Keeping It Light…

by Barb, at home

The Wickeds started out as the Wicked Cozy Authors, all of us writing cozy mysteries, all of us writing books set in New England. Since then, we’ve branched out. A core of us still write cozies, but we also write historical mysteries, paranormal mysteries, and traditional mysteries. Many of us still write about New England, but our settings also embrace southern Indiana, the panhandle of Florida, and a small English village.

Even as we’ve branched out, we all still write on the lighter side. By lighter, I don’t necessarily mean funny, though some of us do write funny books. And I definitely don’t mean slight or inconsequential or silly. What I do mean is that as opposed to say, noir, we write with an optimistic view of humanity. And we write deliberately to entertain.

Obviously, it’s a choice. And while it’s not a choice each one of us will always make, it’s one we’ve made so far. So Wickeds, tell us, why do you choose to write on the lighter side?

Julie: I love this question, Barb. I don’t just write these books, I read them. Right now I’m enjoying rereading Elizabeth Peters (Crocodile on the Sandbank is, in my opinion, one of the great first books in a great series) and listening to Cleo Coyle’s Haunted Bookshop series. I love the reader/author promise that these books hold. There will be a puzzle, and it will be solved. Order will be restored, and you’ll get to visit with favorite characters while that happens. I feel so blessed to help folks escape for a few hours.

Sherry: I need to read some Elizabeth Peters! It’s interesting because my crime fiction reading tends to be darker — mostly thrillers. But I balance reading something darker with something light and I’ve found I don’t like books quite as graphic as I did when I was younger. For my own writing, my characters just tend to lead me to the lighter side, because of their life view as optimists. I work hard to balance the light with realistic, three dimensional characters.

Edith/Maddie: As Julie implied, I write what I want to read. While I sometimes go darker in a short story, I don’t have to live in that world for very long. With one of my books, I’m intimately involved with the characters and the story every day for four months. And good heavens, the real world is dark and scary enough. Let me please not live in it in my books, too.

Jessie: Like Sherry, I often read books that are quite dark. I love Scandinavian crime novels and historical fiction that takes a looks at some heavy themes. Some of my writing is lighthearted and inclined to seek the humorous side of life. Other books, however look at the things one would rather avoid. I think the common theme in all of it is a hopefulness at the end. Whether the stories I create skirt the unseemlier side of life or look at it head on I always want to feel that there is the possibility for growth and happiness by the end.

Liz: I’m in the Sherry and Jessie camp and tend to read dark – I am well known for my obsessions with Tana French and Dennis Lehane. But in the midst of all the craziness of the world these days, I’ve also found my mood changes a lot more about what I want to read. I’ve had trouble concentrating on reading overall this year, but when I do it does tend to be lighter. I guess I do really like happy endings after all!

Barb: Because I write murder mysteries, let’s face it, there’s going to be some bad stuff. For one character to take the life of another, I want strong motivation, not some silly dispute. That means I need to look at the darker side of human behavior. But as Jessie put it so well, it’s all about the possibility for growth and happiness at the end. That’s what I want to put out into the world. If you’re writing a book where growth and happiness are a possibility, you are going to be categorized as writing on the lighter side.

Readers: What about you? If you’re here you undoubtedly do some reading on the lighter side. Why? Is that most of what you read, or do you also read darker books? Tell us about that.

40 Thoughts

  1. I read on the lighter side because I want the puzzle to solve and the solution that leads to a positive outcome. I do read some darker books, but always know that there is a lighter book ready for me to pick up. The lighter side also entertains and keep me engage and bonus is an escape from what’s out in the real world.

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  2. I write darker books but love to do a lot of light books. I want to shed light on dark themes in my books so do not see myself not continuing to write this. Saying that, I have happily started a cosy mystery series and really enjoying writing this.

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  3. As a reader, I used to read dark books. As I’ve gotten older and the world has changed, I find that those dark, graphic books don’t interest me. I read to escape so I want to read books where the mystery is solved and I’ve spent time with characters I like. I agree that lighter stories don’t necessarily mean humorous (I like humorous stories also). In addition to cozies, I read traditional mysteries, so there may occasionally be a little darkness in the story, but nothing graphic.

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  4. I read both lighter and darker type stories. I’m not sure which I read more of but I think it is generally an even split.

    I read both types because they appeal to me. That’s a pretty simple explanation but I don’t see it as any more complicated a decision than that.

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    1. I think a lot of people are like you, Jay. I find our readers read pretty widely. I think, for obvious and mostly benign reasons, retailers and publishers like to put both readers and writers in boxes, but I find that’s rarely how people act out in the real world.

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  5. Love reading books like the Wicked authors write. Like it was mentioned, the “real” world has enough problems and when I read some times its for an escape from those type things. Not saying that I don’t read books with historical emphasis, with a lesson to be taught or a message in them for example. However, I’d rather it be done in a way that is more uplifting than dark through out the whole book. After all, I do love to be able to relate to the characters in the book, either through things I have said, done or felt and my own life though having it’s ups and downs is more positive than negative. Doesn’t mean that things are all peaches and ice cream, but II do love my happily ever after in the end.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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    1. Kay, I think we share a mind. So often you write exactly what I’m thinking. So, I’m going to do something I’m well-known for in other places, DITTO, DITTO, DITTO!!!

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  6. The mysteries I love are what might be called social comedy. As Barb says, not necessarily ha-ha comedy, but an insightful and wry take on the human condition. The mystery puzzle is fun, but it’s really the McGuffin for a situation that develops and displays the characters in our funny/sad human life. For me, Dorothy L. Sayers is the ultimate mystery writer.

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  7. One of the many reasons I enjoy reading the Wickeds is for the positive endings the books have. No matter the body count and the evildoers depicted therein, the heroines will always figure it out and justice will be restored. My other reading tends to be in the thriller and suspense realm, where nastier things happen and the darkest part of humanity is depicted. While indeed thrilling, I can’t stay in that world for too long, and I know that returning to the Wickeds will restore my sense of balance in the universe. The mix of settings, periods, sub-genres, and excellent writing you all provide keep us coming back for more.

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  8. Thanks for sharing, ladies! While I do read darker stories from time to time, I tend to prefer the lighter fare, both in my reading and my writing. I always go back to what my Mom told me when I was a kid about why she liked murder mysteries. It’s not about the murder, it’s about the puzzle. I love the whodunnit, and appreciate the fact that the bad guy gets caught in the end. 🕵️

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    1. Hi J.C. You’re the third commenter to mention the puzzle and I think that is an important element. It’s part of the answer to the questions, why keep spending my precious time on this. To get the answer! If a book had only the characters to keep us engaged, it would be literary fiction. (Just kidding!)

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  9. The Wicked Cozy Mysteries Blog was just what I needed when I found you. I had been looking for cozy mysteries that had a good mystery puzzle for me to figure out, but also had some witty, fun dialogue and relatable characters. I have found that in you Wicked’s and in a lot of the authors that you feature. I am still looking for a couple, friends, engaged or married that solve murders with light hearted dialogue, but also have each other to depend upon and share ideas with about the mystery. I so appreciate Beryl and Edwina and The Garden Crew! I guess I am looking for a Tommy and Tuppence twosome. Years ago I read a series which had a couple in it, but I cannot remember the author. The setting was on the coast, maybe the Souther coast and I think the female owned a bookstore. I am very thankful for this blog and all the authors I have encountered and come to enjoy. The dark mysteries/thrillers/horror are not my thing.

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  10. I mostly read light cozies. I don’t enjoy dark stories much.Annette Dashofy and the Travelers stories with the exmilitary and cadaver dog are as dark as I read.

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  11. I love a mix of books. I read history, mystery, dark and light, and something funny when I can find something good. Our book club tends to read a variety over the space of a year and we always try something funny in December or January. Right now, something light is a huge help to everyone. Our newsletter for the historical society has been purposefully kept light this year. Balancing life is hard enough in this odd time. Even fans, I know, of dystopian novels, tend to look at lighter fiction this year.

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  12. If I want dark and realistic, I turn on the local news, which is always filled with murder. I like the optimistic view of life presented in cozies. It’s one reason I love them so much.

    Of course, I do go darker occasionally, especially when it comes to the audio books I listen to. But the majority of my diet is still lightish cozies.

    I know some people don’t classify historical mysteries as cozies, but I would still classify all of your books as cozies. Just saying.

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    1. Maybe that’s why there are so many mystery writers in Maine. Our state is way too small to have much murder on the local news. I agree that historical mysteries and mysteries with paranormal elements can be cozy. They definitely can embody an optimistic view of life.

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  13. I am an equal opportunity reader. I just finished a wonderful dark mystery One Last Lie by Paul Doiron and now I’m looking forward to getting back to the light side with Ritter Ames’s Organized for Christmas.

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  14. 2020 has definitely needed some lightness. I’m one who enjoys humor in my cozies. In fact, one of the funniest moments was in one of your Maine Clambake books, Barbara. I won’t give details, because I don’t want to spoil, so I’ll just say that it involved Mrs. Gus. I was laughing so hard that I had to stop reading for a few minutes.

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  15. Although I read a few non-cozy mystery series, most are cozies. I just enjoy the community of cozies as well as the puzzle. I did drop 2 series that stopped having a real mystery and just became a group of friends. Stay safe and well and keep writing cozies.

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  16. I like to keep it on the lighter side. I am finding it hard to concentrate on anything that is heavy and complicated. I have been reading cozy mysteries and woman’s fiction.

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  17. Julie, I love, love, love Elizabeth Peters and Cleo Coyle. I know that I can’t be the only one to read these authors, but this is the 1st time I’ve ever seen them mentioned. The 1st Elizabeth Peters I read was ” The Last Camel Died at Dawn”. I was delighted and enthralled by Ramsey and his parents. I went nuts finding the rest of the books.
    I came across The Haunted Bookshop books by accident. I think they were the 1st “Cozys” I ever read. I always wished there were more of them.
    I read just about anything. Cereal boxes included. 😁
    I’ve been deep into Historical mysteries lately with a detour into cozy land periodically.

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  18. The lighter books keep me sane. And I’ve just loaded Jane Darrowfield, Professional Busibody onto the Paperwhite which is one step closer to reading and reviewing it.

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