Friday, April 16, 2010

More Detectives Around the World

 Today is the final day for the 2010 Detectives Around the World event and I have the honor of interviewing a mystery fan – our very own Dani Greer.

For those of you who don’t know, Dani is the force behind The Blood-Red Pencil blog, an accomplished editor, artist, mentor of writers, friend of the Earth, and voracious reader. Her favorite books to read and edit? You guessed it – mysteries!

You’ve made no secret of your love of cozies. What attracts you to this form?
To put it simply, no blood and guts. I have a really weak stomach. That goes for sex, too. In a cozy, I get a protagonist I can relate to - they're weak, too. I don't have to face all the violence and gore, and when there's a romance built-in, as there often is, I get the sweet old-fashioned hearts-and-flowers relationship, with not too much gore there either. It's the perfect world.

Is editing mysteries different from editing other fiction?
I actually chart the storylines to keep track of the clues, potential red herrings, and where the plot is moving. It can get very complicated, convoluted even, and the author has to wrap up all the assorted plots at least to some degree, or the reader won't be very satisfied. So it can get a little challenging, keeping it all straight. Of course, the more one reads mysteries, the easier it is to predict outcomes. I like the ones that slap me upside the head with a surprise ending. When I'm just editing, and not reading for pleasure, I read the first few chapters, and then the last. This helps me watch for clues throughout the book that lead me to the resolution. And, no, it doesn't spoil a good read! I hear all those gasps out there.

Are there special writing or editing challenges for different kinds of mysteries?
A couple of points come to mind. First, an editor has to develop a good "ear" for era. I love history mysteries, and nothing can pull a reader out of a story faster than a modern expression or word from the wrong time period. For example, a policeman would not issue an APB in 1925 because the acronym for All Points Bulletin didn't come into popular use until the 1960's. The technology for radios in police vehicles was brand new in the mid-twenties though, so that could be included, although probably in a large city setting, not a small village police department. That's just one example.

Mysteries are also often written in series, and one place an editor plays a useful role is in making sure facts and events from previous books are accurate to the current novel. You don't want uncomfortable loose ends from book-to-book. For example, if the protagonist began a romantic relationship in one book, the reader needs to know what happened to the love interest. The author can't just drop the situation in a subsequent book without some explanation. We are sharp - we remember everything! We'll want to know what happened to handsome Fred and why he's not dating Sally anymore.

For the last six weeks, Detectives Around the World has conducted a round-robin contest where readers are voting for their favorite all-time fictional detective. Who’s your favorite and why?
Most of my favorite sleuths are amateurs, and I have far too many modern names to list here. (Got out of that one quick, didn't I?) I love Jane Marple, of course, and even have the BBC videos with Joan Hickson who reminds me so much of my German Oma, it's uncanny. I think I inherited my love of mysteries from her - she always had a "crimmie" to hand.

Do you have a favorite Detective Jackson mystery?
The last one, of course. Which isn't even in print yet. Hehe. (Note to readers: Dani is a beta reader for the Detective Jackson mysteries.) It really is the best so far. Sometimes the third or fourth book in a series can lag a tiny bit, but not in this series. L.j. Sellers really put a tight thriller together, what I call "not quite cozy" because it's a police procedural. But she writes with sensitivity, so I can recommend them to any reader. I'm also enjoying the character development in this series. The reader gets to know these people, and they grow on an emotional level. We're not just given a fast plot and interesting, contemporary themes. Our regulars are changed by the events, and that shakes things up a bit more.

What do you enjoy more, reading, editing, writing, modeling, or painting?
None of the above, although I enjoy them all. I love brainstorming the best. I just wish I could get paid to do it.

Is there a question you always hope to be asked and never are?
How much shall I write that check for? Snort! I'm going to write that into a novel someday - the one entitled, In My Dreams.

Thanks a bunch, Dani! How much should I write that check for? Not.

And now for our readers' chance to win a copy of Secrets to Die For. Today's question - What is your favorite mystery novel or series and why?

Charlotte Phillips is the co-author of the Eva Baum Detective Series, many short stories, and contributor to multiple blogs. Learn more about Charlotte, her books, and her short stories at:

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  1. My favorite type of mysteries are the police or true crime mysteries.
    I enjoy trying to figure out who the criminal(s) is before the book is finished. I like to figure out what makes people do what they do .....
    Thank you for the opportunity!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  2. My favorite detectives are the Hardy boys. It's regarded as crap literature, mass-production written by ghost writers. I read all the books when I was a kid. I had to buy them or borrow from friends, since the librarian refused to have the books in the public library >:)

    Cold As Heaven

  3. I enjoyed learning more about Dani. She's like a good mystery: complex, compelling, and full of surprises.

  4. Loved this blog and some insight into Dani--more than what I've gotten from her posts on Facebook.


  5. Great interview with Dani!

    It's so hard to choose a #1 mystery or series when I have so many favorites. I'm a big fan of C. J. Box, William Ken Krueger, and Craig Johnson, plus a bunch of Colorado mystery writers. For a "favorite favorite", though I'd have to choose the old John D. McDonald Travis McGee series.

  6. Different mysteries for different moods, but Sue Grafton's Kelsey Milhone is good anytime. I mourn the loss of further stories about Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

  7. Great interview. Definitely learned a lot about mysteries, especially editing them.

  8. Like many others I am hard pressed to name just one series as a favorite. I really enjoy Robert Crais, Dennis Lehane, although he is no longer doing a series, John Sanford, Kent Krueger, P.D. James, Sue Grafton....

    The reason I like these series is that the characters grow and evolve as they face new challenges professionally and personally. The authors also work hard to give the reader something fresh each time.

  9. Thank-you, Dani, for sharing more of yourself. Your responses made the interview fun.

    Cold As Heaven - I can't believe a librarian would deny a reader the pleasure of the Hardy Boys. I pleased you didn't give up.

    Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites list. I love all mysteries - closed room, cozy, and seat-of-the-chair-nail-biting-thrillers. You've listed I few that are new to me. I'll check them out on my next trip to the library.


  10. Yep, you're definitely tops at brainstorming, Dani. ;-)

    My favourite mystery? Mmm, I might have to go slightly outside the genre and say "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" by Douglas Adams (genre: Sci-Fi Comedy). The mystery in that one kept me guessing all the way and the way Adams tied it all together at the end was inspired.

    Blood-Red Pencil

  11. I happily came into this blog via Patricia Stoltey. My brain-injured, disabled but very intelligent daughter loves the Amanda Pepper mysteries by Gillian Roberts. I LOVE them too. They're filled with wit, tension, surprises, and a quirky romance element between amateur sleuth Amanda and C. K. MacKenzie, a policeman whose mother named him C.K. because C. K. Dexter Haven in Philadelphia story is played by Cary Grant and the mother loves Gary Grant movies. Amanda teaches English in a Philadelphia private school whose students are rich and quirky. The titles hint at the wit in the books: e.g. Adam and Evil, Claire and Present Danger, Philly Stakes, Helen Hath No Fury etc etc. They are JUST delightful.

  12. Jumping in a wee bit late as I had a day trip to the city. I make this trip at least twice a month to load up on organic foods and hit a real library. I was disappointed that my copy of Susan Wittig Albert's latest China Bayles (Holly Blues) herbal mystery wasn't in yet. One of my all-time favorite cozy series. She has a new series coming out, too - the Darling Dahlias c. WW1 in Darling, Alabama. I doubt I'll find any era-errors in Susan's writing - she's a passionate researcher. I'm hoping she'll pay us a visit here this summer to talk about that series as part of her blog tour.

    Which begs the question, LJ. When are you starting a second series?

    Okay, I just remembered I need to go vote at the Detectives Around the World website. Did everyone beat me to it?



  13. Hey, there's a cool "scavenger hunt" going on at DATW - click on the photo in the blog post to link over there!

    This has been fun - thanks for letting us participate. :)


  14. Dani,
    That sounds like a good name for a book about an editor - In Your Dreams. Why don't you write it? It could be a tragedy or comedy, either way would work. (g)

    Morgan Mandel


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