Let's Talk with Lois Winston
Genetically Predisposed to Murder (Mysteries)?
The other day on one of my cozy mystery writing loops, another author posed this question to the group: Why do you love writing mysteries? It got me thinking.
Why do I love writing mysteries? Unlike many mystery authors, I didn’t grow up devouring Nancy Drew books. Truth be told, I’ve never read any of them. I was a Cherry Ames girl, mostly because an older neighbor gave me a vast collection she’d outgrown. Cherry Ames planted the idea in me of going into nursing when I grew up. That never happened, but it was the first time I remember thinking about what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Eventually, I aged out of Cherry Ames and discovered Leon Uris. (Yes, I was an extremely precocious reader.) However, none of those novels sparked career interests in me, but I did learn far more about history than any of my teacher ever imparted.
I’m also not one of those writers who grew up dreaming about becoming a novelist. I came to writing much later in life, twenty-eight years ago, but not by writing mysteries. My first novels were romance and romantic suspense. I segued into writing mysteries years later. My agent knew an editor looking for a crafting-themed mystery series and suggested I try writing one.
The rest, as they say, is history. It was the proverbial match made in heaven, and I’ve never looked back. But why was it such a perfect genre for me?
Admittedly, I’ve always had a knack for figuring out whodunit early into most movies and TV shows. But where did that talent come from? I was trained as a graphic designer and illustrator, not as a forensics investigator.
The only explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with is that I was genetically predisposed to solving crimes. I must have inherited that trait from my maternal grandfather. His career in law enforcement spanned nearly forty-plus years and culminated as the captain of a major New York metro police force. During his long career, he was instrumental in bringing many mobsters to justice, including some famous one.
Fate didn’t see fit to have me follow in my grandfather’s footsteps. It never crossed my mind that I could. But that crime-solving gene had lain dormant inside me all along, whether I realized it or not. Would I have started writing mysteries if my agent hadn’t suggested I try writing one? I suppose it would’ve depended on whether something else triggered that gene to wake up and take over my imagination. I guess I’ll never know.
If you’re one of those mystery lovers who prefers to listen to your mysteries rather than read print versions of them, DEATH BY KILLER MOP DOLL, the second book in my Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery Series, is now available as an audiobook through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you’d like a chance to win a promo code for a free download, post a comment to this blog. If you’re a mystery writer, tell me why you write mysteries. If you’re a reader, tell me why you love reading them.
While you’re here, click over to enter our January book giveaway, which runs through January 18. We have seven titles in our giveaway vault. The winner gets to select their book from the vault. It’s win-win all around. Click HERE for the contest.
If you’d like to know about author Lois Winston, visit her WEBSITE.
Posted in Let's Talk, with Lois Winston • Tags: Genetically Predisposed to Murder (Mysteries)?, Lois Winston | 19 Comments
19 thoughts on “Genetically Predisposed to Murder (Mysteries)?”
How interesting. I followed a similar path. However, Cherry Ames books did inspire me to become a nurse. I worked for ten years as an R.N. and got my Master’s Degree in Nursing. My last job was as a clinical nurse specialist. For my writing career, I also started out writing romance and romantic suspense. Those books didn’t sell. My first futuristic romance sold to Dorchester and I wrote three more books for them. By that time, I was putting mysteries into my romances, and my agent suggested I write a straight mystery. My love for this genre came from Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and Judy Bolton books before I turned to Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and Phyllis Whitney. I got hooked on cozy mysteries with Jill Churchill’s punny titles, and the rest is history.
Nancy, we even have our first publisher in common. I remember first meeting you way back when.
Hi Lois, I also didn’t dream of becoming a writer while a child. I did read voraciously, but not Nancy Drew. I was more a Hardy Boys fan and an obsessive Western reader.
Cheryl, I can’t remember ever reading a western. I did read Centennial. Does that count? 😉
I read anything and everything as a child and still do! Both of my parents read voraciously, and my dad even read our entire set of encyclopedias. I always had a lot of curiosity about how things worked. That curiosity parlayed well into a science career, into a freelance reporter mini-career, and into writing romantic suspense and cozy mystery. I love how your grandfather was a longtime cop and you think you inherited his puzzle-solving mind. Very cool.
Thanks, Maggie. I only wish my grandfather had lived longer. There’s so much I would have loved to learn from him. I have many memories of him, but he died shortly after my sixth birthday.
Interesting to hear you, too, were a Cherry Ames fan. I thought they were well-crafted whodunits with more serious themes than the Bobbsey Twins that I also read (liked the idea of twins — think that had anything to do with me having boy/girl twins?). Nancy Drew never appealed to me and I was lukewarm on the Hardy boys. Trixie Belden books, anything by Phyllis Whitney, was part of my next evolution — and then I found Erle Stanley Gardner and the Perry Mason books (I was hooked) (btw, I also read Uris at a young age). One other series that caught my attention at this time was written in the 1940’s by Janet Lambert. What I realized early on was that the combination of whodunits and well-drawn characters kept my attention …. was I predisposed to write mystery from family genetics like you might have been because of your grandfather? No. Only to mimic what I enjoyed reading.
Debra, I have to wonder if we ever crossed paths at the Newark library.
I was hooked on mysteries from my first Bobbsey Twins.
Vicki, I never read the Bobbsey Twins. I’m not even sure I was aware of the series back when I would have read them. I guess I missed out on some classics!
It really was Nancy Drew for me, but I enjoyed gothic suspense as well or a romance with a twist. A good story is what I was looking for rather than a specific format. I went to the library often with my mother and borrowed a variety of books. I think I segued into mysteries because I really enjoy series, and they abound in mysteries. Each series entry becomes a chapter in a character’s life. Plus I like that mysteries try to bring justice and peace, a satisfactory ending. Throw in a touch of humor and it just gets better!
Sandie, I agree about the appeal of series. It’s so hard sometimes to finish a standalone book you’ve loved and know you won’t have the opportunity to spend more time with the characters.
It was sci-fi for me—Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, etc. It never entered my mind that you could make a living writing. I was too focused on science and math!
And I thought I’d be able to make a living as an artist, Terry. LOL! Career counseling wasn’t all that great back then.
I started with Nancy Drew and the Hardy boys and my daughter followed in my footsteps. Now, I love reading your Anastasia Pollack mysteries for so many reasons…I love the crafting angle, her sense of humor (and fabulous sarcasm), but most of all I love her wondering if Zack works for an “alphabet agency.” I love all cozy mysteries but these are my favorites! Thank you so much for giving us a gentle escape from what can be a stressful world. Blessings to you and all your readers.
Oh, Patricia, you have made my day! Thank you so much.
As a child, I started with Nancy Drew then moved on to Doyle and Christie fairly soon after. I think I read one Hardy Boys but no Bobbsey, Belden, or Ames. However, as a Canadian, I was entranced by Anne of Green Gables books and her spunkiness is still something I aim for with my protagonists. As an adult, I write historical mysteries, though now I also include a mild romance element, which has been a bit of a stretch but it is good to have stretch goals. A more recent stretch goal is completing my first nonfiction book and there’ve been quite a few mysteries to it that I’ve uncovered in my research, most of which won’t be solved with my narrative though some have become fodder for future fiction.
Tessa, I never read Anne of Green Gables, but I have it sitting in my Kindle. One of these days I’ll find the time to read it. Your comment was a great reminder.
My latest mystery, Guilty as Framed, is based on the still unsolved 30 yr. old burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. To this day it’s considered the greatest art heist in history. At this point, it’s highly unlikely that mystery will ever be solved. Most of the persons of interest have since died. It’s doubtful the paintings will ever be recovered now.
LOL, I write mysteries because my historical romances were littered with dead bodies. I finally figured out I was writing in the wrong genre. 🙂