“I just hate cozy mysteries,” a fellow told me at a recent conference. He cast a bleary eye over the cutsie covers for my Meow books, a new series from Pelican Ventures. “Cats, and sweet little old ladies.” He shivered and wandered away.
He was writing porn, and had other issues besides being a dog lover. I didn’t hold it against him. But others seemed to avoid me afterward, even though several of the authors and workshop leaders were mystery writers. Were they mystery snobs?
Cozy mysteries are alive and well. While many have cats, they certainly don’t all have little old ladies as the main sleuth. The stories are charming…I know, I’m biased. So what does make a mystery a “cozy”?
Three things in particular separate a cozy from the general mystery genre, though of course these aren’t hard and fast rules. One, the setting is usually a small community, tightly knit—the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else. Second, the crime, which doesn’t have to be murder, takes place off stage, if not before the story starts, then shortly thereafter. Finally, the sleuth—the person who is at the center of solving the crime—is an amateur; that is, not a professional in law enforcement. Hence, the cats. Seriously, cats are great partners for solving crimes. They have terrific senses of smell, are very particular, and provide fun quirks and red herrings, as long as they’re not eating the herrings.
But I digress. Tut, Memnet, and Isis are only part of these stories. Cozy mysteries are light and sweet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have pertinent facts or don’t address social issues of the day. They separate themselves from hard-boiled mysteries or crime fiction in several ways. You won’t find much blood or gore in cozies (ignore the garden claw in poor Esme’s head, okay?), but you will often find juicy topics to dissect, such as who could have known that youngster we all raised would do such a thing? Or how far can stress stretch a person you thought was a friend? And my favorite—“you didn’t believe me, and I told you so!”
In the first three releases of the Fancy Cat Mysteries, our heroic sleuth Ivy has finally realized she’s got to move on after a failed engagement. She runs a personal technologies business from home, which gives her a great excuse to know people’s foibles without being obvious. Uprooting oneself and starting over is a good discussion point. How do you go about meeting new people, making friends, and learning to trust again? By the fourth book (coming later) she is ready to tackle the plight of itinerant coffee workers and the terrible working conditions in some places around the world.
The research we cozy authors do is every bit as specialized as any detective mystery. Did you know there’s even a special office in the FBI to answer writer’s questions? https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/stories/2008/october/a-guide-for-writers-authors-and-producers-1 There are plenty of workshops, too, on proper federal agent procedures, weapon use and results (so, maybe you’ll read about blood spray patterns in a cozy, but you won’t see the blood), and other tidbits of gruesome stuff. I also recently attended a workshop put on by a local firefighter educator who presented a program on myth-busting for writers. I was glad to know facts, as I tend to set fires in my mysteries to cover up other crimes. I was also able to ask about the alarm system in our new home that occasionally warned us of a fire that never materialized. We just had to unwire the faulty unit, and the others are fine.
Setting is important. If you’re not from a small town, or you want to create a new community, cozy writers—and any other author for that matter—must take care to follow building codes, law enforcement agency regulations, hunting seasons, time and date and so forth, that are specific to each municipality. My cat cozies are set in Apple Grove, Illinois. I built Apple Grove from scratch, but I based it on a nearby town. You can visit Apple Grove here: https://www.lisalickel.com/2011/01/apple-grove.html.
Cozies always have a moral. Ivy learns to love again and that her world is bigger and richer with her new friends.
Learn about Meow Mayhem of the Fancy Cat Mysteries starting here: https://www.lisalickel.com/2011/01/meow-mayhem.html
Lisa will give away an electronic copy of Meow Mayhem. Please include contact information!!
After being left at the altar, Ivy Amanda McTeague Preston uproots herself and her cat, an Egyptian Mau named Memnet, from her boring and lonely life to start over at the urging of Mayor Conklin, a fellow pedigreed Mau owner.
Ready to move in a fresh direction, Adam Thompson accepts the mayor’s invitation and uproots himself and his beloved Mau, Isis, to open a branch of his trendy bookstore and coffee shop in the small town.
When Ivy takes a mysterious message while the mayor is away on business, only her criminology professor mom and Adam believe there’s something rotten in Apple Grove. Then Ivy discovers the community grant money that Adam was allotted to start the store is mysteriously being siphoned off, a dead body surfaces, and the victim’s missing Mau becomes the primary suspect. . .just another day in Ivy’s far-from-boring new life.
In love with Apple Grove and with Adam, Ivy hopes to carry on their romance while saving the town from further mayhem.
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author of inspiring fiction who loves books, collects dragons, and travels. She writes novels, short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. Lisa is a member of the Wisconsin Writer’s Association, the Chicago Writer’s Association, and an instructor for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at www.LisaLickel.com.
Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2bPxi2X