KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
THE UNEXPECTED RESOLUTION
Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series Book 10
BY ELAINE ORR
A midnight wedding, Army veterans who face repercussions of two wars, and a startling wedding guest. Wedding days don’t usually pack as big a surprise as Jolie and Scoobie’s New Year’s Eve nuptial. Scoobie never knew much about his family, and after the way he grew up, who could blame him for liking it that way? A 9-1-1 call during the wedding changes everything. Suddenly Jolie has to help Scoobie figure out what he wants to know and determine who seems to want one of his family members dead.
WRITING FROM THE HEART IN MYSTERIES
By Elaine L. Orr
A friend teaches romance writing, and emphasizes that no matter what the plot or assortment of characters, the love story between the two protagonists must always be paramount. What about a mystery with (a common marketing phrase) “a touch of romance?”
I thought the balance would be intuitive until 2005 when I wrote a mystery with a strong romantic element. Which component should dominate, or should I place equal emphasis on plot and love? The story was uneven, and I eventually rewrote the book so that the mystery had more focus and the characters’ internal dialogue about their relationship decreased substantially. The story became better, but I still didn’t have great skill in building both components.
When I later began a mystery series, the balance question arose again. The answer was easier. The mystery would predominate and a love interest would grow over time. Why include it at all? Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple didn’t usually think about love. On the other hand, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books would be less fun without Ranger and Joe Morelli.
In my published mystery novels, the strong protagonists are women with at least some love interests. I needed to create male partners who were interesting, not simply bedtime buckaroos.
I write cozy mysteries, and generally don’t like books in which the boyfriend/potential boyfriend is in law enforcement. In some books, the sheriff/police officer provides more information than they would ever give a civilian, and it’s too unrealistic. Yes, it’s fiction, but how many local police chiefs do you know who work with amateur sleuths?
Other ideas I rejected were: the powerful benefactor/titan of industry who has lots of resources (financial and otherwise) that the amateur sleuth relies on; a news reporter who shares the investigative duties; and the all-supportive boyfriend/spouse who makes the sleuth’s life much easier. Any of those romantic partners can work, I simply saw them as people who would make the sleuth’s life less challenging. What’s the fun in that?
I settled on friendships that could grow into love, with the boyfriend eventually in a job that could occasionally bring in helpful information. In a long series (such as my soon-to-be eleven-book Jolie Gentil series) the sleuth’s love realization grows slowly, and her partner, Scoobie, also adds humor and counters Jolie’s occasional rash decisions.
I didn’t initially see them getting married, but he grew on me. In The Unexpected Resolution they do tie the knot. They also find out some things about Scoobie’s past that will influence their future greatly. Plus a murder comes into play, of course.
Two other series (River’s Edge and Logland) began with the idea of slow-growth romance – though I don’t think the culmination will take ten books!
A final thought. How does marriage (or a permanent commitment) affect the story line? On television shows it reduces a lot of creative tension. I thought about that for months, and resolved the issue for Jolie and Scoobie by moving time ahead a couple of years and adding new characters that can complicate lives and create dramatic conflict.
I’ll let readers of book eleven (Underground in Ocean Alley, coming in April 2018) tell me if it works.
Elaine L. Orr is the Amazon bestselling author of three mystery series — the ten-book Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, set at the Jersey shore, the two-book River’s Edge series, set in rural Iowa, and the Logland Mystery series, featuring a small Illinois college town and its police chief. Behind the Walls was a finalist for the 2014 Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards, and Demise of a Devious Neighbor for the 2018 award (to be announced in April). Elaine also writes plays and novellas, including the one-act, Common Ground and the 2017 Falling Into Place. Her novella, Biding Time, was one of five finalists in the National Press Club’s first fiction contest, in 1993. Elaine conducts presentations on electronic publishing and other writing-related topics. Nonfiction includes Words to Write By: Putting Your Thoughts on Paper and Writing in Retirement: Putting New Year’s Resolutions to Work. She also conducts online courses on writing and publishing on the Teachable platform. A member of Sisters in Crime and the Indiana Writers’ Center, Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwest in 1994.
Links to Elaine’s website, blog, books, etc.