Deja Vu All Over Again

I’ve been genre hopping.  In the historical past, I wrote and sold four regency romances.  My editor, Ruth Cavin, taught me a lot about self-editing.  I was happy working with her, and I foolishly assumed that situation would continue.  However, as everyone knows, Ruth gave up regencies, moved to St. Martin’s, and began editing excellent mysteries.

I was downcast, especially since the new regency editor appeared to want me to write in busines English of the American variety.  I used STET a lot on the last book and began to think about mysteries.

I liked them.  I read a lot of them, the British ones particularly, and I really liked working with Ruth, so I decided to write a mystery.  She rejected it (correctly, as I now see), so I wrote another, and that one she bought, though I think she continued to regard me as a strayed romance writer.  So here I am, ten books later, a mystery writer with two series.  I’m not the first fiction writer to jump from one genre to another, but the shift is fairly uncommon, or was when I did it.

Meanwhile I sold the e-book rights of the regencies to Judith B. Glad of Uncial Press, and she’s also in the process of reissuing my first mystery series.  From time to time, she hinted that another regency, a new one, would be welcome.  I finally took her up on it, promising a novella in time for Black Friday.

The Young Pretender started short but wound  up long for a novella.  Judith is going to vend it as a short novel, bless her.  I had several sessions of writer’s bloc when I was working on the regency, but I finished it in August and am happy with it.  Among other pleasures, writing it gave me an excuse to reread the poems of Robert Burns.  Perhaps the greatest pleasure, however, was to move from the focus on death and destruction that’s necessary even in cozy mysteries to a more light-hearted venue.  It was nice not to have to wallow in grue.

On the other hand, I came to a greater appreciation of the mystery plot structure.  I like to think of all my books as character-driven, but without action and suspense a mystery is dead in the water.  Since regencies are terribly chaste as romances go, the need for drastic action isn’t great.  Apart from two dinner parties and a row across a lake in a rainstorm, the most intense action in The Young Pretender comes when the heroine learns to build a fire in the fireplace.  To my surprise, I discovered I really missed writing shootouts, hostage crises, and high-speed chases.

I also missed the security of the mystery plot-structure.  All novels are puzzles in the broadest sense, but the tropes of the murder mystery supply the writer with most of the plot, right from the beginning.  With a regency, since graphic sex was out of the question, I had to keep groping around for something my people could do before the final clinch.  They talked a lot.  In two dialects.

Well, I’ve had my vacation.  I’m back looking at corpses and suspecting innocent bystanders of Evil.  It feels good to do that, especially in American English of the twenty-first century Pacific Northwest kind.


2 Responses

  1. Your blog is really interesting, Sheila–in part because of Ruth Cavin, who was my mystery editor at SMP for almost ten years–and I never knew she’d once worked with regency writers! And I’ve grown up with Robert Burns–my Scottish granny read him aloud to me (Ah, ‘me love is like a red, red rose…’). I went from trying to write the great American novel to writing YAs to writing mysteries for adults, so in one sense I, too, have had a bit of variety in my work. And now the YA, the mainstream novel and the modern mystery seem to be moving closer and closer together.

    • Ruth was terrific. Did your granny read Holy Willie’s Prayer? I love Burns’s lyrics,and his long comic poems are fabulous. Nothing like Tam O’Shanter. How wonderful to have Burns read to you with the right accent. Sheila

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: