by Ellen Byron

Before I was a television writer-producer (and an author), I was a playwright. I can tell you the exact moment I decided to transition from writing for the theater to the more lucrative field of writing for TV. I had four published one-acts and a new full-length play that was a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, a contest so highly regarded that you can actually brag about losing. With the O’Neill non-credit in my pocket, that particular play, “Old Sins, Long Shadows,” garnered attention from several prestigious off-Broadway theater companies. There’d be a reading with wonderful actors–and then notes. Another reading–and more notes. Then one night after a reading at the now-defunct Circle Rep Theater, as I was getting yet more notes from the development director, this thought flitted through my brain: if I’m going to be getting all these notes, someone should pay me to take them. Continue reading

Creating Cozy Worlds: Karen MacInerney and Gray Whale Press

Hi! I’m Karen MacInerney, and I’m the author of several mystery series, including the Agatha-nominated Gray Whale Inn mysteries and the Dewberry Farm mysteries. I’ve been writing for many years. I love creating a cozy, warm world for my readers to escape to when everyday life just seems too glum for words.

My first series, the Gray Whale Inn mysteries, starts with Murder on the Rocks, which also happens to be the first book I ever wrote. It’s set in Cranberry Island, Maine, and is in many ways an homage to Pool’s Island, Newfoundland, where I visited my grandparents every summer (many of the names in the book are surnames from that part of the world). I have fond childhood memories of climbing the island’s granite boulders, picking wild blueberries, making steamed puddings in my grandmother’s kitchen, and going out to fish on the cold, cold water at six in the morning with my grandfather. I was hoping to capture some of that wonderful feeling and experience on the page, but I didn’t know how to do it at first. Newfoundland is hard to get to, and I didn’t feel I had a grasp of the dialect. They have lots of words like “yaffle,” which is an armload of dried fish, in case you were wondering. I knew I wanted to write something capturing those experiences, and after a while, I started thinking mystery would be the way to do it. Continue reading

The Writing Life

by Rick Helms

A great writer named Jerry Healy, who sadly left us a couple of years back, once said something that resonated strongly with me. It’s probably a quote from someone else, but I heard him say it, so I associate it with Jerry.

He said, “Everyone has a novel in him or her. Not everyone has a SECOND novel.”

For a working writer, constant production is the key to success. I see many, many writers each year at conferences who are still flogging a book they wrote and published ten years ago. They have a single title out, and they’ve been riding it like a trusty steed for years. Continue reading

Truth in Fiction—How One Author Keeps It Real

by Patricia Fry

Every hopeful author and freelance writer has heard this important credo: write about what you know. For years, I wrote nonfiction. Still do. But five years ago, I added fiction to my repertoire—cat fiction. It didn’t take me long to realize that even fiction must ring true. Your readers won’t trust and respect your work if there isn’t an element of truth in your stories. That’s why I often turn to my cats for assistance. They give me just the reality check I need to make sure the cats in my stories run true to form.

While some cozy mysteries with cats feature talking cats, mine do not. The cats in my stories are ordinary cats with a few extraordinary habits and, of course, many unusual (but realistic) opportunities to get into mischief. How do my own household cats help in this respect? Simply by being cats. Continue reading

Retired Professor Turns to Crime (writing)

indexby Alessandra Comini

“You absolutely cannot enter. Important government papers are stored inside.”

These were the words an Austrian government bureaucrat used to bar me from entering the provincial Neulengbach courthouse where, fifty-one years earlier, the Expressionist artist Egon Schiele (1890-1918) had been imprisoned. During his twenty-four days in a dank basement cell, he kept a diary and in twelve poignant drawings meticulously recorded his sparse surroundings. Guided by these drawings and the anguished diary entries, I was attempting to do what no scholar had yet done: locate the cellar and cell in which Schiele had been unjustly incarcerated. Continue reading

Writing What I Don’t Know

KayeGeorgeby Kaye George

Sure, I write what I know. Sometimes. For the Fat Cat series, which I write as Janet Cantrell, I model the tubby tabby after one of my own rescued ferals. I use the setting of Minneapolis-St. Paul, and I lived in Minnetonka for a few years. (And love that area!) I actually try out all the recipes in the books, the ones for people—dessert bars—and the ones for cats—healthy cat treats. Continue reading

Writing What You Know—the Hard Way

BarbGoffmanby Barb Goffman

We’ve all heard this advice: write what you know. I’ve had editing clients take this advice the wrong way, thinking that if they haven’t experienced something themselves, they shouldn’t write about it. In actuality, if you want to write about something and don’t have enough information to get the details right, do research. Learn all about it. Then you’ll be able to write about what you know. Continue reading