Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Staying in my lane... by Cathy Ace

Craft: Okay, we write about crime, but if you had to dip a toe into another genre, which would you add to the mix, and why?

Tough question, because I’ve only ever wanted to write crime fiction. That said, I have written nine books that are not fiction…but I dare say that textbooks for managers about marketing, brand building, and promotional planning for e-business are not top of your list of books to read!

Some of the textbooks I have written

So, because I know I really don’t want to write anything but crime fiction, allow me to give you some reasons why I don’t think it’s necessary – for me – to write something other than crime fiction, but to still have the chance to write significantly different types of books…because that’s what authors I know who genre-hop tell me they’re doing – giving themselves the chance to write different types of books, as in “a change is as good as a rest”.

First of all, I write three very different types of books, which – and, again, I can only speak from my personal experience – allow me to work in different ways, with different outcomes, and appeal to different readers…or the same readers who enjoy reading different types of books.

The books I have written most of are the Cait Morgan Mysteries: these are traditional, puzzle-plot mysteries, written in the first person, always set in a different location – with Cait Morgan and Bud Anderson being the only two characters who are in each book. They follow the “Golden Age” shape of book, with a few twists: a murder upfront; a not-so-amateur sleuth with a retired cop who works for secret service agencies allowing access to “insider” information (on occasion, though not always); lots of clues and red herrings dotted about in the “fair play” manner; a crescendo to a final denouement where the perpetrator/s are unmasked and justice (sometimes legal, sometimes natural) is allowed to restore the balance of life. There’s no gratuitous blood/gore on the page, no sex on the page, no foul language.

Because these books feature a professor of criminal psychology, and characters who tread/have trod some pretty dark paths, the WHY is critical to the solutions…and I plot, plot, plot these books ensuring that every action (past and present) by every character is deeply rooted in their unique psychological profile, so I plot in the timeline of the book, from beginning to end, and only then do I start to write the book. These are very “ordered” books, in terms of writing them, and I have the fun of traveling again to places where I have lived or worked, as I write, AND I bring in a different filmic/literary influence for themes/motifs in each book too, which is fun to do, and readers always seem to find that aspect very satisfying if/when they notice it (I always try to let that aspect be the sprinkles on the topping, rather than being either a driving force or laying it on so thickly that it becomes a “thing”). So I find writing these books to be absorbing, satisfying, and giving my mind lots of opportunities to roam.

The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries are much cozier – they are quintessentially British, stately home/village mysteries, with four female private investigators who run their business out of a converted barn on a large ducal estate in the rolling Welsh countryside. Writing these books allows me to write in a very different way: there is always more than one mystery in these books (different cases upon which the private investigators are working) so, while I plot the overall arc of the book to start with (usually the title of the book relates to the main case) I also plot the different cases as separate entities, then weave them all together, ensuring the overall time-frame works.

NEW BOOK COMING!!! amazon link

These are much more “procedural” books, too – yes, there are some puzzle plots thrown in, but private investigators work in a different way than a sleuth does, so I enjoy that difference, too. Of course, the challenge when writing books set in a recurring location, with many characters recurring, is to allow all those characters to develop somewhat with each book, but to also allow a couple of the characters to shine in their own way in each book…in the way that daily/weekly daytime/early evening dramas do on television. That’s a different discipline for a writer, but the treat is to return to people and places that are like old friends, with a constantly evolving backstory for players, as well as numerous plots driving the character development forward. It’s fun to do – and quite different to writing the Cait Morgan Mysteries. 

Then there’s the challenge of writing a standalone rather than a series – this is also fun, because the stakes for the main characters are higher: if it’s not a series, not everyone needs to survive, so there’s a chance to increase the danger level for even central characters. And writing a tale of psychological suspense is such a different process than writing mysteries and whodunnits…no need for as many clues or red herrings, though misdirection is the name of the game, and writing about an atmosphere rather than substantive occurrences is quite a challenge.

So, no, I don’t feel the need to write books that aren’t crime fiction, because I manage to meet all my needs as a writer by writing different types of crime fiction. Now, if I had more hours in the day, or months in the year, I might play with writing something else, but, as a full time author, I reckon I am using as much of my life writing as I can /is healthy, so I’ll settle with what I enjoy, thank you very much! If you'd like to catch up with any of my books, you can find out all about them at my website:


1 comment:

Lauren said...

Thank you for explaining your process and how you think about your books! It is always so enlightening to get that inside viewpoint!