When my new book, DEAD OF THE DAY, came out, I was interviewed by Joe Meyers, the book editor at the Connecticut Post. He commented that this book was much more "thriller-like" than my previous two more traditional mysteries and asked if I meant to write it that way. I did.
I never want to write the same book twice. SACRED COWS was in the vein of a traditional mystery, with a dead body in the first chapter and my sleuth, police reporter Annie Seymour, racing to discover who killed her without getting killed herself. The second, SECONDHAND SMOKE, is what I call my "mob book." It explores the history of the mafia in New Haven, Connecticut, and I used actual FBI reports and picked my husband's brain. He's working on a nonfiction book about that very issue. When it came time to write DEAD OF THE DAY, I wanted to ratchet it up a notch, adding more action, a faster pace, with a very uncertain end and a lot of twists and turns. It was great fun. The fourth book in the series, SHOT GIRL, will be out next fall, and in that one, Annie is an unreliable narrator, which I think gives the book more psychological suspense.
When writing a mystery series, I think the author has an obligation to the reader to change it up a bit, with style and most definitely evolving the characters. Marcia Muller does this brilliantly with her Sharon McCone books, and Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski grows throughout the series. I've used those two authors as my examples in what I'd like to do in my series. I don't want Annie to be the same in the last book as she is in the first.
Writing a series could be considered "easier" because the author knows the characters, and to some extent, that's true. I hear Annie's voice in my head, I know how she'll behave, I know what she'll say in any given situation. But she's also surprised me, and when that happens, I have to adjust to her evolution. Also, knowing the characters leaves me a little more wiggle room as far as developing good plots. That's where it gets hard: Wanting to change it up, challenging myself as a writer, adding more layers and more red herrings. And with all that, staying true to Annie's voice. But I enjoy a good challenge.
Causes Karen Olson Supports
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation