This post first appeared on the Authors Electric collective blog at the end of May.
|Partners in crime at CrimeFest, on a panel chaired by the fabulous Zoe Sharp, far left|
In the same month that I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I also pitched up on a panel at CrimeFest. An unlikely duo, you might think, but my cosy mystery series has a foot in both camps, with a strong romantic subplot underpinning the murder in each novel.
In some respects it’s a similar situation to visiting Greenwich and being able to stand on the Meridian line with one foot in the east, the other in the west. Further variety is added by a generous helping of comedy running throughout my books.
But I’m by no means the only one to tread such a complex path, genre-wise. Fellow CrimeFest panellist Alison Morton adds alternative history to her crime/romance split.
|Deemed by The Guardian to be the best crime writing festival in the world|
A Multiplicity of Murderers
Just because two authors write in the same genre, doesn’t mean their books need have much in common. While each of my books has “Murder” in its title, none of them are that dark. One reviewer, Rosalind Minett, a career psychologist, describes mine as “uplifting murders”. Certainly my books include plenty of life-affirming threads and happy endings for everyone except the murderer(s).
Reluctant to Murder
|The fourth Sophie Sayers Village Mystery|
Sometimes I even provide a stay of execution for the murderer’s intended victim. I’ve started describing myself as The Reluctant Murderer, because sometimes I have to force myself to polish people off. I took no chances with my latest novel, Murder by the Book, shoving someone unceremoniously down a well to their death in the very first chapter, before my resolve could weaken.
And in the book I’m currently writing, Springtime for Murder, (Sophie Sayers Village Mystery #5), I’m as yet undecided as to whether the person who gets hit over the head with a hammer will be allowed to survive. (“Might knock some sense into X,” Billy has just muttered, about 20k words into the manuscript.) [Update on 25th June: I’ve now finished writing the first draft and it’s not looking good for the hammered one…]
Different Shades of Danger
My first in series, Best Murder in Show, stood out on the bookshop table at Crimefest as practically the only one with a sunny blue sky on the cover. The rest were mostly murky muddy colour palettes, or various shades of bruising. But that’s fine, there’s room for all kinds – and many readers enjoy the whole range.
Sharp as a Zoe
I hadn’t met our panel’s host, Zoe Sharp, before the day of our talk (the last of the four-day festival), but a reference to her in a previous talk had me alarmed. A member of the audience asked that panel what was the best way to kill a person with a knife with a single would to the head.
“That’s easy enough,” said the chair, “but if you ask Zoe Sharp, she’ll tell you how to do it with a biro.”
What’s in a Name?
Sharp by name, I thought… though her name too is a mixture of light and dark, with Zoe being Greek for life, in contrast to her surname that might be chosen as a pseudonym filled with threat, hinting at razor blades and flick-knives.
As it turned out, Zoe was sparky, smiley and smart, and while her books may be full of combat, her direction of our panel was pure fun.
Which just goes to show: it takes all sorts to make a murder story.
|You couldn’t meet a nice bunch of murderers – a quartet of CrimeFest authors: David Penny (seated) next to me, Alison Morton (standing left), Carol Westron (standing right)|