Writing What You Know

April 29, 2024

A guest post by Valerie Burns

Most writers have heard the adage, “Write what you know.” It’s a good principle. If you’re writing about something you know the story will sound authentic and hopefully the passion and sincerity will ring through to the reader. But what if what you want to write is a murder mystery?

I wanted to write cozy mysteries, but the only things I knew about murder were things I learned from reading books by my favorite cozy mystery authors and watching shows like “Murder, She Wrote.” So, I took stock of myself. What did I know? Born and raised in Northwest Indiana, I know that area well. I love dogs and owned two toy poodles. In addition to competing in canine obedience and agility, my dogs were also registered therapy dogs. I loved books and I loved to bake. That’s what I knew. It didn’t seem like much, but that became the foundation for my book.

In my Mystery Bookshop Mystery series, Samantha Washington dreamed of owning a mystery bookshop, quitting her job, and writing British historical mysteries because that’s my dream. Sam owns two toy poodles because I did. In fact, my dogs are the cover models for the series.

My Baker Street Mystery series is set in the fictional town of New Bison, Michigan. Maddy Montgomery is a fashionista and social media influencer who inherits a house, a bakery, and a 250 lb English Mastiff named Baby. While I’ve never owned an English mastiff, this series includes recipes.

Writing as Kallie E. Benjamin, my new Bailey the Bloodhound Mystery series features Priscilla Cummings, an elementary teacher, and her canine companion, Bailey. Pris and Bailey live in the fictional town of Crosbyville, Indiana. And Bailey is a registered therapy dog.

I weave the things that I know, a Midwest setting, books, dogs, and food around a murder mystery to create what I hope is a fun puzzle for the reader to figure out Whodunit.

Bio for V.M. Burns: V.M. Burns was born in Northwestern Indiana and spent many years in Southwestern Michigan on the Lake Michigan shoreline. She is a lover of dogs, British historic cozies, and scones with clotted cream. After many years in the Midwest she went in search of milder winters and currently lives in Eastern Tennessee with her poodles. Her debut novel, THE PLOT IS MURDER, was nominated for a 2017 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Valerie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and a lifetime member of Sisters in Crime. Readers can learn more by visiting her website at vmburns.com.

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12 thoughts on “Writing What You Know

  1. I recommend these books to everyone. They are on my favorites list. Thank you for the chance to win this new one. I love the cover.

  2. These books look and sound like great reads and I agree write what you know good and bad and your story will most likely turn out better and maybe even get done faster.

  3. I love dogs. I used to love cats but graduated to dogs. I still like cats though but haven’t had a cat since I was a about 10 years old. I have Panther Muffin, a black alley cat and then Tinka, a Siamese after seeing the movie “Bell, Book and Candle” with Kim Novak and James Stewart and her cat Pyewacket. I wanted to be her. But Tinka bit my mother’s ankles all of the time and peed in the sink instead of the cat box. So, she had to go to someone else. Turns out I am or was allergic to cats. My best friend had 5, and I no sooner had crossed her door, I turned red, couldn’t breathe and started tearing up. Then when I was tested for allergies, I was as allergic to dogs as cats. But they have never bothered me. I got my first dog, a poodle when I was 11. Then when in 1982 when we bought our first home, we got dogs. Little Snoozer, a black lab/pointer mix and Lady, a yellow lab. Since then, we have had Golden Retrievers, Punkin, Needa and now Texie. While we had Punkin, we also rescued/adopted Sam, an older ignored golden/cocker mix when a neighbor’s family dumped him at the vet to move to London. We have no children and can’t leave without our dogters (dog daughters). I am an avid reader. I received an award for reading the most books in 1st grade-202 (which was also our house address number). They weren’t baby books either. They were mysteries–The Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, the Hardy Boys, and then on to Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart. I also wanted to be a librarian. I never became one, but I did volunteer at a library while in high school. I turned out be a teacher, teaching art and English among other things for over 38 1/2 years. My favorite bookstore was The Tattered Cover in Denver. What a great place that was. It wasn’t all mysteries but was so cool. So, your books fit right in with my whole life. I would love to win a book. The cover art is great, and you are right about writing–weave in what you do, and love and it will work out. In this day and age, you can research anything to help with what you don’t know. I envy you being able to write.

  4. Sorry that my post got so long, but on these blogs, you authors ask so many good questions and comment so well on your writing that it makes me remember things that I had forgotten.

  5. Sniffing Out Murder is on my TBR and I loved the books in the other two series. I even have a Goodreads author shelf for her works.

  6. I had a 140 lb. Bull Mastiff mix that thought he was a baby and wanted to sit in my lap. He was great. Only big dog I ever loved. Books with dogs in them have a little extra in the story.

  7. Love your cover pups! I look forward to getting to know all three of your series. 🙂

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