actually happened to me. I had a dinner party for my work colleagues back in the day. I didn’t have any sherry, but I found an old bottle of Scotch whisky in a cupboard—my ex-husband had left it there. I served everyone the no-bake cake filled with Scotch whisky-soaked cookies. Everyone ended up extremely drunk, and the next morning I had the most terrible hangover.
Here are 2 more books by Morgan, be sure to visit her website and signup for her newsletter to keep up with the next book.
Halloween decorations are going up and the nights are getting cooler. Now is the perfect time to download a holiday tale, curl up with a cup of hot cider and get in a Halloween mood.
In my last post, I presented a number of books with a Halloween Theme and next month I will do the same for books with a Christmas Theme. I hope you’ve had the opportunity to down load a couple and start reading. But now I want you to get the know the authors behind the stories. A few of these wonderfully talented wordsmiths have written books for both holidays! Are you ready to meet our first author?
Kathy is a long-time columnist and award-winning author. Her books are in the KU (kindle unlimited) program. You can find all her books on her Amazon Author Page, connect with her on her Facebook Author Page and find out even more from her Website!
I asked each of our authors to select questions from a list to answer (you’ll find out more below) and ask all to answer this…
Why did you write a holiday theme mystery? The Halloween book simply grew out of the fact that book one was set in September and had ended with a costume party at my main character’s cottage. That was so much fun, I wanted to continue the costume theme with the characters dressing in costume for a Fall Fete in their Cotswolds village. I LOVE Christmas, and like my main character, I decorate our home to the hilt! Given that Leta has been a widow for 18 mos, her emotional growth and how she deals with the holidays seemed a natural next step.
How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing cozies only since late 2019 and released Book One in my series in February 2020. For almost my entire corporate career, I was called upon to write. Funny that my fellow bankers, whom I thought brilliant at analysis and numbers, seemed to think the same about my ability to craft a complete sentence, a speech, a how-to guide, or a training course. Long before my official job was communications, I was the go-to person for writing. As a side job, while still a banker, I began writing weekly columns for a local paper and enjoyed it so much, I also started writing a blog. When I retired, I published a book of my columns, and then my dog Banjo got in on the act. He got all fired up when I had his DNA done and we discovered he’s part Great Pyrenees. Did you know that Louis XIV declared those majestic animals the Royal Dogs of France? Once Banjo heard that news, he demanded I take dictation and produce a small book in his voice about a year in his life. He says Lord Banjo the Royal Pooch is NOT fiction, but we have a difficult time convincing readers of that. It was only after I’d appeased the boy that I could think about what I might want to write.
What is the significance of the title? Since Dickens & Christie, the dog and cat in my books, are important characters, I find myself wanting to include a pet-oriented word in each title. Hence, the first book was Bells, Tails & Murder and this Halloween themed book is Pumpkins, Paws & Murder with a fall fête central to the plot.
What book is currently on your bedside table? Love Saves the Day by Gwen Cooper. A friend recommended I read it because a cat tells the story. She wasn’t quite sure she was going to enjoy reading my books where Dickens & Christie converse with their pet parent, but after one book, she was hooked. She went in search of other books where the animals talk or at least write and found Love Saves the Day! And on my Kindle, next up is The Silent Woman by Terry Lynn Thomas. I’m an Anglophile through and through, so you can almost always find me reading a book set in England. This one is set just before WWII.
What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why? As an avid reader, I love writing the book club scenes included in each of my books. The chosen book is always in some way connected to the plot and is always a book I’ve read. I enjoy mentioning books throughout my stories, though I must admit I haven’t read every single book I mention—most of them, but not all. Leta, my main character, was an English major and briefly an English teacher before moving on to corporate America, and her best friend Wendy taught high school English for thirty years. It’s only natural that they talk books. And guess what, I too briefly taught English, and I’m forever talking books with my friends.
Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be? My friends would tell you it is, that writing has become my full-time second career and that I never really retired. I call it my passion. I find myself going into withdrawal when I don’t write every day. Fortunately, I continue to write weekly newspaper columns, so when I’m not deep into writing the next book, I can get my fix with a column.
What do you like to do when you are not writing? Read! I must read every night and now that I’m retired I stay up way too late doing that. When I worked, I made myself turn out the bedside light by ten. Much as I say about Leta in my books, I turn into a pumpkin by that time. And so you know I’m not a complete couch potato, I work out several times a week and walk with my sister too. Times were I rode bicycles with my husband, but his health has taken that activity off the table, and I don’t much enjoy cycling by myself. You’ll notice in my books that Leta rides a bicycle.
Where do you draw inspiration from? I followed the adage to write what you know, so my pets are the inspiration for the personalities of Dickens & Christie. Banjo and Puddin’ hang out with me in my office—Banjo snoozes at my feet and Puddin’ is either demanding treats by leaping on the desk or she’s snoozing in my desk drawer. As does Dickens, Banjo loves belly rubs and is always scarfing his feline sister’s wet food. Puddin’? She’s a demanding little thing who rules the roost and thinks she “owns” both me and my husband. Leta, my main character, is a transplanted Atlantan and is Greek. I only wish I were a transplanted Atlantan! I doubt I’d ever have the gumption to leave friends and family behind and move to England, but I AM Greek. Leta is known among her new British friends for her Greek salad, as I am here among my Atlanta friends. You can find her salad recipe in Book One and two additional Greek recipes in Books Two and Three. Beyond that, my bucket list trip to England in 2018 inspired the Cotswolds village setting and much of the literary plot for the first book in the series. In book two, the ladies take a trip to Dartmouth and Agatha Christie’s summer home because I’d visited both. One thing leads to another as I research ideas on the internet, and things move along from there. Because I took yoga for years, there’s a yoga studio in Astonbury and Leta takes a class several times a week. I’ve long had it in the back of my mind to include a yoga retreat in one of my books. I only need to figure out who gets murdered and why! This idea could show up in book five. You never know.
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our first “Holiday Author”! I know I have. And I’m now in the mood to start reading holiday books.
Don’t forget, you can get my books at a discount when you buy direct from my website. And to help you start start preparing for the holidays, check out the cute designs below!
Do you love to read books with a holiday theme? I do! And they are showing up on the different book sites, just asking to be downloaded. I thought I would share some of the ones my author friends are publishing and make it easy for you to pick from.
We’ll start with Halloween. Think spooky black cats, ghosts, murder and mayhem. Oh, and witches, there are plenty of witches! Ready? Here we go!
And a taste to get you ready for the Christmas Holiday!
Watch for interviews from these great writers in the next couple of weeks! And next month, I’ll compile a list of Christmas books.
Have you gotten excited about the Brozy Mystery books and their authors? Well, here is another author who has taken the time away from writing to answer my questions and let us in on what goes on behind the pages. Enjoy!
Donna writes in several genre (police procedural, traditional cozy and whodunits) but says she’s found her comfort spot with Brozy Mysteries. You can find all of Donna’s links and social media here: https://campsite.bio/dbmcnicol Donna has all her books on Amazon and most are in the Kindle Unlimited Program.
How do you develop your plot and characters? I normally start with a location, a few characters, and a dead body or crime. I don’t do a lot of outlining, preferring to let the story grow as I write. Sometimes I don’t even know who the killer is until they reveal themselves to me. As a detailed, analytical type, I always thought I’d be a heavy outliner. Now it turns out I love writing from the seat of my pants, letting the ideas flow and grow as I type. I also work on scenes when driving or riding my motorcycle.
What time of the day do you usually write? The best time for me to write is between ten in the morning and four in the afternoon. I find I write best outside the home where there are too many distractions. I wrote the majority of my first two novels sitting in a local McDonalds. This was easy when we were full-time Rvers. Now that we live in a rural area, the closest McDs or coffee spot is thirty minutes away. So I struggle to keep my writing level up while at home.
How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one? I have half a dozen series in the planning stage. Some have been around for a while, some have come as a result of newly purchased pre-made cover sets. The most recent, and next to be written, is the Red Line Coffee Mystery series. I hope to have the first one out by January 2021. As a side note, my husband is retired from a thirty-one year career as a firefighter/paramedic/chief. Red Line Coffee Shop is run by three firefighters and the logo I designed was inspired by the “thin red line” images in use today. The Thin Red Line of courage is a symbol used by fire departments to show respect for firefighters injured and killed in the line of duty. As a firefighters are periled, they place their lives second to those they protect. They are forced to face their own fears and grasp for every ounce of courage to perform the necessary task. Garrett, aka Flipper, is the oldest owner of the shop. He’s in his mid 40s, divorced and loves scuba diving. He’s been with the department for twenty-five years, starting as a volunteer while still in high school. He is currently a driver engineer for the department. Brett, aka Smokey, is the next oldest. He’s in his late 30s, never been married (and never plans to be), and spends his spare time racing cars. After spending four years in college and getting a liberal arts degree, he backpacked around Europe and South America for another four years before joining the fire department where he’s stayed for twelve years. Thanks to education and hard work, he’s moved through the ranks to the level of lieutenant. The youngest is Stephanie, aka Stevie, aka Grizz. She’s in her mid 30s and is divorced from a local police officer. She’s been with the department for eight years after getting an associate degree at a small community college in her home town. After a couple of years of waitressing to survive, she moved in hopes of getting a better job. She met her husband and through his friends, tried out for the fire department. She is a firefighter/paramedic. All three currently work at the same station and are good friends. They do have a little help in the shop from Joni, aka Gabby, who is a single, part-time college student. Oh, and the names written on the cups are the “victims” in each of the books. Weezy is a retired fire inspector who worked on arson cases with both Garrett and Brett in the past. Newsie is the local newspaper owner/editor who never pulls any punches, always telling it as it is (or as he perceives it to be). Leathers is a sometimes homeless regular to the shop. He has an interesting past and was befriended by the group.
What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was real young, I thought I’d be a nurse like my mother. By my teenage years, I wanted to be an actress or dancer. No money for college, I initially considered going into the Army and even took the assessment tests. But life intervenes and I ended up married with children and working a variety of minimum wage jobs before stumbling into an office position that started my eventual career. The bookkeeper took me under his wing after discovering my aptitude for accounting. A few years later, I was introduced to programming computers (not the PCs around today, but the mainframes that fill rooms). My career in IT was born and I rose from a data entry operator to VP of Client Services. My fiction writing didn’t start until much later in life, after spending several years writing articles for various publications and online websites.
Tea or coffee Oh, definitely coffee! Mostly dark roasts served black. From time to time I do add cream and sugar and I use them both in my iced coffee. But I’m not a foo-foo coffee drinker, well, except for my love of a good iced cappuccino!
Morning person or Night owl Most of my life was spent with very little sleep. A morning shower was the only thing that woke me out of my stupor. Now that I’m retired, I’m loving the night owl life. I could easily stay up till the wee hours of the morning, then sleeping till noon. But I compromise and try to turn out the light between midnight and one, getting up by nine-ish.
Do you base your characters on real people? “All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” Um, yup. That’s right. Okay. You see… [pause] I admit to using people I know as the base for some characters. The good thing is they know it and like it. It turns out I’m a visual person and I need photos of my characters (and locations) to help me write.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know a bit about Donna; I did!
I am working on a few things for Halloween and Christmas, and there are a lot of writers out there that write their cozy mysteries with holiday themes. We will meet some of them and seeing what their new holiday books are. Can you believe I talking about the holidays?!?
Until next time, pick up a Brozy and see what it’s all about. And don’t forget you can buy my books directly and save! Sign up for my newsletter for more featured books and find out what’s going on in my writing life.
Paul is the first of the Brozy Authors you are going to meet. If you missed the last post, Brozy Authors write light, entertaining whodunit cozy mysteries that appeal to more traditional male interest. Either by the chief character being male or the story line taking a more masculine turn (think book store owner vs biker). If you haven’t tried a brozy, then you’re in for a whole new adventure!
Why do you write “Brozy”? I’ve loved mystery stories ever since I was a little kid—Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew. When I was in junior high, I burned through most of Agatha Christie’s Poirot novels. As an adult, I’ve absolutely loved the Kinsey Milhone and Stephanie Plum books. Sue Grafton and Janet Evanovich don’t write cozies, but neither do they write blood-and-gore thrillers. Their protagonists are smart, savvy professionals who are highly competent but don’t take themselves too seriously. Their books hint at darker themes without being disturbing, and their books have a lot of humor without being silly or absurd. I majored in creative writing in college, and spent years trying to write literary fiction. In my forties, I realized I needed to change gears to write the books like the ones I love reading… and that’s why I find myself writing in this genre. I’ve often heard it called “soft-boiled” or “traditional,” but so often “traditional” means “British,” and my mysteries are set in California. What inspired you to start writing? I’ve wanted to be a novelist ever since I can remember. I majored in creative writing in college and published a few short stories, but I was never able to finish a novel. When I turned 45, I realized that if I wanted to call myself a novelist, I actually had to finish a novel.I re-started writing The Reluctant Coroner for National Novel Writing Month in 2017, and I promised myself that no matter what, I’d finish the book—even if I thought it was horrible or unsalvageable. And about two-thirds of the way through, I realized it needed to be written in third person, not first person. Before, that would have been enough for me to abandon the book, but I remembered the promise I’d made to myself. So I finished the book. It was a painful process to rewrite the whole thing in third person, but at the end, I’d finished what eventually became my debut novel. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting? I’ve gotten some valuable advice over the years. The most valuable thing is to finish what you start. Many writers have a few half-finished novels—some have dozens! Promising yourself you’re going to finish and then actually finishing is the most valuable thing I’ve ever learned. As Jodi Picoult says, “You can’t edit a blank page.” But editing a bad novel and making it good is possible, and usually way less painful than starting over. One more piece of advice: write 200 words every day. NaNoWriMo was great to get my first book going, but it’s 1,600-plus words a day is daunting. 200 words, though, is usually fifteen or twenty minutes, and it’s something you can do even at the end of a busy day or at the end of your lunch break. Sometimes I find that I don’t want to write at all, but then I force myself to write those 200 words—and I get into a groove before those 200 words are up. Suddenly, three hours will have passed in an instant and I’ll have written 4,000 words. How do you develop your plot and characters? My wife was looking into becoming a nursing student, and she began to research careers in the field. In California where we live (and in several other U.S. states), an MD isn’t required to be a coroner. I started thinking about what would lead a nurse to become a coroner, and came up with Fenway Stevenson. A lot of the personality of Fenway and her father came from the simple idea that a father would insist on naming his daughter after his favorite team’s home stadium (for those of you who aren’t baseball fans, the Boston Red Sox play in Fenway Park). When I started writing The Reluctant Coroner, all I had was the character of Fenway, the character of her father, and the identity of the murderer. I didn’t even know who the victim was when I began the first chapter! But as I wrote, both the plot and characters began to take shape. Many times, something would happen in the plot that surprised me—not as I was writing it, but just before it took shape. Quite often, these plot threads would take the story in an entirely different direction, or would turn an extremely minor character into a strong secondary character. What time of the day do you usually write? Before the pandemic, I used to travel a lot for work, and would often find myself with 20 minutes waiting for my flight to board, or back in my hotel room after a business dinner, and I’d take that spare time to write. I listen to “The Bestseller Experiment” podcast, and bestselling author Shannon Mayer discussed how working authors don’t have time to “wait” for their Muse—they have to grab their Muse by the horns and wrestle it to the ground and insist that inspiration come immediately. So I don’t wait for a time of day to write or a seat at my favorite coffee place to open up. I can write anywhere at any time. Most often, I’m in my home office at my desk, but I’ll take fifteen minutes at lunch, grab an hour before work, or wake up early on a weekend to write. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? Unlike 85% to 90% of the population, I don’t have an internal monologue. I don’t think in complete sentences—my thoughts are more nebulous, and it’s like they unspool when they transform into words that come out of my mouth or off my fingertips onto the keyboard. As a result, my first three novels had early drafts that were littered with “filtering words” or “distancing words,” instead of the free direct narration that most readers prefer—and that give books a sense of immediacy. (These are phrases like “she saw the car drive away,” “she decided to get up,” or “she realized she needed to tell him the truth,” instead of the much more direct “the car drove away,” “she got up,” or “she told him the truth.”) I used these filtering words because it’s the way I experience the world, and the direct narration felt fake to me. My editor is the one who made me realize that I’m the odd duck—that free and direct narration is much more effective. This last novel, number six, was the first in which I didn’t overuse filtering words—and as a result, it had the least amount of red ink coming back from the editor. Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers? Many writers I know couldn’t write anything when the pandemic first started and the world closed down. For me, writing was the only thing that took my mind off everything horrible that was happening in the world. Because I don’t have an internal monologue, I could unspool the thoughts that made me write my book instead of unspooling the thoughts that led me into anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, I don’t have any tips because my brain is weird like that. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite? I’ve written six novels in this series and a novella of one of the secondary characters 25 years before the start of the first book. I always feel like the last book I’ve written is my favorite. Often, it’s because I’ve challenged myself to do something I wasn’t sure I could do—for instance, Book 5, The Courtroom Coroner, is what TV people call a “bottle episode”: it all happens in a single room without people coming or going. Currently, my new release, The Watchful Coroner, is my favorite because I can see the progress my characters have made along their arcs, and it’s very satisfying to see it. When writing a series, how do you keep things fresh for both your readers and also you? Fenway Stevenson’s character arc is the thing that keeps me fresh. She’s at a different point in her relationship with 1) her father, 2) her main love interest, and 3) her job as coroner in every single book. It feels natural to me that she’d progress (and sometimes regress) in the way she has. Where do you get your inspiration? Rarely have I ever been inspired by a true-crime headline, but I have taken ideas from situations I’ve experienced in the past—with a murder overlaid. For example, I was in a Shakespeare troupe in college, very similar to the North American Shakespeare Guild in Book 4, The Upstaged Coroner. While none of the characters (except the director) were based on real people, the intensity of the rehearsals, the camaraderie of the company, and the emotions that the play brought to light are the things I hope I translated to the pages of the book. Are there any secrets from the book (that aren’t in the blurb), you can share with your readers? Not many readers have noticed this, but Fenway—who has a difficult and strained relationship with her father—never calls him “Dad” except to his face. When talking about him, she always says “my father.” This changes at some point in the series… and for readers of the books, it’s probably obvious where it is and what the catalyst of the change is. What is the future for the characters? Will there be a sequel? I’ve started on Book 7, The Accused Coroner, and it will wrap up some of the longer arcs in the series. I plan to go on to write at least two more Fenway Stevenson novels after this and maybe more. How many plot ideas are just waiting to be written? Can you tell us about one? I have ideas for three other book series. One is about a private investigator who’s at the center of a 12-book series of interconnected crimes called Murders of Substance. One follows a secondary character from Fenway Stevenson Book 2, The Incumbent Coroner, and the investigations she spearheads. And one has another estranged father/daughter duo as the main characters, on the run from federal agents after being set up for a crime they didn’t commit. I hope to start one of those series after writing book 7 in the Fenway series. What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Even in my late teens and early twenties, most of my protagonists were women, and I’ve always been told I have a good sense of narrative voice when my main character is female. I’m not sure why, but I did take one of those Marcus Buckingham “First Discover Your Strengths” tests, and I’m high in empathy. Perhaps I find it easier than most people to put myself in another person’s shoes? The one thing that DOES get me, though, is giving Fenway believable reactions in certain situations. For example, Fenway had a tough conversation with a co-worker, and walked home in the twilight from her co-worker’s apartment to hers—about two miles, with her headphones in listening to music. My critique group POUNCED on that—there’s no way, no matter how safe the neighborhood, that a woman walking by herself at night would do it with headphones in. Fenway is half-Black, too, and there were a bunch of things about basic day-to-day stuff like hair care that I had to be told to go research because I was getting it wrong. What was your hardest scene to write? In an early scene The Reluctant Coroner, Fenway’s assistant gets a little tipsy and then confesses that the murder victim sexually assaulted her two days before his death. The scene in which she talks about what he did was by far the hardest scene I ever had to write. Part of it was because of the disturbing subject matter (although it’s relatively tame compared to many thrillers), but part of it was also because I hadn’t ever written anything like that before. I hadn’t plotted that scene out, either—it was a complete surprise to me that she confessed it to Fenway. I couldn’t write another word in the book for three days afterward, and probably only started again because it was during NaNoWriMo and I was getting behind on my words.
The first book in the Fenway Stevenson Mystery series, The Reluctant Coroner, is free (at least until October 1) on all major e-book retailers: www.books2read.com/fenway1
Before I continue with the next round of author interviews, I’d like to introduce you to a new genre of cozy mystery. I’m really excited about this new group of books and authors and think you will too.
Meet Kent Halloway…
Kent Holloway started a Facebook group to get the word out about Brozy Mysteries, and that is how I found him and the genre. You’d be surprised at the authors who are getting on board with this movement. So, without further ado, here is Kent’s introduction to the Brozy Mystery Movement.
Brozies! Brozies! Brozies! Why Won’t This Guy Shut Up About Brozies?
By J. Kent Holloway
Short answer to the blog post title: Probably not. At least for quite a while anyway. In fact, you’re probably going to see me talking more and more on the topic of brozy mystery. The beautiful thing is, you’re probably going to start seeing a lot more people talking about it in the blogosphere as well. The reason? It’s catching on. It’s becoming a thing. It’s building momentum. More and more authors are jumping on board. And it’s beautiful.
On a personal level, I’m not likely to stop talking about brozies for another reason. You see, after nearly ten years of writing across all spectrums of genres (thrillers, pulp, adventure, horror, and fantasy), I finally found my niche. The problem was, my niche didn’t have a clearly defined genre. It was mystery, sure. It was clean. No foul language. No sex (barely any romance at all). I was too clean for straight up mysteries. But my books were too masculine-centric to find a comfortable place among the frills and cupcakes of the cozy genre too (heck, when I mentioned wanting to write cozy mysteries, my own mother had the audacity to ask, “Aren’t they a little girly for you?” She was actually embarrassed by the prospect, and rightly so, I think. I don’t do cats or tea parties. I don’t do book clubs and baking. I don’t do florists or caterers.
I do mystery and adventure. I do mystery and jungles. I do mystery and voodoo. I do mystery and lost treasures. I do…well, you get the point.
So, I ventured forth to build a genre that best suited my own particular brand of cozy mystery…the brozy mystery. It was a female fan and reader who came up with the name, by the way. And, as you’d expect, it isn’t without its controversies. I’ve been labeled a misogynist and sexist for even suggesting such a thing. The reason is easy to understand. The word ‘bro’ carries with it a certain derogatory connotation by many. To these people, it harbors visions of frat guys and douchebags who womanize and cheat and lie to get what they want. To me, the word ‘bro’ carries with it another ideal. That of ‘brotherhood’. Brotherhood conjures up concepts such as bravery, loyalty, being steadfast. I think of rugged exceptionalism (another bad word to some in this day and age). Of heroic deeds. It conjures images of knights in shining armor, Buck Rogers, and Indiana Jones. Good guys (whether male or female) wearing white hats and villains wearing black.
Brozies to me appeal to interests that are traditionally more masculine in nature. Spies, race car drivers, stunt men, adventurers, archaeologists, space cadets. Guys are more interested in Star Wars than they are the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. They’re more interested in football than in crafts. They want stories that excite and pump up the adrenaline. I know a lot of women who want this too, by the way. I can’t tell you the number of messages I’ve received recently from female readers who’ve thanked me for spearing-heading this. Women who just can’t take another cupcake recipe in the back of a mystery (their words, not mine).
Sexist or not, men are less inclined to read books that appear catered to the female reader (I know there are some exceptions because I’m one of them). It’s also true that die-hard readers of cozies (in the form they are now in) aren’t open to more masculine interests (i.e. a futuristic space cozy).
I know this because I’ve recently come across a male writer, Richard Dee, who created a fantastic cozy mystery series called the Andorra Pett series which is set on Saturn. All sorts of fun sci-fi tropes, many which are retro. It originally featured a female sleuth with cute traditionally cozy covers, but yet, according to the author, it’s been difficult to find traction. (He’s recently revamped the covers for a more brozy vibe.) Traditional cozy readers are slow to accept new concepts, especially those that are set in the future in space. So Richard was most pleased to find out little group of Brozy enthusiasts who are looking to change the literary (or at least, cozy) world.
There are other mystery authors out there who are a little more grounded in our world. Recently, I’ve discovered Colin Conway and his Brody Steele series. I’m currently reading book one, Cozy Up to Death, and it’s so much fun. The book (series) takes the cozy mystery and turns it up on its ears. The protagonist is an ex-biker enforcer. But he’s currently in witness protection. And he’s forced to own and run a bookstore (check off one cozy trope). The bookstore has a cat (check another cozy trope), and of course, our hero is not a cat person. But a biker-sleuth? Unheard of! And awesome! And funny. And clean as a whistle (although I’ve never known why whistles are supposed to be clean).
And if you subscribe to my newsletter, you already read my interview with John Gaspard and learned about his fantastic Eli Marks Mysteries. In them, Eli Marks, a typical guy with all the problems guys have, is a professional stage magician. He’s not the best. He’s not the worst. But he makes a good living at it, as well as the magic shop he and his uncle run. But of course, Eli stumbles on bodies quite frequently and uses his skills to help solve murders and other crimes. There’s not a crotchet stick or recipe anywhere to be found. But guys love magic. So it’s awesome, and I consider it a brozy. I’m just not sure it appeals to the classic cozy reader.
That’s why this brozy genre is so important. So people can find these books easier. The dream is to have you, the reader, simply type ‘brozy mystery’ into Amazon’s database and be presented with all the amazing mysteries that guys (and ladies who like more manly tropes in their books) will love all in the one place. By the way, try it. Try searching for ‘brozy mysteries’ in Amazon. Once you bypass Amazon’s spellcheck procedure trying to switch things to ‘cozy’, you’ll already be presented with several books whose authors believe to be perfect for the brozy mystery genre.
This is an exciting time to be a writer! An exciting time to be a fan of clean mysteries with more manly appeals. I hope you’ll embrace the dream, and join us on this journey! Oh, by the way, if you’re interested in learning more, go to Facebook and join our Brozy Mysteries R Us group. We’d love to have you!