Edith, writing up a storm north of Boston
I’m pleased to have fellow New England author Linda Reilly visit today. She and I had been online friends, and I was delighted that she drove all the way to Salem, New Hampshire this summer when I was signing at the Barnes and Noble there, just to meet me in person. Take it away, Linda! (Oh, and she’s giving away a copy of her debut mystery, Some Enchanted Murder, to a commenter.)
Writing what I know . . .
First, I’d like to thank Edith Maxwell for inviting me to guest blog with the Wicked Cozy Authors! I live in New Hampshire, but I’m an old Massachusetts gal from way back, so I feel right at home here with everyone.
As a lover of psychological suspense, I’d never pictured myself writing a cozy. For years I’d been devouring the books of authors such as Carlene Thompson, Wendy Corsi Staub, and Joy Fielding. Their heart-stopping novels kept me glued to the pages, so why would I want to write anything else? On my part, it was very short-sighted.
I first discovered that I wanted to write a cozy when I landed on a charming mystery many cozy lovers are familiar with, about a New Hampshire town in which everything is designed around books. The main character owns a mystery book store, and is surrounded by quirky characters in a delightful little village. By the time she solved the murder and wrapped up all the loose ends, I was completely and irrevocably hooked. I wanted to read cozies! More important, I wanted to write cozies. Thinking back to my teen years, I really shouldn’t have been surprised. Back when paperback mysteries cost seventy-five cents, Agatha Christie had been a huge favorite of mine. She evoked such enchanting visions of quaint English villages that I longed to travel to England, a dream I later fulfilled.
Okay, so now I wanted to write a cozy. Ah, but what to write about? We’ve all heard the old saw write what you know, but was it really the best advice? Well I wasn’t sure, since I’d read opposing views, but writing what I was familiar with sounded awfully good to me.
To write what I know, I had to rely on my job. In my day gig I work as a paralegal/title examiner for a title insurance company. Wait . . . don’t nod off yet. Examining titles in the Registries of Deeds, where evidence of land ownership is recorded, is a huge part of my job. So my main character would be a paralegal, I decided, and an expert at examining titles. Except that she would work for a tiny law office, not a big company; and she would live in a fictional town called Hazleton, New Hampshire. And because she needed a sidekick, I gave her a sixty-something aunt—a Realtor who tools around in her dead husband’s old gas guzzler and played Beatles music almost around the clock.
It was the concept of creating the perfect clue that intrigued me the most. Once I’d latched onto the idea that the secret to the killer’s identity had to be hidden in the weighty volumes of the Registry of Deeds, I couldn’t let it go. The Rockingham County Registry worked perfectly for me. I needed my clue to date back to the early 1950s, and the Rockingham County indices stretch back to 1629.
I still wasn’t sure I could make any of it work, but after a lot of false starts the mystery finally came together. A detailed rejection from one insightful editor set me on the path to a better story. I was grateful that I’d taken the advice to write what I know, because late in 2011 Five Star Publishing accepted Some Enchanted Murder for publication. The mystery debuted in March of 2013, and was a finalist for the 2014 Silver Falchion Award in the category “Best First Novel: Cozy, Traditional and Historical.”
I’m currently writing a cozy series for Berkley Prime Crime called Deep Fried Mysteries. My main character is restaurateur Talia Marby, whose recently acquired fish and chips shop in the Berkshires morphs into a “deep fried” eatery. Talia and I are both new at the job, so together we’re experimenting with tasty recipes . . . all while solving murders, of course. The first book in the series, Fillet of Murder, will debut in May 2015.
Anyone who leaves a comment will be entered in a drawing for a hardcover copy of Some Enchanted Murder.
Readers – Questions for Linda about examining titles or deep fried food? Or anything else?
Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examination, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. Her dream of one day having a story published happened in 1995 when a national magazine published her short mystery Out of Luck. Since then, she’s had over forty short stories published in Woman’s World magazine. Linda lives in southern New Hampshire with her husband, where she is currently working on her new Deep Fried cozy mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her at www.lindasreilly.com