As we blogged last week, Friday through Sunday was the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. In honor of our Cozy Corner column – where Joanne Collings reviews two cozy mysteries a month – I attended a session on Friday called “A Whodunit and a How-to: Cozy Mysteries.” Authors Jennie Bentley and Emyl Jenkins were the speakers.
In August, Bentley wrote a behind-the-book column for BookPage about Spackled and Spooked, the second installation in her series about home renovator Avery Baker. Jenkins is the author of The Big Steal, a dead-body-free mystery starring antiques appraiser Sterling Glass.
At the Southern Festival of Books session, both authors described the concept of cozy mysteries and how their personal interests have played into their writing.
The parameters of the cozy genre are quite firm, according to Bentley: “no bad language, no sex, no gore, no violence.” She said that most cozies have a “gimmicky hook with tips in the back.” (For example, Jenkins includes an illustrated guide to antiques at the back of The Big Steal.)
A real estate agent and home-renovating enthusiast, Bentley received a three-book contract from publisher Berkley Prime Crime. The third novel in her series, Plaster and Poison, will come out in March 2010. Bentley has recently agreed to write two more books about renovator Avery Baker, and she joked that prospective titles might be Mortar and Murder or Haunted House and Homicide.
Jenkins, who has worked as an appraiser for many years and who authored a book titled Emyl Jenkins’ Appraisal Book before turning to fiction, insisted that “people and their surroundings can be very important – what you chose to have around says so much about you.” Thus, objects play a key role in The Big Steal as her heroine seeks to recover missing antiques. At the Southern Festival of Books, Jenkins got a lot of laughs when she revealed what she avoids in her writing: The 5 Bs: blood, bodies, bombs, bad language, bedrooms.
Any cozy fans have book recommendations? If you were going to write a mystery without a murder, what would your hook be?