Friday, November 2, 2007

Cozying up to Killer Hobbies

I recently took it upon myself (along with co-blogger, Linda O. Johnston) to do a bit of research into hobby-oriented mystery series. We came up with some interesting information--in fact, we've prepared an entire discussion/presentation on the subject of hobby-oriented mysteries that we are taking "on the road" in the Southern Califonia area. If you would like us to appear at your book club, library, bookstore or discussion group, please contact one of us through our web sites. (We can also teleconference in to groups that meet in other locations).

But here's a little preview of some of what we talk about:

What’s a “hobbyist’s” cozy mystery?

· By a conservative estimate, about 60-65% of Berkley/NAL Prime Crime imprints are based on hobbies.

· Most cozies are geared toward a female audience.

· The story stars an amateur sleuth, usually a well-educated female.

· Her life experiences have given her special skills that she uses in the course of solving a crime.

· Her hobby can be very diverse (scrap booker, oenophile, B&B owner, art collector, quilting).

· The location of the story is usually a small town or confined environment. This makes it believable that all the residents know each other.

· She usually has friends, relationships, or family that can get her “uncozy” police procedural information (autopsy results, investigation updates).

· Most cozies are series.

· Most of the characters in the story are fairly likable, often quirky.

· Cozies are “kinder, gentler” stories—no overt violence or overt sex (okay, well, except for my series, the Fat City Mysteries. There you get a lot of sex and violence!).

· The story is fast-paced, with lots of red herrings.

· Often, two people die before the book ends, both offstage. The first murder often takes place before the story opens. The connection between the two people is what helps the sleuth solve the crime. She is able to make that connection in a way the police fail to.

(One more disclaimer about DYING TO BE THIN—it shows the murder victims splat on the page. I think I have a few uncozy "bones" as a writer!)

What are the current trends in cozy mysteries?

The current trend is to make cozies “educational” and include bonus information, such as patterns, diet tips, or recipes.

For example, DYING TO BE THIN has diet tips at the beginning of each chapter, like the following one:

There’s an old saying: Scratch a depression, and you’ll find an anger. Well, scratch an overweight woman, and you may find an angry one underneath. Many of us eat to repress angry feelings—over a rotten childhood, over a chintzy news budget that doesn’t cover wardrobe expenses…you name it, we’ve got plenty to be angry about. Learn to express anger in a healthy, assertive way. Which doesn’t include diving into a pint of Chunky Monkey.

—From The Little Book of Fat-busters by Mimi Morgan
What about you? Are there things about hobby-oriented cozy mysteries that particularly attract you? Are there things you wish were different about the stories? We'd really love to hear your feedback. Best, Kathryn


Lynne said...

I enjoy mysteries that involve hobbies I do or have always wanted to do. Having said that, the story still has to be good to make me read past page 50 :)

Kathryn Lilley said...

Hi Lynne,

You're such a good sport to give books until page fifty! I only give them to page fifteen or so to hook me as a reader! Best, Kathryn

Camille Minichino said...

That's a great "what's a cozy" list.
I wonder how "political" a cozy can get. I'm passionate about politics, but always feel I shouldn't have my character get too involved.

Kathryn Lilley said...

I'd let a character sound "political," but not the book itself. However, some politics can be inferred by a theme, such as the need to protect the environment; this theme could translate into what some people call "politics," but I'm all for that.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

In my cozy mystery--Paper, Scissors, Dead debuting Sept. 2008 form Midnight Ink--my amateur sleuth uses her knowledge of scrapbooking to solve the crime. I like the challenge of taking a lovely, happy hobby and making it a part of the impetus for the crime and the solution!