By Wendy Tyson
The Guinness Book of World Records lists Agatha Christie as the best-selling novelist of all time. Over the course of her writing career, Ms. Christie published 66 detective novels, not to mention 150 short stories and numerous plays. Agatha Christie’s success underscores the continuing popularity of the traditional mystery. Moreover, her beloved Jane Marple novels are an oft-provided example of that subgenre of crime fiction, the cozy mystery, in which whydunit is as important as whodunit and a sense of character and community is paramount.
No one knows cozy mysteries quite like Henery Press, an award-winning independent mystery/suspense publisher headquartered in Texas. The Thrill Begins recently had a chance to sit down with Henery Press Managing Editor, Kendel Lynn.
The cozy mystery market has exploded in recent years. As the Managing Editor for Henery Press, you have a unique perspective. What draws people to the cozy genre? Do you see this popularity continuing?
People love to live vicariously: join a tight-knit community, solve the crime alongside the sleuth, revisit familiar faces and places – an environment without the hard layer of violence and crude language. Sometimes you want your downtime to be shielded from a more callous reality.
As for continuing, absolutely. Cozy mysteries are a staple in the genre and will only grow as more readers discover new (and existing) authors.
What makes a cozy, well, cozy?
The cozy definition has evolved along with the industry. For us, cozy applies to a traditional mystery (sleuth/detective solving crime) without heavy violence, sex, or language on the page. The modern cozy isn’t necessarily set in a small town centered around a sleuth with a specialized career or hobby (though still quite popular). The current genre definition envelopes a wider spectrum of mysteries.
Henery Press has garnered quite a following in a relatively short period of time. What’s been the secret to that success?
So many things! Marketing, camaraderie, philosophy, branding, teamwork. We work on each aspect daily. Our core philosophy supports author-friendly environment while acquiring titles that stay true to our brand. In essence, we take our fun seriously.
In addition to cozy mysteries and “cozy with an edge” novels, Henery Press publishes some hard boiled mysteries and chick lit novels. Any plans to expand into other genres or subgenres in the near future?
We plan to stick pretty tight to mysteries and chick lit. We’re particularly interested in acquiring more light paranormal mysteries, PI novels, and foodie mysteries. Though we’re always open to any mystery.
You must receive copious numbers of submissions from authors around the world. What makes a manuscript stand out?
Voice is the top banana. If we love the voice, we’re going to fight for that book. If we don’t connect (oy! How many times do authors hear that?), then it’s just not right for us. Sometimes it’s that simple. To help a reader (editor, agent) hear the voice, make sure the manuscript is clean, strong, and tightened within an inch of its life. Things like generic dialog, overused expressions, a ridiculous amount of exclamation points (read: more than one), will usually overpower the voice.
Any final advice for authors who want to break in to the cozy mystery market?
Don’t let “cozy” fool you. Readers expect strong characters, snappy dialog and a lush landscape (whether set in a nostalgic small town or gritty big city). Know your stuff! If you’ve written a cooking cozy and you don’t ever cook, do research and put it on the page. You can’t just slap in a pie every other chapter. The reader wants to smell the warm cinnamon apples and taste the flaky buttery crust. Also, cozy mysteries tend to be on the shorter side of the scale. Target 65,000-75,000 words. A 110,000 word cozy likely won’t fly.
Kendel Lynn, managing editor of Henery Press, is a Southern California native who now parks her flip-flops in Dallas, Texas. She read her first Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators at the age of seven and has loved mysteries ever since. Her debut novel, Board Stiff, was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. It features Elliott Lisbon, a mostly amateur sleuth who has a slight aversion to all things germy and is only five thousand hours away from getting her PI license. Along with writing, she spends her days editing, designing, and figuring out ways to avoid the gym but still eat cupcakes for dinner. Catch up with her at kendellynn.com.
Wendy Tyson has written five published crime novels. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com. Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, was released in March 2016. She lives with her family on a micro-farm near Philadelphia.
To learn more about A Muddied Murder, click on the cover below: