Remarkable! News, April 2023
Dear Loyal Reader:
I have something fun for you! It’s a deleted scene from my WIP (work in progress), NIGHT MOVES: An Olivia Lively Mystery, Book 2. Originally, this was going to be a prequel novella, so that meant Liv and her bad-boy ex, Rob Mickelson, were together. Reading this won’t spoil the first book. It will give you a glimpse into this illicit and ultimately dangerous relationship. You can download it for free from the Freebie Page.
This month I’ve been on a “book tour” to Maine to celebrate and talk about my debut chick lit/cozy mystery novel featuring stylish private investigator Olivia Lively. I spoke at three different events and had a blast talking to readers and old friends and fellow Encircle Publications authors who graciously showed up at the University of Maine at Farmington when I spoke there as part of the Visiting Writers Series–a dream come true 37 years after my freshman year at UMF.
In the main part of this newsletter, I’m going to talk about the similarities between cozy mysteries and chick lit novels and why I happen to think these genres make the perfect combination for a mystery series.
The tone of my debut mystery FINAL DRAFT is definitely chick lit. There’s a sassy, fashion-conscious heroine struggling to build her career and navigating her relationships. There’s fashion. And cocktails. And crazy antics. And a quirky sidekick. And multiple sexy love interests. But it also shares elements with cozy mysteries. There’s a female sleuth who runs a small business. And a small-city community vibe. And red herrings. And no gory violence.
It’s a mash-up!
There are other authors who do this, as well. Elle Cosimano. Janet Evanovich. Diane Vallere. And many, many more.
So…is there actually such a sub-category as chick lit cozy mystery? I say, yes! Let’s see what the two genres have in common and how, when combined, they might just be the perfect reading cocktail served, of course, with a twist!
Five Elements of Cozy Mystery
What are the necessary ingredients to concoct a cozy mystery? Here are the fab five.
- Usually a Female Protagonist. The main character is an amateur sleuth, usually female, whose job allows her to snoop around in her neighbors’ lives while she uncovers the truth and solves the crime, usually a murder. (I think it might be smart for an author to create series with male or non-binary amateur sleuths, too!)
- Community. Quite often, cozies are set in small towns or villages or even city neighborhoods where everyone knows each other, where personality quirks abound, and where that glow of “home fires burning” shines bright. The amateur sleuth knows people or gets to know them on a personal level. The community is threatened by the crime. Solving it makes the community “safe” again…until the next body shows up.
- Twisty plot. Cozy mysteries provide readers with crime-solving puzzles that include a few red herrings, several suspects, and lots of clues. In fairness to the reader, all the clues have to be presented, but they are often cleverly obscured or cloaked in misdirection. Because of this element, cozies engage the intellect more than the emotions. But…
- Romance happens. Quite often in a cozy mystery, especially a series, a romance subplot adds depth and layers to what might otherwise be a rather basic game of CLUE. As in the board game. It’s harder to care who bashed whom with the lead pipe in the library if the sleuth isn’t suspicious of the guy she kissed next to the billiards table the night before…or afraid he wants to pin the crime on her. Sex, if it’s mentioned at all, is also on the sweeter side or behind closed doors.
- Sanitized violence. Cozy mysteries are not gory. Most of the time the murder has happened “off screen,” and even when there’s an element of danger and peril, this tends to be less dark and brutal than say your hard-boiled detective fiction or romantic suspense or horror.
Five elements of Chick Lit
So what about chick lit? What elements does it share with the cozies?
- Usually a Female Protagonist. Like cozy mystery, chick lit most often features a female main character. Rather than trying to solve a mystery, the chick lit heroine is trying to solve her LIFE. She wants to fix her career, her relationships, or some kind of personal flaw. There have been some male-protagonist chick lit books (I know that sounds like an oxymoron) and maybe these would be more rightly called rom-coms, but again, more gender diversity can only make this genre more fun, in my opinion.
- Community. If cozy mysteries feature small villages or city neighborhoods, chick lit novels tend to be set in big cosmopolitan cities like London or New York. HOWEVER, chick lit heroines usually have a posse of friends and co-workers–frenemies, friends, and antagonists–which essentially performs the function of community in the novel. The biggest differences here are the values of the big city versus the small town.
- Twisty Plot. Chick lit novels also have twisty plots but these are less intellect and more emotional. The main character’s emotional ups and downs carry the reader along so that she cheers when the heroine is happy and moans when the heroine screws up or is banged down a peg or two.
- Romance Happens. A romance subplot or even main plot is de rigueur for chick lit. Sex scenes can be a bit more descriptive, but the tone is still light and rompy versus dark and erotic. Love, in a chick lit or rom-com, is shown to be both humorous and human. If you can’t laugh about love, why bother?
- Sanitized violence. Readers won’t find much violence in a chick lit story. I’m remembering the episode of the tv version of Sex and the City when Carrie is mugged on a New York City Street…and the mugger stole her shoes. Nobody was actually shot. Nobody was hurt. It was a mugging, but as sanitized as it could be. Except that Carrie had to walk in her bare feet on the sidewalk. Ew.
Chick Lit & Cozy Mystery: Complementary Book Categories
The word “complementary” is used to describe things that are combined in a way that enhances the qualities of each other. Because chick lit and cozy mystery share the above similar elements, I believe they are naturally complementary to each other.
But will all cozy mystery readers like a cozy chick lit? Will all chick lit readers like a chick lit cozy? Not necessarily. While I’d like to think they’d give chick lit cozies like mine a shot, I know that’s not a guarantee. People like what they like. I’m down with that.
I do think there are readers out there who actually crave the combo, however. They delight in the intellectual puzzle and in the emotional roller coaster. Shaken up with a little fashion, cocktails, glitter, and romance, a cozy mystery becomes something a little more glamorous and exciting. At least I hope so.
What do you think? Do you like a chick lit story with a mystery subplot? Or a cozy mystery with a chick lit vibe? Is one element more important to you than the others? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. I write back!