Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Keeping Things Fresh!

THIEVES! the fourth in the Vicky Hill Mysteries came out last week.

I had the usual launch party with a British Trivia quiz, raffle prizes, wine and snacks. It was lovely to see familiar friendly faces eagerly waiting to hear hilarious anecdotes about my road to publication or how I research my quirky backdrops.

As I sat there, perched atop a high stool at the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, I suffered a sudden bout of nerves. These people had heard my spiel before. Not once, but four times. Sure, I change the questions on the quiz and the kind of snacks on offer, but the prospect of trotting out the same tired jokes in the hope that at least one person hadn’t heard them before, makes me feel a bit of a fraud. Do people expect a repeat performance or hope for something different? I thoroughly enjoyed watching Chris Rock’s “Kill The Messenger” tour in 2008. I saw it a second time and even though I laughed, it wasn’t so funny.

The same is true of writing a series. Only yesterday, the subject of how to keep a series fresh was suggested as a panel topic for next month’s chapter meeting at Sisters in Crime LA.

I write a cozy mystery series. My amateur sleuth (aspiring investigative reporter—reluctant obituary writer) solves crimes in a small market town in Devon, England. Readers of “cozies” expect and want to revisit the same characters. The world they inhabit is familiar. So the challenge of making each book different is quite a big one.

I attempt to keep the Vicky Hill Mysteries fresh by having a different backdrop in each book featuring strange British hobbies—hedge jumping, snail racing, Morris dancing to name just a few. My fifth book will introduce Flaming Tar Barrel Racing. With the characters—I introduce the concept of the “season long mystery.” For Vicky Hill, her parents are wanted criminals and with each new book, Vicky gets closer to having to decide about her future i.e. join the family firm or be disowned. In her romantic life, her quest for true love is an ongoing theme. Often, a series might flounder once a sexual relationship has been consummated.

I have another event this Saturday so any thoughts on keeping ME fresh are gratefully received.

Postscript: I've just learned the Mystery Bookstore is closing! It's too depressing for words.

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