When I decided to write mystery series with amateur sleuths, I spent time thinking about careers that would put them in contact with a lot of people, provide a flexible schedule, and be interesting to men and women.
I had learned in an earlier stand-alone book that the protagonist couldn't be tied to her career. When would she investigate? I had created a teacher, and then had to have her break her arm so she wasn't in the classroom all the time.
I settled on a real estate appraiser for the Jolie Gentil Jersey shore cozy mysteries and a reporter-turned-gardener for the Iowa River's Edge series -- Melanie. It seems no matter what Jolie and Melanie do, they don't attract many male readers. Or at least, male reviewers. It seems women read male protagonists but men don't often pick up books with female sleuths.
The second question was how much daily life should mix with murder. Readers pick up a cozy in part because of the sleuth's profession. People can relate to bakers, dog walkers, and bookstore clerks. I figured a real estate appraiser was just different enough to be equally interesting.
Most people buy or sell a house at some point, so they would recognize the work without finding it too familiar. And boy, can Jolie get in trouble in a vacant house.
Newspaper reporters are more common in thrillers, less so in cozy mysteries. Melanie didn't last long in that role -- in fact From Newsprint to Footprints opens with her firing.
So, she became a gardener, which happens to be one of my hobbies. Most of us have planted something in the dirt at some point, so I figured readers could also get a sense of satisfaction when plants sprout along with suspects.
I plan to continues the two series and a third, which features a small-town police chief -- the Logland Series. I call that a police procedural with a cozy feel.
Lately, I've done a book a year in each series, but I think readers expect more regular installments. I traced publication dates over the last decade, and realized I did three Jolie books in the first publishing year. I'd written them over several years. I need to pick up the pace. Yikes.
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Learn more about Elaine at www.elaineorr.com, or sign up for her her newsletter.
Learn about my writing, thoughts on writing, and how you can show the world your words. Understated humor is featured in the mystery series -- Jolie Gentil (at the Jersey shore), River's Edge (along the Des Moines River in Iowa), Family History Mysteries (in Western Maryland mountains) and Logland (small-town Illinois). Live life with friends - even if some of them can be a pain now and then. The name Irish Roots Author reflects my heritage, as expressed in my family history books.
Sunday, June 23, 2019
Choices about the Profession for Amateur Sleuths
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