How I became a cozy mystery writer
Today on the blog, author Susie Black gives us some fascinating insight into the concept of writing what you know. Indeed, it seems Ms. Black has taken the route many lawyers turned writers do by spinning experiences from their careers into fodder for stories.
As a newbie author, I was advised by those far more experienced than me that the best way to build a following is to develop a relationship with readers by sharing personal things about myself with them and letting them get to know me. The marketing webinars all preached, “show your vulnerability, your humanity, who you are, and the readers will lap it up.” Truthfully, I didn’t see why anyone would be all that interested in my bio. Trust me, other than the possible exception of my mother who was compelled to find my life story fascinating or risk admitting she had been a failure by having raised a bore, even I didn’t find it particularly riveting. But enough colleagues I respect all suggested I do the same thing, so when people began asking how I became a writer, I realized I’d been wrong. I would be foolish not to put myself out there, right? What’s the worst that could happen? Ok, maybe we won’t go down that rabbit hole. Throwing caution to the wind, this is it, for better or worse. Like most of my journeys, this one’s a bit convoluted. Think going to Cleveland by way of Cairo. That said, I hope you enjoy the ride.
With its ups and downs, hills, valleys, and unexpected curves, life itself is the ultimate story. However, what makes us all storytellers stirring the stew in the cauldron, is a point of view. Life is all around us. Sit in the food court at the mall and pay attention to the crowd. In the time it takes to order and consume a burger and soda, an observant people watcher will have enough subject matter to write a full-length series.
Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery series, I am a ladies’ apparel sales exec. From the
beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal that chronicles the quirky, interesting, and often challenging people I’ve encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. The journal entries are the foundation of all my writing. The most critically important skill a sales exec must have to succeed is to be a good storyteller. Fortunately, I’ve been telling stories since I learned how to talk. Since I’d never written a novel before, the only thing I knew to do was to apply the same story-telling skills I’d successfully used hawking bikinis to writing a tale.
One thing I’d been told over and over as a sales exec was to know your product inside out. I heard the same thing when I started writing cozy mysteries: write what you know. If you don’t know it, either do the research and learn it or don’t dare to write it. Whether you’re an author or a sales exec, you’re selling yourself, and readers, like buyers, can sniff out a phony in a heartbeat, and then you and your story are toast. So, where did my story ideas come from? I paid attention to the mantra. Write what you know. With a dollop of imagination, a pinch of angst, and a decades-long career chocked to the gills with juicy characters, I had more stories in my daily journal than time to write them.
I came to write in the cozy mystery genre because I love solving puzzles. My parents would certainly confirm I have always asked a lot of questions, and I am naturally curious (some narrow-minded people say I am nosy…go figure…LOL). So, writing mysteries was the natural next step for me to take. Who could push a sales exec to dream of murder and mayhem? Who else but a buyer? After completing a rather challenging conversation with an important, but difficult customer, I silently wished her a slow and painful death as I imagined how good it would feel with my hands around her scrawny neck, squeezing the life out of her. While the notion of knocking off annoying customers was wildly appealing, a horizontally striped prison uniform would make my petite body look like it was the product of a barbershop pole and a fire hydrant having a child. The viable alternative? Writing humorous murder mysteries set in the Los Angeles garment center. Brilliant and cathartic! In one fell swoop, eliminate a pain-in-the patootie buyer, avoid life in prison, and still get the order. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Looking for more? Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org