Our guest today is award-winning novelist Judy Alter who has written fiction for both adults and young adults, primarily about women in the nineteenth-century American West. Judy no writes contemporary cozy mysteries. Trouble in a Big Box, her third Kelly O’Connell mystery, follows Skeleton in a Dead Space and No Neighborhood for Old Women. Learn more about Judy at her website and her two blogs, Judy's Stew and Potluck With Judy.
Judy is offering a copy of Trouble in a Big Box to one of our readers this week who posts a comment to the blog. And don't forget to check back on Sunday to see if you've won. -- AP
The Jessica Fletcher Problem
Remember when mystery writers talked about the Jessica Fletcher problem, from Murder, She Wrote? Why were there so many murders in tiny Cabot Cove? As I started the third Kelly O’Connell Mystery, I faced sort of the same problem. I think it’s inevitable with a cozy series—sort of, why do bad things happen to good people?
I had to ask myself why Kelly, a realtor and the mother of two young girls, keeps bumping into so many crimes. Her new husband, Mike, says that she has a real talent for trouble. She maintains that she’s looking out for her beloved neighborhood. He, once a neighborhood police officer and now a detective, says she should let the police do their work and stay out of things. She argues that she would if they’d move fast enough and act on the tips she gives them. Kelly has been vandalized, almost shot, and almost asphyxiated. What kind of new trouble could I get her into?
I wanted this to be Mike’s book, for a change, so in the opening pages, he’s badly injured in an auto accident; a young girl in the other car, which sped though a stop sign, is killed; the driver of the other car escapes on foot before the police get there. Once she knows Mike will be all right, though he faces a long recovery, Kelly, a born nurturer, sets out to help the family of the dead girl. She sees that as concern, not intervention in police business, but she meets a hostile reception from the victim’s twin sister.
They say you should listen to your characters, and they’ll tell you what to do, so I listened…and they did, with a little help from current local headlines when a big-box store tried to move into Fairmount, the fictional Kelly’s neighborhood. There were the threads of my story: Mike, who is powerless to keep Kelly out of trouble and physically unable to protect her and the girls; someone who begins to stalk Kelly (is it that small-time criminal who was driving the car or the dead girl’s sister?); and the fight to prevent the big-box store from moving into the neighborhood. Who knew they were tied together and Kelly would end up in danger of taking a one-way trip to Mexico? Working all that out was the fun of writing—though at the time it was less fun than hard work.
I hope you enjoy Kelly’s adventures. Mike’s right—she has a real talent for trouble.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Judy. Readers, what do you think of Jessica Fletcher syndrome? Are you able to suspend disbelief and enjoy a good cozy? Let's hear from you. One lucky reader will win a copy of Trouble in a Big Box. -- AP