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Guest Cindy Brown — The Importance of Light in the Dark

Welcome Cindy! We got to chatting on Facebook when she saw I’d posted a photo of myself at a high school play practice. (You can see the photo and a bit about it on Cindy’s Slightly Silly Newsletter the link is below.) It’s always fun to get to know new authors!

If you looked at my bookshelves, you’d see mysteries and literary fiction, most of them serious, even dark. But I make certain there are always several cozy or humorous mysteries there too. I have to have them handy. Why? And why, if I read mostly “serious “ fiction, do I write screwball mysteries?

Years ago, I was walking the dog when I ran into a neighbor whose husband was terminally ill. We talked briefly about the situation, but veered into the comfort of small talk pretty quickly. I mentioned I was working on a humorous mystery, and her eyes lit up. “I’d love to read it,” she said. I sent her an early draft of Macdeath, my first Ivy Meadows Mystery. I saw her again a few days later, and she thanked me profusely. “I laughed for the first time in weeks,” she said. “You can’t imagine how much that means to me.”

I’ve heard variations of the same sentiment several times since. Sometimes it’s simply about getting a break from the serious world we live in: “It was really nice to leave the darkness, and read a fun, light mystery.” (Bill’s Book Reviews on The Sound of Murder) Sometimes the books take on a greater importance for readers. My friend Angela M. Sanders received an email thanking her for writing the Joanna Hayworth Vintage Clothing Mysteries. The reader said her novels were the perfect R&R for him after his days at work—as a humanitarian worker with an Ebola response team in Guinea, Africa,

I believe mysteries are important to us because they create a world where good triumphs. Where bad guys get theirs in the end. Where flawed characters recognize that they need to grow, and set about changing themselves for the better. That’s why I write them. And I write cozy mysteries for what began as as sort of a selfish reason: I didn’t want to live in the dark. I once turned down a great role in the Sam Shepard play “Buried Child,” because I didn’t want to immerse myself in that in that brutal world for months of rehearsal and performance.

That’s not to say that my books—and most cozies—don’t have substance (check out Susannah Hardy’s post: Mythbusting–Cozies Are Not The Shallow End Of The Fiction Pool). I love it when readers recognize the comedy and the gravity in my books: “The setting is irresistible, the mystery is twisty, and Ivy is as beguiling as ever, but what I really loved was the depth and complexity of painful human relationships right there in the middle of a sparkly caper,” Catriona McPherson said about The Sound of Murder.

But what’s even better is the realization that my reason for writing cozies isn’t all selfish: readers need them too. After fellow author Cindy Sample recently lost her beloved mother, she wrote to tell me that Macdeath “brought much laughter when I sorely needed it.”

I’m proud to count myself among the cadre of cozy writers. I believe we’re trying to make sense of what’s going on around us, and to set to the world to rights, even if it’s just for the length of a book.  We’re turning on the light.

Cindy Brown has been a theater geek (musician, actor, director, producer, and playwright) since her first professional gig at age 14. Now a full-time writer, she’s the author of the Ivy Meadows series, madcap mysteries set in the off, off, OFF Broadway world of theater. Macdeath, Ivy’s first adventure is “a hilarious riff on an avant-garde production of the Scottish play” (Mystery Scene Magazine) and her newest book, The Sound of Murder is “a definite delight”(Suspense Magazine). Cindy and her husband live in Portland, Oregon, though she made her home in Phoenix, Arizona, for more than 25 years and knows all the good places to hide dead bodies in both cities. She’d love to connect with readers at (where they can sign up for her Slightly Silly Newsletter) or on Facebook or Twitter.

Readers: Why do you read mysteries?

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