My mother used to say, “just because everyone is jumping off the bridge, you don’t have to.” Actually, my mom, the original Evelyn, never said that. She would just give me her patented stare, which was far more effective and conveyed the same sentiment. I always got the message loud and clear, or to put it another way, “my momma didn’t raise no fool.”
I plunged into despair when I read the Sisters in Crime report of the Publishers’ Summit (and btw, everyone, and I mean everyone, should join Sisters in Crime, whether you’re a writer or a female). Yes, I can be a drama queen, but I confess to a bit of a moment when I read that one publisher had firmly pronounced that the cozy mystery was dead (pun intended).
This same publisher also opined that thrillers and paranormal books were flying off the shelves.
So after I finished weeping and wailing, gnashing my teeth, and checking the wants ads to see if there were any jobs for cozy mystery writers, I took a deep breath and tried to figure out what to do next. And then I recalled a second adage. My mom didn’t say this one either, but I’m pretty sure she would have given me another of her Evelyn looks which translated to mean, “duh, of course that’s right.” (Needless to say, at no time in my mother’s life did she ever say, duh.). In any case this pithy bit of truth is from Christopher Columbus Kraft, NASA’s first flight director. He said, “If you don’t know what to do, don’t do anything.”
How does this apply to the current authors of Murder Off the Books, and the forthcoming Murder Takes the Cake (and hopefully even more in the Sullivan Investigation Series)? It means that just because someone believes that the cozy mystery has passed its expiration date doesn’t mean that I have to change what I write. Look, as I said, my momma didn’t raise no fools. So of course I think it’s important to understand the current marketing trends. But if I start writing to the fad, rather than writing what I do best, then it will please no one.
As it happens, the Southern half of Evelyn David and I have been kicking around a story for more than two years that features a sleuth who talks to ghosts. But, and here’s the kernel of truth that I’ve learned, it’s all about the characters. If they’re believable, you can capture an audience. If they’re not, then it doesn’t matter if they talk to your mother, you won’t buy the concept.
To paraphrase Mark Twain, “reports of the cozy mystery death have been greatly exaggerated.” I’m not ready to don any sackcloth and ashes just yet.