Can We Just Stop?

By Sherry — I’m looking forward to some time at home

I’m just back from a busy season of traveling to conferences. Last weekend was Malice Domestic which celebrates traditional mysteries – the kind of mysteries I write. Recently, I’ve notice a growing trend in the normally supportive crime writing community that makes me mad enough or maybe sad enough to write this post. It’s a trend of mocking people who write traditional and cozy mysteries.

It happens in many different forms. Sometimes it’s the sneering comment on a panel where someone says “Oh, I don’t write cozies” like writing cozies is beneath them or “I write real books.” Sometimes it’s a post on Facebook mocking titles with puns and then people pile on in the comments. It’s the overheard comment in the hall after a panel that goes something like, “now we can go swear.” Cue the superior laughter. I’ve heard people calling cozies “cutsies” and people dismissing the entire genre because of the covers.

Cozies run the gamut from very fluffy where the author creates a idyllic town where only a bad person dies to the more traditional side where no one deserves to die but someone does. Cozies often include some humor and who doesn’t need a laugh? I try to write books that fit the parameters of the cozy genre but also have emotional depth with complex male and female characters who are trying to live their lives when a murder interrupts it. And frankly, I think my Sarah Winston (like most cozy writers’ protagonists) is as real or more real than many of the people we see in thrillers. (Let me just say that I LOVE thrillers and read lots of them.) But I don’t mock writers who have protagonists who can beat up five men blindfolded, after they’ve been stabbed, shot at, run over, and tortured.

Yes, my books have cute covers with cats and titles that are most often puns. Does that mean the story isn’t good or worth reading? And just because you might not like cozies does that mean you have to denigrate the genre publicly? People have different tastes in reading and there’s nothing wrong with that. As Julie Hennrikus always says that’s why there’s different color refrigerators. Just because you like your orange refrigerator, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with my pink one. (Okay, I don’t have a pink refrigerator, mine is boring, but you get my point.)

Let me add that there are many crime fiction writers who don’t participate in this kind of nonsense. I have to give a shout out to E. A. Aymar, a talented thriller writer, who in a recent blog and on panels has said how hard he thinks it would be to write a cozy.

So to all of you who mock the cozy mystery genre, I invite you to write one, find an agent to represent you, get it published by a major publisher, get nominated for a major award, earn out your royalties, get positive reviews, get your contract renewed multiple times, have your editor ask you to write a second series, and hit a bestseller list. Maybe then you’ll understand that all writing is hard and give cozy writers a little respect.

Many thanks to Malice Domestic for providing a conference where authors and readers can come together for a weekend of celebrating mysteries. This year felt magical and was a balm to my soul.

Readers: What do you like about reading cozies?

165 Thoughts

  1. I posted a long comment on this post this morning, or at least I thought it did. I guess my phone ate it. 😦

    Of course, most of what I was going to say has already been said (and had been said when I made my initial post). We need to remember that people have different tastes and we can enjoy different things. People also read for different reasons.

    This isn’t high school any more. We don’t have to read “big important things” all the time. We can read light things we enjoy. (And I’m not trying to say that cozies can’t include big important things. Some of them do and do it quite well while still being cozy.)

    I’m listening to a PI mystery on audio right now by a New York Times best selling author. I’ve long complained that his characters are weak – weaker than many cozy author’s characters. Yet people rave about his characters. I don’t get it. And the foul language? I swear, he not only has a word count in his contracts but a separate foul language word count. While I love books without foul language, I get that it is how some people speak. Even so, in writing it should be used for emphasis, not like you don’t know any other words for characters to say.

    I love the punny titles of cozies. Then again, anyone who follows me on Facebook knows I love puns period.

    Finally, I’ll end with this. Try being a male fan of cozies. (Or a male DisNerd.) When people see what I’m reading, they often look at my like I’m weird. (Of course, I am weird, but that’s another discussion.)

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    1. I’m so glad that men are reading cozies and writing them too. But you make an excellent point about that additional prejudice that hit readers and writers.

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    2. Weird is good, Strange is bad. So you are good. Cozies are great, I love the ease of reading, the characters, the stories, the camaraderie. I love not reading bad words all over the place. My father always said that was a lack of vocabulary. I love feeling that the characters could be someone that I know. I love reading them in order so that I can understand them and their lives and friends and relationships. They are easy reading. I love mysteries, but do not want serial killers, berserk characters, scary stories, etc. I want to figure out whodunit.

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      1. I hate it when comments get eaten. Thanks for stopping by. I think many cozy readers feel the same way. I love finding books where the characters seem like friends.

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  2. I write cozies! And what’s hard for me is writing books with blood and gore and peril around every corner. I don’t use cuss words in real life so why would I write them in my books? I haven’t ran into anyone who frowns on cozies (my experience usually is they fon’t know what they are), but I love this post. And I love your covers. And your titles. I’m picking up one today! Great post.

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      1. I also love that you bring in something that I love–antiques and collectibles. Keep on writing. I learn a lot and I have been doing this since 1971.

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  3. Great post, Sherry! I love reading cozies for they are gentle, relaxing, and hopeful. Usually the murder victim is a character that you dislike or one who you didn’t know at all, so there’s not much distress about the murder. There’s comfort in knowing the sleuth will be fine so you aren’t on-the-edge-of-your-seat tense while reading the book, even if you worry about whether they’re going to be hurt. The community of people who surround the sleuth give me the sense that I am also connected to these people and the place where they live. Generally there is justice at the end–the murderer is caught or is killed in some humorous or karmic way. I think the deceptive simplicity of the cozy–and by that I mean a story that is set in a real-life setting without an emotional rollercoaster ride–is what fools many unsophisticated readers into thinking they’re lesser. The clean, well-plotted storytelling in any book determine it’s quality, not the genre label. There are plenty of poorly-written thrillers and literary fiction out there. Some of those awful books have even won Pulitzers. Sheesh.

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  4. This is common in a lot of genres. I’ve plenty of science fiction writers who sneer at fantasy. Or guys who can embrace “shy nerdy guy saves the world and gets beautiful girlfriend” while rolling their eyes at how stories where women do the same are just unrealistic.
    and in my experience, any genre or subgenre someone isn’t interested in looks formulaic. Fans know better.
    Good post. Sorry if I repeated what’s already been said but there were too many comments to read through.

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    1. I’m not surprised that this is happening in other fiction genres as well. I think romance writers have long fought negativity too. Thanks for chiming in, Fraser!

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  5. I’m sorry you had to read, see, hear these negative comments.
    In answer to your question, I read cozies because:
    1. they are relaxing and comforting and, well, “cozy” – no blood and gore, no heart-pounding (and blood-pressure raising) scenes, and, despite the murders, the environment is “nice”
    2. I always learn something – about a place or profession or hobby or food – so many things I would never have known – and often a history lesson as well
    3. there’s a little romance – we all need some of that in our lives – and human relationships both good and not-so-good
    4. the colorful covers – I can spot a cozy 6 aisles away 🙂
    5. the series – watching and living with the characters as their lives develop
    6. the authors – I have never met so many nice people at any other conference I’ve attended
    7. the warm feeling I get when explaining and recommending a cozy to someone – from the memories of so many wonderful stories I’ve read
    I guess all I can say to the nay-sayers is “you have no idea what you are missing!”.

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  6. I love all mysteries but i really enjoy cozies because I learn about new locations, new hobbies and new occupations.
    My only problem (mine not the authors) is there are so many good cozies that I can not keep up. Thank you all for writing them.

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  7. That’s so true! With all the different writing I’ve done, it’s always hard. None of it is easy; they all deserve respect for it.
    Just gotta find the genre you enjoy writing the most.

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  8. The main reason I am drawn to the cozy mystery genre is the lack of graphic violence. I can read that every day in the news. When I read for pleasure, I want to be entertained or feel good while I am reading. I also like books that are character driven. Cozies usually center around one main character and I like that.
    To all the critics of the cozy genre, I say, it’s their loss.

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  9. Cozy Mystery is my preferred genre! I will occasionally read other clean genres but always return to my first love. I read them so I can be anywhere in the world, meeting fascinating characters, and never leave my recliner! Any one who is negative about cozies obviously has never read any or isn’t important enough to have impact on what is good reading material! My first book was The Murder at the Vicarage by the late, great Agatha Christie and books she wrote are the background of Cozy Mystery genre! Thank you for the awesome article. I understand the feeling of distress at hearing negativity of any efforts of writing of ANY genre. Writing is a very stressful job and when an author puts their time and passion into it, well, there is no room for the snobbish persons in the world! Thank you for letting me add my humble opinion here!

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  10. I’m glad Ellen called attention to this post ’cause I missed it first time around. Amen to everything you said, Sherry, and then some. I’ve learned more useful things by reading cozy mysteries than I ever did reading by other books or even books intended to teach something. I read cozies exclusively now and haven’t looked back. Cozies have introduced me to new friends, fun places that really exist that I’ve actually gotten to visit (Mackinac Island, case in point), and they’ve given me ideas of other places I’d like to explore. Cozies just make me happy! 🙂

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  11. It’s such a shame that people still have to have middle school drama even while being adults. I personally love cozy mysteries. I also love reading heavier books, as well, but that doesn’t take away from my enjoyment when I’m reading a good cozy. They’re the type of book that makes me feel a huge sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that I don’t get from other genres. I say people should be able to read what they love without judgement. I’ll be adding your books to my TBR!

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