Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Elizabeth Spann Craig - Why I Write Mysteries

*Editor's Note: Welcome to Elizabeth Spann Craig, today's Tuesday 'Why I Write Mysteries' columnist! After reading her piece I feel like saying, 'What she said!' Love it! Enjoy, everyone!

I'm a bona fide mystery nut.

When I was a kid, I got my hands on every Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden book I could find. The two series were very different from each other, and I’d switch back and forth between the two.

Once I started reading mysteries, I never stopped. I graduated to Agatha Christie, then to Martha Grimes. Then I read any mystery anyone ever recommended to me or that sounded interesting to me.

Why do I love them so much?

I love the process of restoring order. I love reading (and writing) about an idyllic setting where a serious problem is introduced and then methodically—and successfully—solved. Good triumphs over evil and order is restored to the idyll.

I love starting on the same page as the sleuth. We can identify with them easily since we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle yet, either.

I love the fact that everyone has something to hide—like so many of us in real life. No one wants their dirty laundry aired and they’ll try to lie and cover up evidence in order to keep their secrets.

I love the small town gossip in cozy mysteries.

I love the sense of surprise when the second body is discovered. It’s a double-whammy surprise if the body is of the suspect I’d pegged as the killer.

I love the frightening moment when the sleuth is face to face with the murderer. I love pulling for the sleuth as she outsmarts the killer.

My most favorite thing about mysteries? Creating my own by incorporating my favorite mystery elements into a manuscript.

Elizabeth Spann Craig


Pretty is as Pretty Dies—August 2009, Midnight Ink

Memphis BBQ Series—May 2010, Berkley Prime Crime



  1. I enjoy reading mysteries but haven't tried writing one yet - your enthusiasm, however, has me thinking about it!

  2. Writing a mystery is the most challenging project you'll ever undertake, but it is easily the most fun I have writing anything!

  3. I love the small town aspects of many mysteries too. I live in a small town and many writers are so good at portraying what life is really like.

    Nicely wrapped up endings also appeal to me. I can't stand books that leave too many things dangling and unresolved. They drive me nuts!

  4. It's funny how small town settings have become synonymous with 'cozy' murder mysteries. There is just something about the confined setting that creates the right feeling.

    One exception, though, is Cleo Coyle who manages to create a 'small town feel' in her New York 'Coffeehouse' mysteries. She uses the 'Village' as, well, a village!

  5. I'm so excited to be here today! What a cool recurring feature.

    Jane, I bet you'd make a great mystery writer. And Janel, I'm the same way. Sometimes I run across books that don't tie up their subplots and it drives me nuts!

    Donna--Great point about Cleo's books. She does a good job keeping the suspect list and setting confined--a house party gone wrong, and--as you brought up--the Village! :)


  6. I love writing mysteries too, in fact I can't imagine writing in another genre. You've written another wonderful post, Elizabeth. I like exploring situations where the danger isn't in the setting but in the characters. People can exhibit very odd behaviour when they feel threatened. Such fun!


  7. I'm wondering how many writers who set their mysteries in small towns actually live in one. Does anyone know?

  8. Elspeth--Thanks! You're right...people are always surprising under stress, which is what makes each mystery and each suspect different!

    Donna, I've read that some authors use their experience from their childhoods when they write small town mysteries. I tend to think many of us don't live in small towns, but I could be wrong!

  9. I like the aspect of puzzle solving too. Growing up with Nancy Drew stories I loved her whole process of deduction to figure out the mystery and could never wait to get my hands on her next adventure!Great post, Elizabeth.

    Nancy, from Realms of Thought

  10. Thanks so much, Nancy! I appreciate your popping by. Nancy was so smart and her dad let her *fight crime*. That was amazing right there...