Let’s Talk with Debra H Goldstein

Following the Rules and Missing All the Fun
by Debra H. Goldstein

My Sarah Blair mystery series is considered by its publisher to be “cozy.” That may work for where it is placed on the shelf in a bookstore or for many of my readers, but as one reviewer remarked, “it is an edgy cozy.” I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up and discovered that many cozy series by writers like Ellery Adams have had that label attached to some of their newer series.

What does it mean?

For the most part it means we don’t follow the traditional rules of the cozy perfectly, although we adhere to them closely. Generally cozy rules included small towns or confined spaces; an amateur sleuth; a cat; a protagonist who owns, inherits, or creates something to do with books, crafts, or food; no on the page sex, blood, gore, or curse words; and recipes or directions how to make something.

It seems that edgier cozies may change one or two of the traditional rules. Some do it by throwing in a few of the no-no words. Some by adding more description or sex (in other words characters get into bed together without closing the door so the reader can’t see them).

In the Sarah Blair mysteries, I do it by having a protagonist who finds being in the kitchen more frightening than murder. Consequently, the recipes, although they work, in One Taste Too Many, tend to be more comical or easy like Jell-O in a Can. For the second book Two Bites Too Many, I went outside the boundaries and added a dog. Fluffy and RahRah, the Siamese cat, even share the cover of that book (don’t worry – by book three, Three Treats Too Many, RahRah regained sole possession of the cover).

Are our books really edgier? Are we flouting the rules? Or, as I believe, are we simply promoting the philosophy “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!”

That’s my premise and I’m sticking to it.

For a chance to win a print or e-copy of Two Bites Too Many (Kensington is running a $1.99 e-book sale of One Taste Too Many in January), tell me what you think of rules and name some cozy mysteries that you think are “edgy.”

While you’re here, click over and enter our January contest. One entrant will win their choice of book from the 6 books up for grabs. (Print book winners must have US mailing addies.) The contest runs from January 1-18, with the winner announced on January 19. ClICK HERE for the contest page.

Comments

  1. Many of the borders blur between subgenres, but that’s okay. I like your heroine who doesn’t care for cooking. it’s a refreshing change.

  2. Good topic, Debra. I like cozies with a bit of an edge and snark to the tone, but I am deliberate in my writing choices as a cozy author and do not include on-the-page sex and cursing. I feel I can be entertaining while leaving out those two elements, which I have learned over time really do throw up barriers to certain readers. I want everyone from your church-going great-granny to teens to be able to read and enjoy my work. I wrote enough sex scenes in my romance days that I don’t miss including them. 🙂

  3. authorlois says

    A topic right up my alley, Debra. I believe rules were not only meant to be bent but often broken when it comes to fiction. Authors have been doing so for several hundred years. Like everything else, fiction changes and adapts to the times. When I began writing my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, I wrote the story I wanted to write. My publisher loved it, but although I considered it more amateur sleuth than cozy, they marketed the series as cozy. Yes, there were some readers who objected, given the edginess, but you’re never going to please everyone. Since I’m currently working on the 10th book in the series, it’s obvious to me that most readers don’t mind a little edgy with their cozy.

    • Between the humor and the fun in your books, I can’t see reader objecting. That distinction between amateur sleuth and cozy in an author’s mind is a thin line. Again, it depends on where the marketing is determined to be.

  4. What a great subject! I include edgy elements in my cozies while maintaining a cozy feeling. I think that’s the direction many cozy series are going.

  5. maggietoussaint says

    I thoroughly enjoy your Sarah Blair series. I don’t think of cozies in terms of edgy or not, but that’s probably because, after reading your explanation above, I now see that I write edgy cozies. I have cats and/or dogs in my cozies, but I have only used one crafty setting, I often have a romance in the background, and my protagonists have been known to have nontraditional careers. Like you, I am thankful for the cozy comunity embracing those differences in an amateur sleuth.

  6. Kaye George says

    Great subject! I consider my cozies to be pretty cozy, but I always try to include some non-mainstream characters and situations. In my novel coming out in March, I draw attention to the horrible conditions in Myanmar (formerly Burma) around the Blood Jade industry. I learned a lot writing it and I hope the readers will want to learn about that, too. The world and MCs are good old cozy material, though.

  7. Debra, I’m glad to see a cozy star like you being okay with bending the “rules.” When I wrote the first book in my mystery series, I was not going for a cozy designation. Now two books in, neither story involves cats, a small town, or quaint characters. Which is why I’m always amazed when readers leave positive reviews calling them cozies. I suppose it’s because there’s a touch of humor inside the suspense, the romance is always behind a closed door, and some of the food is delicious. But I’ve been afraid to market them as cozies for fear of angering the “rules” keepers. Edgy seems a bit too dark a term to use to describe what I write, though I’d love to find a single word that does.

    • Before this series, I called my books traditional with cozy elements. The Sarah Blair series probably is more cozy with a few edgier elements. Part of the classification has to do with the shelf that the book is placed on.

  8. Great post. I have been known break a few rules, others I just bend a little.

  9. Fun post, Debra. I’ve also recently heard the term “cozy with an edge. I find I enjoy reading them! Keep on breaking rules, and remember, well-behaved women rarely make history 🙂

  10. cherylhollon says

    I also write in the ‘edgy cozy’ genre but I don’t break the rules enough to be thrown out of the category. I love the community element as well as an artistic spin in the Webb’s Glass Shop Mysteries and also the moonshine brewing in the Paint & Shine series.

    • I love both of your series …. and agree, you take it to the edge, but not beyond. A true cozy reader will enjoy your books, as will one who questions whether the cozy genre is for them.

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