I’ve been thinking a lot about murder recently. Not on my own account; it’s never struck me as a particularly practical solution to difficulties, apart from the fact that it’s so hard to get blood out of fabric. You can soak it in cold water forever but there’s still a lingering shadow that has to be treated with biological washing powder. No, I’ve spent the summer reading a lot of cosy (or cozy) crime. I try to avoid reading Regencies when I’m writing my own, as it just depresses me to see how much better other authors manage it.
I like cosy crime for the atmosphere and world it creates. I usually don’t care about the victim, and I can never spot the clues which lead to the perpetrator, so the whole mystery thing is just a side show. Instead, I enjoy an insight into small-town libraries (Elizabeth Lynn Casey), running a needlework shop (Monica Ferris) and even house-cleaning (Gillian Larkin, Traci Tyne Hilton and Christy Barritt). Very soothing, especially if I get hold of a series and can read one after another, like devouring a box of chocolates too fast. It’s addictive.
So now I’m wondering if I should try writing one myself. Carola Dunn and M C Beaton started out as Regency writers before switching to cosy crime; although they had already been published in their first genre, and I am ‘yet to be published’, which sounds so much better than ‘unpublished’. And if I did start work on one, what would I read in my spare time? Could I risk going back to Regencies, or would I need to find yet another genre for leisure reading?
But the most important question, of course, is ‘Whom should I murder?’ When I heard M C Beaton speaking at the Bloody Scotland Crime Festival in Stirling a year ago (taking place again this weekend – the programme is here) she confided that after a particularly sticky session during the filming of one of her Hamish MacBeth stories, she had relieved the stress by ‘murdering’ some of the participants in ‘Death of a Script Writer’. If I were really clever, I could manage a plot in which no-one was murdered, like ‘The Thin Woman’ – which, incidentally, is highly recommended if you haven’t read it before.
I suspect for now it will remain just another idea on the back-burner, waiting for the right conditions, but I’d like to give it a try sometime. Have you ever switched genre? Did you find it changed your writing style?