Until recently, I’d never thought of myself as a writer of cozies. I was a mystery writer who wasn’t interested in violence and, for some reason, wasn’t fascinated by sex. These were always the parts I rushed through as a reader, eager to get back to the characters and the story.
Maybe that was part of it. I’m a story guy. Violence and sex – or sexy violence and violent sex – are just story interruptions. I can’t, off the top of my head, remember any sex scene that actually moved the plot forward. And although action is always exciting and worthwhile, violence itself is rarely a game changer. Literary violence, after all, is basically a binary situation. Either a character wins or loses. “Okay, good. He won. Now let’s get on with the plot.”
To many, this may seem a juvenile attitude — tell me a story! — and it won’t get me a job writing a knock-off of “Fifty Shade of Gray.” But my love of mysteries goes back to the day when almost every one of them, except those by Mickey Spillane, was a cozy, or as we liked to call it back then, a mystery novel.
I hate to think of my writing career as an exercise in nostalgia, trying to recreate the fun and emotions of my boyhood days of reading under the covers – Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple and Nero Wolfe – but there are worse careers to have. Who knows? If I’d been raised on Dean Koontz and Criminal Minds, I would probably be nostalgic for psycho bloodbaths instead.
Even my decade spent writing for TV was notable for its lack of violence and sex. I doubt something like “Monk” could even get on the air these days. But again, when we sat down to write that show, we didn’t think we were writing for a specific sub-genre. We were just a bunch of middle-aged folk writing what we ourselves wanted to watch.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I started being labeled a cozy author. I actually had to look it up to find out what the rules were.
I still kind of balk at the label. For one thing, I’m a guy. Aren’t I supposed to be writing about ex-soldiers with amnesia, trying to figure out who wants them assassinated? And why are so many of my characters women? There’s a whole gender of people out there who understands women better than I do.
I guess the answer is that I write what I like, the stories that fascinate me, with no rules or restrictions in mind. When an idea comes, it’s full of possibilities and, I hope, humor and good characters. Then I have to put it down on paper in order to find out how the story ends.
When it does end, there won’t be a lot of sex or violence. That’s just who I am, with or without the “cozy” label. And I think a lot of readers feel the same way.