Mystery and romance are my two all-time favorite book genres. When the two genres are combined, I consider it a win-win. Author Kathi Daley shares her take on blending the two, as she likes to do. Scroll down for details about Kathi’s giveaway!
The first book I wrote was a fluke. I didn’t plan it. I just had a thought that I jotted down, that thought was followed by another thought, I kept going and a week or so later I had Halloween Hijinks, Book One in the popular Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery Series. I uploaded that first book 28 months ago and since then I have published 40 mysteries. While the first book was a whim, and I’m not a plotter and do tend to let the characters tell the story, I have stopped to consider the basic elements that make Zoe Donovan so popular.
After some consideration, I believe the success of this series boils down to the idea that as writers we must engage both the readers mind (the mystery) and their emotions (the romance.)
While every book has a murder mystery for Zoe to solve, I believe it is the romance that has kept readers coming back for more.
In the case of this book specifically, we meet Zak Zimmerman in the second chapter of Book One. We are immediately informed that Zoe is not a fan of the very successful man she sees as her rival. The following scene comes into play when he shows up at a meeting she is attending after having moved away several years prior.
““Hey, squirt.” My arch nemesis, Zak Zimmerman, walked into the room and sat down beside me.
“What are you doing here?” I wasn’t pleased at the unexpected arrival of our local computer genius and all-around pain in my ass.
“I ran into Levi at The Pub last night and he encouraged me to join your little group.”
“Terrific,” I groaned.
My disdain for Zak is one of long-standing, with historical roots planted as far back as the seventh grade. In retrospect, I guess the incident, which led to months of uncontrolled sobbing and persistent feelings of self-loathing on my part, wasn’t entirely his fault. He beat me quite soundly in the mathathon, for which I’d been studying relentlessly for almost three months. Yes, I was humiliated when I discovered that he’d only just found out about the event the previous day, indicating that he had spent virtually no time wallowing, as I had, in academic angst. Yes, I’d invited my maternal grandparents, a scary couple I’d met only a handful of times yet still inexplicably wanted to please, and yes, miracle of miracles, this untouchable couple, who valued achievement above all else, actually agreed to come to this lowly competition after being assured by my overachieving mother that I was the brightest student in the class and would win by a landslide.
“Perhaps your time would be better spent on one of the other town committees,” I suggested. “I hear they always need volunteers for litter control.”
“Is that your way of saying you missed me?”
The ying and yang of Zak and Zoe’s relationship continued as the series unfolded, which I believe is directly responsible for its success. The road to commitment was a long and winding one on Zoe’s part. We realize in Book One that Zak is totally committed to this little spitfire he’s been smitten with since the day he met her, but Zoe is riddled with commitment issues even after she realizes that she really is in love with this man she thought she hated.
Zak and Zoe finally married in book 14 and I did worry about what an end to the ying and yang in Zak and Zoe’s relationship would do to the popularity of the series. I wondered if the readers would continue to be drawn in once the issue of will she or won’t she was answered once and for all. I’m happy to say that I’m getting ready to publish book 20 in the series and so far my readers are still in love with Zak and Zoe. I’m not sure what the future holds but I’m thrilled to be along for the journey.
I believe that I hit upon a winning combination quite by accident with the Zoe Donovan series, which I now use as a formula of sorts for all the series I write. In every one of my six series the protagonist has two close friends, one male and one female, that she shares the ups and downs of her daily life with. These friends also serve as her main sleuthing partners. Additionally, each protagonist is involved in a romantic relationship which doesn’t come easy, and each protagonist has complicated family issues which are explored throughout the series. In other words, I try to make my characters three dimensional. I want my readers to both laugh and cry with my characters as they navigate the joys and sorrows of their lives.
I also like to end each book with a feeling. As I type that final scene I remind myself that it is important to give my readers something to feel as we say goodbye until the next book in the series publishes. Obviously the mystery is important in a mystery novel, but I believe it is the feeling they are left with that keeps the readers coming back for more.
How important do you believe relationships, whether romantic relationships, family relationships, or friendships, are in a mystery?
On Monday, guest Amy Lynch’s topic is “Self-Confessed Bridezilla!”
GIVEAWAY! Kathi is going to give away a copy of Shamrock Shenanigans: Zoe Donovan Book 19 and Zimmerman Academy: The New Normal to one of today’s commenters. Either paperback or Kindle – non-US winners, Kindle only.
Shamrock Shenanigans: Zak and Zoe travel to Ireland for their first Valentines Day as husband and wife. They have been invited to attend a murder mystery weekend in a real haunted castle. During their first night at the castle, they find one of the guests dead. Really dead. As they delve into the murder they begin to see that not only are things not as they appear, but several of the other attendees are not who they claim to be. During the course of her investigation Zoe discovers a secret about herself that is more than just a little shocking.
Zimmerman Academy: The New Normal: This series of novellas is a spinoff of the popular Zoe Donovan Mystery Series. In this first short story Zoe’s best friend Ellie receives some bad news, meets a new man, and helps to solve a murder while Zak and Zoe are out of the country.
Kathi Daley lives with her husband, kids, grandkids, and Bernese mountain dogs in beautiful Lake Tahoe. When she isn’t writing, she likes to read (preferably at the beach or by the fire), cook (preferably something with chocolate or cheese), and garden (planting and planning, not weeding). She also enjoys spending time on the water when she’s not hiking, biking, or snowshoeing the miles of desolate trails surrounding her home.
Kathi uses the mountain setting in which she lives, along with the animals (wild and domestic) that share her home, as inspiration for her cozy mysteries.
Kathi is a top 100 mystery writer for Amazon and she won the 2014 award for both Best Cozy Mystery Author and Best Cozy Mystery Series.
She currently writes five series: Zoe Donovan Cozy Mysteries, Whales and Tails Island Mysteries, Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mysteries, Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mysteries, and Seacliff High Teen Mysteries. Stay up to date with her newsletter, The Daley Weekly. http://eepurl.com/NRPDf
Books by Kathi Daley
Come for the murder, stay for the romance.
Buy them on Amazon today.
Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery:
The Trouble With Turkeys
Big Bunny Bump-off
Beach Blanket Barbie
Turkeys, Tuxes, and Tabbies
Ashton Falls Cozy Cookbook
Zimmerman Academy Shorts
The New Normal
Paradise Lake Cozy Mystery:
Pumpkins in Paradise
Snowmen in Paradise
Bikinis in Paradise
Christmas in Paradise
Puppies in Paradise
Halloween in Paradise
Whales and Tails Cozy Mystery:
Romeow and Juliet
The Mad Catter
Grimm’s Furry Tail
Much Ado About Felines
Legend of Tabby Hollow
Cat of Christmas Past
A Tale of Two Tabbies – February 2016
Sand and Sea Hawaiian Mystery:
Murder at Dolphin Bay – March 2016
Seacliff High Mystery:
Road to Christmas Romance:
Road to Christmas Past
Kathi Daley Blog: publishes each Friday http://kathidaleyblog.com
Facebook at Kathi Daley Books – www.facebook.com/kathidaleybooks
Kathi Daley Teen – www.facebook.com/kathidaleyteen
Kathi Daley Books Group Page – https://www.facebook.com/groups/569578823146850/
E-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter at Kathi Daley@kathidaley – https://twitter.com/kathidaley
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/author/kathidaley
Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/kathidaley/