When I was in the second grade, I fell in love. The object of my affection? The Mystery of the Silver Spider in the Three Investigators mystery series by Robert Arthur. In the months and years to follow, I read not only every book in that series, but in the Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon) and Nancy Drew series (Carolyn Keene) as well. Years before I read my first romance or women’s fiction novel or even knew the fantasy genre existed, I discovered mystery novels, and I was hooked.
As I got older, even as I discovered those other genres, I never got over my first love, and I added multiple mystery series and fictional detectives to my keeper bookshelves. Some of my current favorites include Sofie Kelly’s magical cats mysteries (yes cats! with magic!), Tana French’s Dublin murder squad series, and Sara Gran’s Clair Dewitt series. And the truth is, now, just like back in second grade, when I dive into a mystery novel, I immerse myself in pure reading pleasure, no deep analysis allowed.
It’s not so much that I want to deeply analyze every other fiction book I read; I just can’t help myself. The in-depth analysis we did in our first McDaniel class only added to my tendency to have ‘writer’s brain’ when I read. Maybe part of the reason I haven’t been so analytical about mysteries is that, despite my early and abiding love for reading mysteries, I don’t write them, and that has allowed me to keep enough distance between mystery novels and my writer’s brain to allow something closer to the reading experience that I imagine non-writers have.
Or at least it used to do that, until I read Susan Spann’s guest post on Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog this past week. As I read Susan’s list of 25 things to know about writing a mystery, something clicked in my brain. Not only did I think, I could do this, I could write a mystery. I also had one of those inspirational flashes, just the tiniest sparkly gold nugget flashing in the sieve of my writer’s brain, an idea for a mystery. It’s still too early to tell whether I’ll actually take up the gauntlet, and waaaayyyy too early to determine whether the tiny nugget can grow into an idea big enough to inspire a story, but the idea is there, just the same.
Yes, this means my days of analysis-free, pure joy reading in the mystery genre are probably over. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe that says something about the growth (read: inevitable takeover of all other gray matter) of my writer’s brain.
If you’re a mystery reader, what are some of your current favorites? And if you’re a mystery writer, what’s your best piece of advice for a maybe kinda sorta wannabe at some unnamed time in the future mystery writer (aka Nancy)?