Author Angela Henry talks about Mystery Writing

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Schooled In LiesReaders, please join me welcoming Angela Henry, author of Schooled In Lies, who's guest blogging here today.

About the Book - GED instructor Kendra Clayton's high school days were nothing to brag about. So she's not too thrilled when on top of having to take a class to renew her teaching certificate or be fired, she gets roped into serving on her high school's reunion committee. Spending time with her former classmates is even less fun than having a root canal. Then to make matters worse, Kendra and the other committee members start receiving strange messages and having freak accidents. When one of the accidents results in a death, Kendra is convinced it's murder. Unfortunately, neither the reunion committee nor the police take her seriously. To try and prevent another death-and to keep from worrying about all the time her sweetie, Carl, has been spending with his scheming ex-wife-Kendra digs into the lives of her fellow committee members and uncovers enough secrets, lies, and betrayal to make her head spin. When a second murder occurs, Kendra realizes she needs to watch her back in her search for the truth before a killer turns her into another buried secret.

The Mystery Writer’s Challenge 

I recently finished my sixth book. And I’ve realized that although I still love writing mysteries, it’s getting harder and harder to do. Maybe it’s because I’ve chosen to write a mystery series and am feeling the pressure to keep my characters fresh and my plots tight. And it’s made even more difficult since I write a series featuring an amateur sleuth. I have to constantly come up with reasons for her to get involved in the investigation. Or maybe it’s because writing mysteries is difficult, period.

You see it’s not enough to have a murderer and a victim in a mystery novel. You have to have motivation and suspects. The victim has to have a reason for being a victim. The suspects have to have plausible reasons why they are suspects. The motives and the deception of the suspects has to be revealed in increasingly inventive ways to not only keep the pace of the book moving forward, but to sustain the interest of the readers.

Then there are the red herrings. Red herrings are thrown in to throw the fictional sleuth—and the readers—off and lead them in the wrong direction. The red herrings have to be well placed, and if well done, should ultimately get the sleuth headed back in the right direction. Poorly handled red herrings can take the plot so far off track it can alienate the readers, and ruin the book.

Then there’s are the subplots, the other storylines that are running parallel to the main plot. These storylines usually include some kind of romantic complication, or job/family/health issues, or all of the above, for the main character—or persons close to the main character. Sometimes the subplots can tie into the main plot, sometimes not. However they are handled, they are a necessary part of the book as a whole and can even sometimes be developed into main plots for the following book.

I think the biggest challenge of writing a mystery is laying out all the clues so in the end the reader will realize the answer was there in front of them all along. I never want readers to feel I’ve cheated them by pulling the culprit out of thin air in the last few pages of the book. I want them to be able to follow all the evidence and figure it out. So, in retrospect, I guess it’s not hard at all to see why it’s getting harder and harder to do with each book. But when I hold that new book in my hands, I almost forget all about the challenges. Until, I have to do it again.

BIO: Angela Henry was once told that her past life careers included spy, researcher, and investigator. She stuck with what she knew because today she's a mystery writing librarian, who loves to people watch and eavesdrop on conversations. She's the author of four mysteries featuring equally nosy amateur sleuth Kendra Clayton, and is also the founder of the award-winning MystNoir website, which promotes African-American mystery writers, and was named a "Hot Site" by USA When she's not working, writing, or practicing her stealth, she loves to travel, is connoisseur of B horror movies, and an admitted anime addict. She lives in Ohio and is currently hard at work trying to meet her next deadline. You can visit Angela online at:
True, very true, Angela. And yet, you clever author somehow manage to do that every single time. Kudos for having that kind of deviousness, for otherwise where would poor us mystery fans be?

Disclosure - This guest post is part of a blog tour organized by Pump up your book promotion.
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1 People said

  1. I enjoyed reading about writing mystery novels. I can imagine how hard this would be.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com


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