On my last post, I pointed out that my books are not cozies, and that I’m not particularly fond of cozies. Yet, I read a lot of them.
My own series starts with a murder in the kitchen of a restaurant, so one might think I’d be drawn to culinary cozies. Nope.
I created baker amateur sleuth Carol Sabala because I didn’t want my protagonist to be a teacher like myself. My husband at the time was a sous chef in a fancy Santa Cruz restaurant so I had a direct conduit for information about the workings of a kitchen.
Then we got divorced. I wanted my character to evolve, anyway. Carol Sabala’s arc includes a movement toward more professional investigation, taking the series into the P.I. tradition and nearer to my influences of Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller.
So what does draw me to a cozy?
- Many of my friends write them, and I support friends. If you write cozies, befriend me on Facebook or Goodreads or Bookbub. I often review books, and I judge a book for how it holds up against what it aspires to be. A well-written cozy deserves five stars as much as a well-written book of suspense.
- Cozies often fit a sub-category—hobby cozies, for example. Many readers select their cozy reading via sub-category. I’m no different. I’m more likely to select a cozy if it’s historical. Since the sex and violence have been cut from cozies, I’ll at least pick up some interesting historical information.
I enjoyed what I gleaned about immigration through Ellis Island and life in New York City in the late 1800’s from Rhys Bowen’s Murphey’s Law or what WWI was like for a combat nurse’s perspective in Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs.
- Both of the aforementioned books also have fascinating protagonists. Murphey’s Law starts with Molly Murphey committing murder in self-defense. That’s why she flees from Ireland. Already she is a character engaged in a high stakes drama. This is more compelling to me than a main character who is just a Nosy Parker villager.
- I’m also drawn to cozies that skim along the corridors of my life. Since I was a lit major and worked in education for 30 years, academic and literary cozies hold extra interest for me. Cynthia Kuhn’s Lila Maclean series, for example, deals with issues such as the pressure to make tenure or the pretenses of some writers, subjects that intrinsically interest me. My cohort at misterio press, K.B. Owen, writes an historical series set in the late 1890s with a heroine who works at a women’s college. Perfect.
- Conversely, I enjoy cozies that deliver me to very different places or cultures. Naomi Hirahara’s Hiroshima Boy not only took me to Japan, but also inside the mind of 85-year-old Mas Arai. Like Hirahara’s own father, Mas was born in the U.S. but lived in Hiroshima at the time of the bomb before returning to the U.S. In Hiroshima Boy Mas returns to Japan for the first time since the war. Mas’s internal conflicts with his two identities are almost more important than the mystery. The book reminded me of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, of which I have read many books. Even though they are cozies, they transported me to Botswana and a world about which I knew nothing.
It seems to me that a cozy writer’s reach beyond his/her niche boils down to appealing to friends for support (often not an easy thing for writers to do), creating high stakes for the main character, and good writing, of course. Much of the rest boils down to readers’ personal tastes and interests. A reader who knits may pick up a cozy simply because it has a knitting theme whereas that is the last cozy I would choose. Unless I take up knitting. 🙂