Why do you write cozy mysteries?
I have always loved mysteries, and was reading such authors as Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, and Lawrence Block long before it occurred to me to try to write a mystery of my own. When I finally did start writing, I was surprised by how much of my slightly offbeat sense of humor kept seeping in. That’s when I began to deliberately inject comedy into my stories. Humor was useful in defining my characters’ personalities, perspectives and demeanor, making dialogue sparkle, and softening the edge on life-and-death situations. It wasn’t until PageSpring Publishing accepted my first mystery novel —Elmwood Confidential and later retitled Dust Bunnies and Dead Bodies — did I know I’d been writing cozies all along. Duh.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
The starting point in plotting Book 2 in the Elmwood Confidential series was my protagonist — Crystal Cropper, the Boomer-aged, Los Angeles-trained, crime-beat reporter who came home to her small, Indiana town and became editor for her local paper, the Elmwood Gazette.
During my own years as editor of a small-town newspaper, I enjoyed a great relationship with the owner of the local radio station, even though he was my paper’s number one competition for local stories. So, as I pondered storylines for the second book in the series, I got to thinking: What if the owner of the Elmwood radio station wasn’t such a charitable guy? What if he used his airwaves to ruin the reputation of townspeople he perceived as adversaries, threats, or competitors? And what if he had ruined so many lives that, when he turns up murdered, almost anyone in Elmwood could be the suspect — including my protagonist, Crystal Cropper?
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
Although my mom was in her late sixties when she passed away, her outlook was youthful and unbound by age. She loved solving mysteries almost as much as she loved endings that surprised her. She also loved to laugh. That’s why she’s the ideal reader I’m writing for.
Please describe your writing routine.
If, by “routine,” you mean a ritual adhered to day in and day out, then I must confess — I don’t have one. What I do have are a day job and an inordinate number of commitments spawned from my inability to “just say no.” Fortunately, I’m at my creative peak late in the evening, typically after 9 o’clock, so I generally get in two or three uninterrupted hours of writing before bedtime.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
I tell them to stop talking about it and write … and to write daily. I tell them to make writing a priority, to stop waiting for inspiration, and to just write. To write even when they think they have nothing to say. I also urge them to take classes, attend writers’ conferences, join a writers’ group, and never ever underestimate how hard it is to commit to doing these things. I also tell them if they listen to me and take my advice, they will be on their way.
More about Dead Air and Double Dares:
Crystal Cropper, editor of the Elmwood Gazette, has added incentive in finding out who killed Horace Q. Ogilvie, owner of the local radio station and the most reviled man in town. Horace turns up dead minutes before he is supposed to broadcast his next malicious editorial, designed to destroy yet another Elmwood luminary. Fortunately for the police department, Horace’s list of future targets provides an abundant pool of suspects. Unfortunately for Crystal, her name is at the top!
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How to connect with Janis:
Public email address: firstname.lastname@example.org