Writers do it all the time. Nora Roberts, while still being Nora Roberts, romance writer, also writes sci-fi, police procedurals as J.D. Robb. Even as Nora Roberts, she’s delved into speculative, apocalyptic fiction. James Patterson does . . . well, almost every popular genre. Louis L’Amour made his name writing western fiction but also had success with historical fiction and sci-fi plus poetry.
Each of those examples had a built-in audience from their original genre to bring over to the new ones they’ve tried. Lucky them.
I mean, I have an audience, a regular group of readers who will read most anything I’ve written, but it’s no where near that of Roberts, Patterson, or L’Amour. We could probably fit them all in a small theater. Don’t get me wrong. I love and respect every single person in my audience, some of whom I know but most of whom I don’t.
However, I didn’t let not having a Nora Roberts-size built-in audience deter me when I wanted to give writing a mystery a try. Indeed, my audience were most encouraging, especially as my promotion of that first mystery kicked into gear.
As a life-long reader of mysteries, cozy and otherwise, my initial thought was, “It can’t be that hard. You’ve read hundreds of them, including all of Agatha Christie. Your espionage works are as intricate and complicated as a mystery. Just write it.”
So I did.
It was not easy.
Espionage vs Mystery
Yes, I did start from the common ground of an intricate and complicated plot, but in my espionage works, I have the advantage of writing historical fiction. I hit a rough spot in the story or a knot in the plot, and I do some more research. Problem solved.
In a mystery, you, gasp, have to make it all up.
In espionage fiction, you misdirect or mislead, like a mystery.
In espionage fiction, you sometimes know who the antagonist is from the beginning, not like a mystery. You have to scatter both clues and red herrings in a mystery and in such a way that the reveal doesn’t occur until the end.
It’s not easy; hence, the multiple rewrites of my first mystery novel, Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season.
Feedback is Key
I fortunately had mystery readers in the critique groups and the beta readers I passed the original manuscript through, and they were quick to point out where I’d fallen flat on my face. In a constructive way, of course.
Before the next rewrite, I increased the numbers and types of mysteries I read to prep for rewriting, to see how it’s done. I had lots of long talks and email exchanges with beta readers about how to fill the holes they’d found.
I put the current drafts aside for weeks, months at a time, even a couple of years, and I found that being away from it and returning to it with somewhat fresher eyes helped me get a better grasp of the story I was trying to tell.
Just like my espionage novels.
So, writing is writing. In a way. I enjoyed indulging the desire to write a mystery, one I’d had for decades, but rest assured, I’m not leaving espionage behind.
P.S. Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season does have a sequel, though it won’t be out for a while, yet. If ever.
Supreme Madness of the Carnival Season will be ready for preorder on February 11, 2023. Keep apprised by following my Facebook Author Page.