Monday, 28 March 2011

How Did a Hardboiled Author Come to Write a Cozy Mystery? - Guest post by Ed Lynskey

Today's guest post is for those readers who like their mystery novels cozy and their mystery solving sleuths ordinary people. This even gets better, because in Ed Lynskey's novel, Quiet Anchorage the mystery solving sleuths are none other than two very nice aunts, well over 70! Yes, you read that right. Curious to see how two retired old ladies can solve a crime? Well read on to discover.

Please welcome Ed Lynskey mystery novel author!

How Did a Hardboiled Author Come to Write a Cozy Mystery?
by Ed Lynskey

Sometimes you like to break out of your mold and try your hand at something a little different and new. Fiction writers often like to make such a change of pace. It keeps us fresh. I’d written and published several titles in the P.I. Frank Johnson mystery series. Frank is generally a stand up guy, and I hope and trust we can keep hanging out together. But as I said, I felt the yearning to stretch my wings. Luckily, not everything I’d written fell in the noir or hardboiled genre.

You see, for a few years, I’d also been writing and selling my stories to the TRUE magazines from Dorchester Media. Those stories (the author gets no tagline) were a hoot to write, and I earned a little money. I must’ve produced forty or more stories. Not all of them sold, but enough did. I spent a few apprehensive days mulling over if I could create a novel intended primarily for a female readership. Could I hack it?

Murder, She Wrote: The Complete 12th SeasonEvery Sunday night for years, we’d tuned in to Murder, She Wrote (1984-96) on TV. Jessica Fletcher was a smart, feisty, and persistent sleuth, and the shows made for entertaining and fun viewing. I especially liked Tom Bosley in the role as Sheriff Amos Tupper (1984-88). My pleasant memories of watching Jessica planted the seed for my new direction. My reading of mysteries includes the occasional amateur sleuth title. That’s how I came to explore the idea. Maybe, just maybe, I could do it.

I searched for somebody to base my amateur sleuth creation on, and my two late aunts were the obvious choice. Alma and Isabel were sisters living in a small Virginia town where they were born and bred. I next debated if they’d mind if I used them as my character models. My chuckling mom didn’t think so when I asked her, and I didn’t pick up any spooky vibes from the spirits of their displeasure over my plan.

Thus encouraged, I steamed ahead and wrote the first draft of Quiet Anchorage. It was a gas to do. A cinch, I thought. Boy was I ever naïve. The numerous editing rounds turned tricky. Homing in on their authentic voices posed my biggest challenge. Obviously septuagenarian ladies don’t think or speak like the hardboiled Frank does.

Well, I was either a glutton for punishment or plain stubborn since I kept plugging away. A half-dozen female beta readers passed along their comments, both the good and bad ones. And I got plenty of bad ones. Quiet Anchorage wasn’t a book I just plopped down and typed out in couple of months. There was sweat and pain involved. But my pair of amateur sleuths in print gradually took their shapes.

Quiet AnchorageThe real Alma and Isabel having lived through two world wars and the great depression knew a thing or two about toughing out the hard times. They weren’t pushovers, and they didn’t suffer fools. In Quiet Anchorage, they’re forced to take up investigating a homicide after their niece Megan is accused and falsely arrested for the murder of her fiancé Jake. Quiet Anchorage is a small town, and the rare murder occurring there stirs things up.

As with any pair of protagonists, their personalities had to differ. Alma is the impetuous, outspoken, and fearless sibling while the older Isabel is more cerebral, reserved, and patient. Having been raised on a farm, both are blessed with common sense and pragmatism. They laugh at themselves, kid around a little bit, and don’t take their sleuthing efforts too seriously. Of course, they’re determined to help Megan. That’s job one.

If I had to pick a small town to move to and live in, Quiet Anchorage would do me quite nicely. It’s a tidy place with friendly folks. The slower pace and more relaxed temperament suit me fine. Families live there. Kids play in the yards. But a murder has rocked Quiet Anchorage, and there will be consequences. The rush to judgment has landed Megan behind bars, and the smug, satisfied local sheriff will soon learn he’s underestimated her daunting pair of aunts. They’re not above offering a bribe if it gets them the information they need to move forward in their quest to free her.

Whether the readers will cotton to my cozy mystery and become its fans remains to be seen. Reviews, for the most part, have been positive. No doubt as the series (if there is a series as I keep out some hopes for) unfolds, their characters will take on more depth. I included some back-story in Quiet Anchorage to flesh out their diverse personalities.

I have a draft finished that sends Alma and Isabel off to Bermuda for a small vacation where another murder crops up. Once again, they’ll have to call on their native wiles to sift through the clues, sniff out the red herrings, and finally unmask the actual killer.

My grateful thanks are extended to Stella for allowing me to say a few words on her weblog.

Ed Lynskey is a crime fiction writer with his family near Washington, D.C. His five mysteries feature P.I. Frank Johnson. LAKE CHARLES (Wildside Press), a stand alone, is due out in 2011 from Wildside Press.

Links to purchase Quiet Anchorage:

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