The Mystery Writers (Interviews and Advice)

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Investing in advertising can be expensive but it pays off in the long run because those new fans will go on to buy all of your books. Also, I want to stress that you should spend most of your time writing more books. Did you design your own cover? How important do you think cover design is to a potential reader? I pick out all the artwork that goes on the covers from different stock photo sites and tell my cover artist where to place them. Then she puts the whole thing together and makes it look fabulous. These readers are browsing through hundreds of cover thumbnails to pick their next book and yours HAS to stand out or you will get passed by.

Be prepared to write a lot of books. The more books you have, the more chances you have for attracting readers. Most importantly - you must have a way to communicate with your readers so you can tell them about your next book. An author website with your books listed, an email list where they can sign up for emails and a Facebook fan page are essential. If you would like to find out more about Leighann Dobbs and her books, please visit her website.

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For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us about your books? Why did you choose to self-publish? Did you try the traditional route first? What do you think the greatest advantage of self-publishing is? How important do you feel interacting with your fans has been? Naturally, you have to write a good book that people will recommend to their friends. Finally, do you have any advice for writers looking to self-publish? Please contact the software manufacturer if you need assistance uninstalling or deactivating your software. If you saw the season-ending episode of Monk , do you remember the clue that helped catch the killer?

In the recent thriller Fractured , what was the mistake Anthony Hopkins made that proved he killed his wife? My point, and I do have one, is that often writers think the most important aspect of a good mystery is the ingenuity of the crime, the unraveling of the clues.

Which is why many writers are scared to death of even trying to write a mystery or thriller. Yes, viewers of mysteries and thrillers like tightly-plotted narratives, clever red herrings, and a certain element of surprise. And you should always strive to weave as many of these aspects into your whodunit or crime story as possible. But these factors are not what makes a mystery - any mystery - memorable. Think of films like Chinatown and Silence of the Lambs. As best-selling crime author Michael Connelly wrote, "The best mysteries are about the mystery of character.

Let's start with the basics: what is a mystery? In simplest terms, it's a story about the disruption of the social order. A crime against society is committed: a man is murdered, a bank is robbed, whatever. We, the viewer, want to know two things: who did it, and why. What do we really want? We want order restored. We want the violator of the social compact - the killer, the thief, the blackmailer - caught, so that things in our world are set right once more.

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And who do we want to do this? Our surrogate, the smarter, wittier, and more doggedly determined version of ourselves: the detective hero. Whether a street wise cop like Popeye Doyle in the French Connection , a sloppy homicide detective like TV's Columbo , or a tea-drinking, sweater-knitting old lady like Miss Marple, we want this one thing from our mystery protagonist above all others: we want order restored.

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But not just social order; the best mysteries, whether on Without A Trace or in Murder On the Orient Express , are also about the exploration and resolution of psychological tension. In other words, how do the characters interact?

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What do they want? For example, in most mysteries, whether a suspect is guilty of the crime or not, he or she invariably has a secret. A clandestine relationship, a trauma from the past that haunts them still, perhaps even a connection with the killer or the victim that helps complete an entire mosaic of possible motives, entanglements and intrigue.

Henry James famously said: "Plot is characters under stress. A further "turn of the screw" results when the murder comes under investigation by an outside agent - the hero or heroine, the cop or private eye - determined to ferret out the truth. Remember what it felt like when some kid broke a window at school and the principal gathered you and all your classmates together?

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Remember the mounting tension as the principal went down the line, interrogating each of you, sometimes even feigning humor or sympathy, but always with the relentless, eagle-eyed determination of a predator searching for his prey? Well, do the characters in your mystery or crime story feel that way?

How do they show it, to the camera, to each other, and to the detective? Or, perhaps more importantly, how do they attempt to conceal it? In most memorable mysteries, or in the best straight-ahead thrillers, this context of mutual suspicion and misdirection of motives is pivotal.

Interview with Leighann Dobbs

It's what keeps the suspense mounting for the viewer. Moreover, it's the crucial element that keeps the laying-in of necessary clues from seeming like a mere litany of exposition. Which is exactly what you, the mystery writer, wants most of all. Another important aspect of these types of films, as vital as that of the deceptive nature of the suspects, is the world the story inhabits.

All renowned mysteries from Laura to Twin Peaks to Witness for the Prosecution take place in a specific arena of life.

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The design industry, the rainy Pacific Northwest, the be-wigged world of British courtrooms. If you consider a film like All the President's Men a mystery, and I do, since it meets all the criteria, then the fascinating world of Washington politics is the backdrop. Recall, too, how the key to success for Columbo was the interaction of our rumpled hero with the nuances of the various worlds into which he ventured, from that of classical music to computer science, from Hollywood studios to military schools.

In my first book, In the Woods, more than anything, I was thinking about what clues would cause the most interesting series of reactions in Rob, my detective, rather than how various clues would fit into the solution to the crime. Which would lead him down the wrong trail? He is, himself, a scarred survivor, and he projects everything that he needs to see onto Rosalind, everything he wants to fix and heal and rewrite.

The fact that Rob does tells us a lot about him. Rewriting a red herring is the toughest part. I remember sitting there and swearing at my computer because I was going to have to go back and rewrite huge amounts of this damn book. The difference is, the actual solution has to be seeded more subtly. Now, how about the reader? Should she be fooled? Because of this atmosphere, her sense of reality has been sent off-kilter. She gets to the point where she sees herself as a persecuted warrior fighting off millions, and the red herrings that get her are anything that reinforce this narrative, anything that implies a dark and sinister conspiracy against her.

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