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Faking It — Guest Beverly Allen

large_For_Whom_the_Bluebell_TollsWe are happy to welcome author Beverly Allen aka Barbara Early! The second in her Bridal Bouquet Mystery Series, For Whom the Bluebell Tolls, just came out. Beverly has a secret but she shares them with us today.

I’m not a florist, but I play one in fiction…

I get a kick out of a few comments I’ve seen in reviews for the Bridal Bouquet Shop Mysteries. From florists. It seems—or so they say—that I must have worked in the floral industry. Apparently it shows.

And I laugh! NOT at the reviewers! I love them. (Well, most of them.)

See, true confession: I’d never been all that into flowers, thanks to a pretty severe allergy. My husband had even been prohibited from sending me them. My only research, before writing the proposal, was to visit a local florist. I explained what I was doing, and they invited me into their back room. I took notes about the things I saw and heard, asked questions, and just watched them work for a couple of hours. “The best tool a florist has is a really sharp knife.” Can we say murder weapon? Then I went home, popped a Benadryl, and started writing.

More research came later: books, You-Tube videos, Pinterest pages, even a hands-on course in floral design. (Yay! More Benadryl!) I practice at home with silk flowers because of the allergy–and because my cats try to eat any live flowers I bring into the house. And a lovely woman at my church, who has since retired from running her own flower shop, reads through all my manuscripts before I send them in. My most treasured compliment came when she told me she wished she could work with Audrey and Liv (My protagonist and her perky sidekick.)

So here’s what I learned about faking an occupation or hobby I might not share. (Most apply even if you do.)

Don’t try too hard to prove it. Sprinkle in details. I’m not sure readers would like pages of nothing but the details of flower arranging. Instead, I let my amateur sleuth think about the murder suspects as she works on her arrangements. Since Audrey Bloom designs her bouquets using the old Victorian language of flowers, sometimes their meanings relate to the case or spark a new idea.

Don’t think you have to include every step. Unless you’re writing a culinary. And even then, those steps don’t have to go in the narrative, just in the enclosed recipes (I love recipes in books!) Those little, detailed sub-tasks also make great dialog attributions (replacing “he said” or “she said”), since my protagonist will often talk about the cases with her coworkers.

Do include sensory details and physical reactions to working hard. What does the working environment look, smell, and feel like? How do your feet, legs, or back feel after a long stretch of working at that occupation and craft?

Let your sleuth think about and enjoy her occupation or hobby. Audrey Bloom evaluates her environment based on her point of view, and flowers, since they are important to her, color her world. And if this can tie in to the mystery as well? All the better. And it should be upbeat. I’m not sure too many readers want to hear the protagonist grouse about her job, especially if that job was the hook that brought them to the series in the first place.

Remember your audience. Cozies will always have detractors who say that adding these details into a mystery is filler. But if you’ve seen the lovely covers Berkley has designed for my books, you’ll understand that many of the readers who pick up the books enjoy flowers, and they expect to see them displayed prominently in the mystery as well. Will it be too much for some readers? Yeah, well, not everyone will enjoy the same books. But for the most part, readers who read culinaries enjoy the cooking, people who read needlecraft mysteries enjoy their crafts, and people who read books covered with flowers probably like flowers.

I’m beginning to love flowers. In theory. And at a distance.

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