Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mystery Loves Company

My name is Kathy Harig and I have been invited to blog on this site about mystery writing. First to introduce myself. I retired after 28 years in 2001 as a branch librarian/manager of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Roland Park in Baltimore. In 1991 I co-founded Mystery Loves Company Booksellers. We now have two stores, but our Baltimore store will be closing on Dec 31 2008, and we will consolidate to our Eastern Shore store in Oxford MD. You can read about the store at and our blog

Mysteries to me are a passion and for 18 years I have tried to promote local authors whenever I can. I take the "Buy Local" concept very seriously, indeed. Maryland and the Delmarva region have a long history of wonderfully talented writers, especially mystery writers. I work with three such groups of writers, The Eastern Shore Writers Association Sisters in Crime -Chesapeake Chapter and Mystery Writers of America - Mid-Atlantic Chapter I mention them only to tell you that there is a huge network of folks writing in the area. I urge you to contact them and attend their meetings, if possible, since they are the best source of information about mysteries and writing.
As far as advice for writers in the field of mysteries, I would advise to read widely in the sub-genre you are interested in writing such as cozy, noir, thriller, espionage or literary. This way you won't duplicate plots that have already been overused. What's your favorite mystery? What elements about it made you choose it? Develop your special "voice," one that is unique to you and engaging to the reader; a voice the reader will care about and relate to. Develop a way to organize your thoughts, usually in a outline or diagram, or by composing a summary of the book with a breakdown by events and chapters. This you will use to show an agent. Know the "conventions" of a mystery novel. If they are not obeyed, it is not a mystery, it is a novel. We have non-fiction books at the store that talk about these conventions. These conventions include being true to the reader and not introducing a villain at the last moment who hasn't participated in the action of the book. Have the detective be an agent of detection and justice. As P. D. James has said, the most difficult thing for a mystery writer is letting the detective explore the inner workings and motives of the criminal mind without giving away the murderer until the end. All this doesn't mean you don't have to be like anyone else when you write. Some of the famous mystery stories break some of the conventions.By being original and fresh you state your case. But since writing is such an individual and sometimes solitary occupation be aware there are others out there who can be of help. In part II of my blog I will mention the elements of getting your work successfully published, since writing it is just the beginning.
--Kathy Harig

1 comment:

Patricia said...


Lots of really good information here. I was especially taken with your comment:

"Know the "conventions" of a mystery novel.If they are not obeyed, it is not a mystery, it is a novel."

I'm looking forward to reading part two, getting published. Thanks Kathy!