Writing Mysteries With Elizabeth Spann Craig

Today’s podcast is focused on mysteries, a massively popular genre!

In the intro, I mention the Pentecost launch, how to create a book trailer and also my new blog, MysteryThriller.tv – for lovers of the mystery and thriller genres.

Elizabeth Spann Craig is the author of 3 mystery novels. Her latest, Delicious and Suspicious came out under the pen name Riley Adams with Berkley Prime Crime. Elizabeth is also a blogger and very active on Twitter with her useful links for writers.

You can also view part of the interview on video at MysteryThriller.tv

In this podcast, you will learn:

  • How Elizabeth started with writing, and how she started with journalism but always wanted to write a book. There was never a perfect time to write a book, so eventually Elizabeth just committed to a page a day in between looking after her young children.
  • On her publishing journey. Agent search didn’t work so well so she targeted publishers directly. After working with a local publisher, she submitted to some bigger mystery publishers, eventually ended up with Penguin through the slush pile.
  • What is a cozy mystery? It focuses on an amateur sleuth and on the puzzle. There are no forensics and no gory crime scene, no overt violence. The focus is often a small town, and the setting makes a difference.
  • Why mysteries specifically? Elizabeth loves the interactivity of the mystery where you can follow with the sleuth in solving it. Seeing the loose ends tied up.
  • On how clues are set up within a mystery, and how red herrings fit in. Elizabeth comes up with a lot of clues and makes the story up as she goes along. All of the suspects must have very good reasons to do it, so the clues vs red herrings are confusing. The clues should be there but not too obvious. It’s got to be a puzzle worth solving.
  • How forensic TV shows have changed the readership for mysteries. Readers are more savvy and can know more about forensics etc than the author. But it’s still the same skill-set.
  • Tips for writing mystery. Have a good sleuth who just jumps off the page. They need to be gifted amateurs for a  cozy mystery and should have depth. A sidekick is brilliant as they enable the sleuth to talk about the crime. Dialogue between the 2 can be excellent for the “I wonder who did it” discussions. The red herrings need to be in the plot but don’t take them so far that it is frustrating for the reader. The clues should be there from the beginning. You can’t introduce the murderer at the end. Be fair with the reader. On setting and number of suspects. You can’t have too few or too many.
  • On originality in mysteries vs the ‘rules’ of the genre. You have to keep to the rules, but you also have to stand out.
  • On how Elizabeth uses Twitter for marketing. She tweets writing links to help writers and connect them with other resources. You can follow Elizabeth here @elizabethscraig to read writing and publishing links. She uses SocialOomph to schedule links (which I also use). She also slips in promotional links to her blog posts and books but only subtly. Her latest book ‘Delicious & Suspicious’ had great pre-orders and people connected with her on Twitter so there is evidence for twitter being an effective marketing platform. In addition, Elizabeth feels she is growing as a writer through the information and also developing relationships. It’s worth the investment of time.
  • On other forms of marketing. Elizabeth is also blogging and has a Facebook page for her author names. She has done physical book tours (although we both acknowledge that the online social media is the easiest and most effective). When you’re online, you can target your niche vs sitting in a bookstore feeling sad.

You can find Elizabeth’s latest book ‘Delicious & Suspicious’ (under the pen-name Riley Adams) on Amazon.com here.

Blog: Mystery writing is murder

Twitter: @elizabethscraig

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  1. says

    Thank you so much for this interesting interview. In 2009 I wrote and self-published a cozy mystery–Maynely A Mystery.
    It’s so exciting that you’ll receive your review copy. Congratulations. I have exciting news of my own–my thriller The Sweater Curse was published on January 10, 2011.
    I love to have you visit my blog. I started blogging in October and I’ve already reached 3, 000 page views.
    Off to check out your new blog, Joanna and your blog Elizabeth.
    All the best,

  2. says

    A further piece of information about Elizabeth is that she’s very helpful to new writers. Someone put me in touch with Elizabeth for advice about blogging and she shared lots of tips and ideas. Great to see her featured.


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