Cozy and Unashamed

My name is Vickie and I write (and read) cozy mysteries.

Not a shocking admission really, but enough to garner me a disparaging look or comment on occasion from some writers and readers of other genres.

Agatha_ChristieIn fact when I attended the Writers Police Academy in August, I sat next to a pleasant-looking lady at one of the sessions who asked me, “What kind of books do you write?” When I answered “cozy mysteries,” she replied, “Oh, I never read those!”

I know reading tastes are subjective, but she’s missing out on so many amazingly good books! Or at least it seems that way to me, as a die-hard cozy fan.

I first discovered Agatha Christie when I was about twelve. I imagined Miss Marple as my elderly aunt, whom I’d spent a few weeks visiting each summer in England. Her village life with its thatched roofs, roaring fire on the hearth and afternoon tea served in delicate china cups was a world away from my reality of asphalt shingles, rattling air-conditioning and a sweaty glass of iced tea.

For an awkward adolescent with her nose pressed firmly in a library book, sitting in Aunt Jane’s parlor and tagging along as she unraveled murder mysteries felt like the safest, most comforting place on earth—despite the fact that bodies were piling up in St. Mary Mead.

How does that make sense?

I believe it’s because before you read Page 1 of a traditional mystery—which vary greatly in their degrees of coziness— you have the assurance that the murderer will be caught and justice will prevail. That’s something we don’t always get in other categories of crime fiction—and seldom happens on the evening news.

I sometimes enjoy a good horror read, curled up on the sofa as the shadows on the wall grow darker and more ominous. Or having a thriller leave me breathless as our hero races across the globe, his life in peril as he tries to prevent an assassination or foil a terrorist plot.

But, I always come back home to the cozy, traditional murder mystery. It’s comfort food for the mind and spirit. It’s hot cocoa or mac ‘n’ cheese or chocolate cake. And cozies come in all flavors, from spicy and exotic to warm and familiar—romantic or humorous or paranormal, or maybe even all three at once.

My only complaint now that I’m writing cozy mystery novels is that I have far less time to read them.

Playing Cops and Writers

MascotI admit to having a certain amount of Nancy Drew envy growing up, what with all her exciting adventures in crime solving. But this past weekend, Nancy Drew would have been jealous of me!

I attended the Writers Police Academy in Appleton, Wisconsin. Law enforcement officers from different agencies, firefighters and emergency medical personnel train at the new, state-of-the-art Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.

Last Friday, about 300 (mostly) mystery writers descended en masse on the facility. We came armed with notebooks, pens and lots of questions. We attended sessions taught by police academy instructors and special guest lecturers, including a medical expert in bioterrorism, a police sketch artist and a forensic psychologist who has profiled serial killers.

Of course, the hands-on classes were some of the most fun. I learned how to retrieve and develop fingerprints from various surfaces. (Fingerprints can be retrieved from cars that have been submerged in water. I never knew that!) I did a building search with a TeamWork (1)partner and I handcuffed a perp. (Actually, she seemed like a very nice lady, but I enjoyed slapping those cuffs on her all the same.)

So, take that, Nancy Drew! Although, I still envy her car a little. That blue roadster was pretty sweet.


How long did it take to write my novel?

Lots of people have asked how long it took to write my first book. I suppose that’s a common question posed to authors. I say it took all my life. Or, at least, it seems that way. I knew I wanted to be a writer in the fourth grade when my little essay on “What Patriotism Means to Me” won first place in my age division in a national contest.

Blog1_320_Contrast_IMG_3057I won $25, which seemed like a huge wad of cash to me at the time. I also got to appear on a morning show in Memphis, where I read my essay from the news desk in front of television cameras. I felt like a celebrity. I reckoned if I had reached such heights by the fourth grade, my star could only ascend as a grown-up when I became a famous novelist.

That child-like confidence faded a bit during my awkward teen years. I did become a writer, earning a degree in journalism and working much of my adult life as a reporter at small newspapers.

But, the dream of writing my own stories and not just reporting other people’s stories never completely left me. And I have two really awful manuscripts stuffed in a drawer somewhere to prove it.

Third time was the charm. We moved to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for my husband’s work. I didn’t find a job, so I started writing the murder mystery that eventually got me an agent and a publisher.

So, how long did it take to write that first book? It took a little more than four years – plus my whole life up to that point.

(NOTE: My publisher has different ideas about how long it takes to write a novel. I know exactly how long it will take to complete my second book, since I’m contractually obligated to turn it in by the end of October!)