I am delighted to have Ritter Aames with us today. Ritter is the author of The Bodies of Art Mystery Series, Counterfeit Conspiracies and Marked Masters.
Are Cozies Changing?
By Ritter Ames
I happily landed at Left Coast Crime last week and was lucky enough to be on the panel for “The Making of a Cozy Mystery: What Defines a Cozy.”
Let’s face it, the definition of a cozy is changing all the time. When I first started reading cozies—ages and ages ago—there were “rules.” For instance, the bulk of the mystery took place in a small inclusive community. The story could segue into the big city, but needed to stay predominately in the sleuth’s somewhat closed community. And the sleuth needed to be an amateur, who could work with law enforcement but not be a cop or P.I. Four-letter words stayed at a minimum and absolutely no “elevated” inflammatory curse words (F-word, you know who we mean!). Violence remained off screen. And no sex.
Since all of those rules have been bent or even broken by titles hitting high on the cozy bestselling charts in the past few years, one of the first things our moderator—the terrific Dru Ann Love—did was ask the audience for a word each would use to describe cozy mysteries. She asked members of the panel as well. Answers ranged from “amateur” to “justified-in-the-end” to “clean” to “quirky” and “humorous.” Those are just a sampling. One of the questions asked by one of the audience members was whether we authors thought cozies needed to always end with a “happily ever after.” We had a lot of fun—and interesting—answers to that question.
In a nutshell, consensus seemed to be cozies mysteries could surprise, but should leave us feeling good about things. We want the baddie captured, but we know life isn’t neat and tidy for us and it shouldn’t be for our favorite characters either. So it’s cool if situations that start up for our characters in one book—personal issues for instance—get carried over into future titles to build depth into the characters we love.
Very vocal opinions arose against on-screen sex scenes. Gory violence also didn’t have a friend in the room. Humor and quirkiness had to be important to the story—not just throwaway humor—as well as the crafts and expertise angles employed to add depth and
structure to the characters and series.
The mystery is the thing. We are able to stretch rules, we can expand settings and give characters unconventional jobs and situations. We can add a bit of sexual tension with humor, a smidgeon of terror with discussion, and do all of that to build intriguing mysteries that challenges and leave readers wanting the next book in the series as soon as possible. As long as we stay true to our mystery roots.
We had a packed roomful of cozy readers for our panel, and I realize if other audiences are asked these same things the mileage may vary. But I have to tell you as a proponent of mysteries, that I hope offer fun and escape to all readers as they follow my characters and try to solve the crime, this was one fabulous way to spend an hour.
My latest are releases by Henery Press of Counterfeit Conspiracies and Marked Masters, the first two books in my Bodies of Art Mysteries. My main character, Laurel Beacham, may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she has long since lost it digging herself out of trouble. Quick wits and connections have gained her a reputation as one of the world’s premier art recovery experts. The police may catch the thief, but she reclaims the missing masterpieces—even if her means of doing so requires some unconventional methods. Her latest challenge not only pits her against a criminal mastermind, but also a charming new nemesis who seems to know where all the bodes are buried. She doesn’t want hers to be next.
Giveaway: I’m giving away one signed copy of either Counterfeit Conspiracies or Marked Masters—winner’s choice—to one lucky commenter. All you have to do is give a three-word comment (either three individual words, or a three-word phrase) that you feel describes a cozy mystery. I’ll draw one name at noon tomorrow (12 CST on March 4th) and post the winner’s name here in a comment tomorrow afternoon. Good luck everyone.
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