Liz here, excited to welcome back Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker! We hosted them last fall for their double launch, and it was so much fun they’re back to celebrate the release of Jess’s latest, March of Crime, and Shannon’s latest, Dark Signal. Take it away, gals!
Jess: Back in 2006, I attended my first Bouchercon, the premier mystery convention. It was held in Madison, Wisconsin, that year. I remember feeling overwhelmed and out of place, the nerdy girl on the sidelines who no one wanted to dance with. Thank god that’s changed (ha!). I also remember attending a panel called Thriller vs. Cozies, where three thriller writers competed against three cozy writers to see who could turn an idea into a synopsis the quickest. While thrillers more often end up on the New York Times bestseller list, at this panel, the cozy writers were quicker and their story lines were voted more compelling each time. I don’t think it was an accident. I think cozies have a lot to teach thrillers, and all mystery genres.
That’s what Shannon Baker, author of the latest Kate Fox mystery, Dark Signal, and me, author of the recently-released humorous mystery March of Crime, are here today to talk with you about, so pull up a chair, pour yourself a steaming mug of chamomile tea, toss in a splash of brandy, and let’s do this.
Shannon, how would you describe a thriller vs. a cozy?
Shannon: Since I’m in sunny Tucson, I’ll opt for a mai tai instead of the tea, but thank you, anyway. I always think a mystery is a whodunnit, with the whole plot driving to find the identity of the bad guy. In a thriller, we most likely know who the bad guy is, and the book focuses on preventing the big bad event. Typically, thrillers have bigger stakes than mysteries, saving the planet from Dr. Brain’s doomsday machine, as opposed to finding who killed the rector.
Jess: Agreed. And I read them both, and find something to enjoy in both subgenres. When it comes to building and portraying relationships, though, I think cozies beat thrillers hands down. It’s not only the relationship between the characters that is often deep (Joanna Campbell Slan’s Kiki Lowenstein mysteries, which I love, come to mind), it’s also the way cozies connect to me as a reader. I feel like I’m hanging out with friends when I read a cozy, whereas reading a thriller often leaves me feeling entertained, but not included. Shannon, what’s one thing that you find cozies do better than thrillers?
Shannon: Criminy, Jess, you have me all nervous. It’s like saying all redheads have crazy tempers, or all Irish drink a lot of whiskey. So, as uncontroversial as I can: Cozies often make me laugh. I love the madcap adventures of Ivy Meadows in Cindy Brown’s off-off-off Broadway series, for instance. Thrillers can get my heart racing and keep me turning pages, which is fun in its own way.
While thrillers aren’t devoid of character and relationship subplots, it’s a matter of balance, in most cases. (see me tap dancing around this?) For instance, when my husband and I watch Game of Thrones, we enjoy the whole show together. But his favorite scenes involve battles and nudity, while my favorite scenes involve John Snow and how he’s feeling, who his friends are, if he’ll ever find happiness. (We both love dragons, duh.) I enjoy the connection, which is where cozies excel.
Jess: Good call! OK, we’ve been a little hard on the thrillers, so let’s end on a positive note. What’s your favorite thriller, or who is your favorite thriller writer?
Shannon: While I’m not well-read in the thriller genre, I do love Francine Matthews’s books. Last year, I read this wild ride of a thriller, with deep character development, as well a heart-stopping plot, called Salem’s Cipher, that deserves mention here.
Jess: Ha! Thank you, friend. For me, although they might technically be writing suspense, I am always thrilled by Alison Gaylin and Karin Slaughter’s books. And there’s this sexy chick named Shannon Baker whose books I keep hearing great things about. If only she didn’t keep nipping my brandy…
How about you, clever readers? What’s one element of cozies (or thrillers!) that you really enjoy?
Please join Shannon and Jessie as they continue their blog tour. They will each be giving away three books this tour, and every comment you leave at a blog stop gets you one chance to win. For another chance to win a book, sign up for Jess and/or Shannon’s newsletters on their websites (links below).
Jessie short bio: Jess Lourey (rhymes with “dowry”) is best known for her critically- acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing “a splendid mix of humor and suspense.” She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 “Rewrite Your Life” TEDx Talk, and the author of Rewrite Your Life, the only book out there which shows you how to turn your facts into healing, page-turning fiction. You can find out more at http://www.jessicalourey.com.
Shannon short bio: Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimeraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at www.Shannon-Baker.com