by Lois Winston (Guest Blogger)
The winners of Lois's romantic suspense novel, "Love, Lies, and A Double Shot of Deception" OR a craft how-to book--winners' choice--are
Barb L. in Florida, Lil Gluckstern, and Linda Leszczuk. Winners, please email Lois directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to give her your mailing address and tell her which book you would like.
People are very opinionated. It’s the nature of the beast, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I happen to prefer people with strong opinions, even though they may differ considerably from my own. One of my best friends is my polar opposite when it comes to politics. We simply agree to disagree on certain topics.
I came to the mystery genre via romance, where I’d previously published two books. Romance authors can be very opinionated about their genre. One ongoing argument is whether authors of chick lit and women’s fiction should be considered published in romance. I witnessed heated rhetoric from both sides that eventually tore apart a local writing organization.
Now I’m writing mysteries, and once again I find myself plopped down into the middle of what apparently is an old argument. You see, I write humorous mysteries. Some people have very strong opinions against this particular sub-genre. They find nothing humorous about murder. Actually, neither do I. However, I do find that it usually helps to have a sense of humor to get through much of what life throws at you, and I try to convey that in the way my characters approach life. (I also prefer to read books that make me laugh, rather than have me constantly checking the locks on all my windows and doors!)
So when I began writing mysteries, I knew I wanted to write humorous amateur sleuth mysteries, not police procedurals or dark, gritty serial killer fare. I get enough of that reading my daily newspaper and watching the evening news.
However, I firmly believe that there’s a place and a readership for all sub-genres of mystery. Taste is very subjective, and I respect whatever someone else’s particular taste in mysteries is. If someone likes to read or write stories that scare the stuffing out of people, good for them.
Me? I like to make my readers laugh, even if they’re reading about a murder investigation. That’s why when I killed off the fashion editor in ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, I did it with (duh!) a hot glue gun. After all, anyone can kill off a victim with a Glock or a kitchen knife, but how many killers use a glue gun?
My mystery series is also populated with a cast of zany characters. I love taking polar opposites and throwing them together to create conflict. In the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, my protagonist has a mother who believes she descends from Russian royalty and a mother-in-law who’s a staunch communist. Not only are they both living under Anastasia’s roof, they’re forced to share a bedroom. Zany characters + conflict = humor. Even though it’s in the confines of a murder mystery.
The problem with writing humor, though, is that you never know if your readership will “get it.” For me, writing humor is the second hardest part of writing a mystery. The first part is creating a story where you keep your reader guessing as to the identity of the killer. As the author, I have to know who the killer is. So it’s difficult for me to be objective. Did I leave too many clues? Not enough? The worst thing in the world is to have your readers figure out whodunit by the third or fourth chapter into the book.
Humor is very subjective, though. I’ve written scenes where I’ve laughed out loud as I’ve typed, then again each time I reread the scene. However, I never know if others will find those scenes funny. So I always hold my breath, fingers crossed, waiting to hear from first my agent, then my editor, then reviewers, and finally readers. Some will laugh; some won’t. All I can hope for is that more laugh than don’t. So I was absolutely thrilled when a major reviewer called my new book a "hilarious, laugh-until-your-sides-hurt tale" with "oddball characters [and] uproariously funny situations."
By George, they got it!
Now I keep my fingers crossed, hoping others do, too.
Lois Winston is an award-winning author and designer as well as an agent with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency. Her latest book, ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY GLUE GUN, the first book in her Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries series, was recently released from Midnight Ink. Visit Lois at http://www.loiswinston.com and Anastasia at http://www.anastasiapollack.blogspot.com.