My name is Lesley Cookman and I write a series. I call them Murder Mysteries; in America they call them “Cozies”. I have learnt, over the past few years, to refer to them as such, although I stubbornly prefer to use the English and – ahem – original spelling.
And the latest of these is called Murder In A Different Place, and as I write it’s vacillating between number one and two in Amazon’s Cosy chart. This is a surprise, as it was without doubt the most difficult to write. Part of the problem in writing an amateur sleuth series, is that you have to invent these situations, mostly improbable, for your protagonist to stumble into murder – no choice there, every title has to start with the word. My eldest son has come up with several ideas in the past, and this was no exception as he said I ought to take my chief characters away together, and came up with the reason – a funeral. So off I went. Yes, that’s about the extent of my planning.
First we (son and I) decided we wanted to take them to an island. Not sure now why, but we decided on the Isle of Wight, being a favourite UK holiday destination of ours. I didn’t need to do an awful lot of research on the Island, as I knew it so well, but I checked up on everything I could. But then I came to the victim. A news item I’d heard came back to me and I thought – yes, that could be how my victim died. But how? Why?
Another problem these days is the short lead-time of the books and two-a-year contracts. ThisHalf the time I put myself in a straightjacket by doing this, because I’ve set it up almost without thinking about it.
I struggled on, despairing. They came back home from the Island. Then they went back – and came home again. What next? I just kept coming to dead end after dead end, and mine aren’t the sort of books where, as Raymond Chandler tells us, you can have a man come in with a gun. Meanwhile, I was trawling pages and pages of online research, some of which was unprofitably sparse. But eventually, I got to the end – or near it. And changed the murderer. So don’t believe anyone who tells you they knew who the murderer was from the beginning. Because I didn’t.
I have readers who know the books and the characters almost better than I do myself so imagine my relief when one of them told me it was all right. Better than all right. But it’s taught me a valuable lesson – despite the fact that I like “writing into the mist”, it’s probably better to have a bit of a ground plan first.
More information about Lesley and her work can be found on her website and also on her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter @LesleyCookman and find her on Facebook.
Murder in a Different Place is out now via kindle (£1.60)