I’m so happy to introduce Olivia Blacke to The Wickeds! I met Olivia when she asked me to be on a mystery panel with three additional authors. We had so much fun. She has a new series coming out and it sounds fun!
One of the things that drew me to cozy mysteries in the first place is that they’re expected to be part of a series. As a reader (and as a writer!) I love that I can get deeply invested in the characters and setting in a series, so when the next book comes out, it’s like seeing old friends. Although ironically, this also causes the “Cabot Cove effect” in cozies where our intrepid sleuth is constantly stumbling across dead bodies in their (formerly) quiet town.
Vinyl Resting Place, the first cozy in the Record Shop Mysteries, introduces three sisters. Juni Jessup, the baby, is free spirited. Maggie, the middle sister, has a head for numbers. Tansy, the eldest, is charismatic and (over)protective. With the popularity of vinyl records on the rise, the sisters reboot the family business by opening Sip & Spin Records in a small town near Austin, where they’ll offer hot tasty coffees and a cool selection of music. They’re on track to becoming Texas’s newest music destination until a body deader than disco falls out of the supply closet. Family is everything to the Jessup sisters, so when their favorite uncle is the prime suspect, they’ll do anything to bail him out of hot water, even if it means putting their shop on the line.
One challenge with writing a series like the Record Shop Mysteries is creating characters that are consistent, but still have room to evolve. Will Juni ever conquer her fear of public speaking? Will Maggie learn to accept that life is messy sometime? When you pick up the newest book in a series you’ve been reading for a while, it feels like you’re hanging out with your besties. When you get to experience those familiar characters grow over time, it makes them even more relatable and lifelike.
In a series, character scan live forever. This can become a problem, because now the author needs to keep track of everyone or risk accidentally killing off a character in book two only to have them pop up again in book six. Cozies are especially susceptible to this because they can have a large cast of characters. Add in that many authors work on multiple series simultaneously, and chaos reigns. To keep everything straight, I keep extensive character notes in a spreadsheet, with main characters often having their own document complete with photos of their favorite meals or latest hairstyle.
Which leads us to a final challenge – how does a writer keep books from getting repetitive? One of my favorite series is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. Sure, Stephanie’s pet hamster is 28 years old now (a miracle!) but I still rush out to buy the latest book as soon as it’s out, because I know it’s always entertaining and fresh. Something I use when writing a series to keep the ideas coming is to keep a running list of situations when I’m writing that might not fit in the current plot, but could be essential in a later book. For instance, in Vinyl Resting Place, Juni suggests they host a karaoke night in the record store, but that scene doesn’t show up until book three at a pivotal moment.
Of course, when there are so many books to choose from, readers sometimes pick up a book in the middle and then they choose to skip around, or read the series in order from start to finish.
Readers: When you’re reading a series, do you start with the newest one or do you always start at the beginning?
OLIVIA BLACKE (she/her), author of Vinyl Resting Place, finally found a way to put her Criminology degree to good use by writing quirky, unconventional, character-driven cozy mysteries. Olivia, who wants to be a unicorn when she grows up, is a little nerdy, a lot awkward, and just the right amount of weird. Connect with Olivia on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or check out her website OliviaBlacke.com.
VINYL RESTING PLACE
Vinyl Resting Place blends murder, music, and macchiatos in a delightful cozy mystery.
When Juni Jessup returns to her small Texas hometown, she and her sisters put all their beans in one basket to open Sip & Spin Records, the ideal place to enjoy musically-themed coffees like Espresso Yourself while listening to great music and town gossip, until – record scratch! – a body deader than disco falls out of the supply closet during the grand opening.
Family is everything to the Jessup sisters, so when their off-beat uncle is arrested, they’ll do anything to help, including putting Sip & Spin Records up for collateral. Unable to face the music, Uncle Calvin takes off, leaving the future of the shop in peril. Can Juni and her sisters catch the real killer before the trail – and the coffee – goes cold?