I’m very pleased to welcome author Liesa Malik to All Things Cozy. Five Star released Liesa’s cozy mystery, Faith On The Rocks, last month to a great reception. Congratulations, Liesa, on the success of your debut! And thank you for visiting us here at All Things Cozy.
Setting Plays A Cozy Role
Hi Jeanne and Friends,
Thanks for asking me here today. I’m thrilled to be a part of the “All Things Cozy” website, and would like to talk a little about setting in the cozy mystery.
Every story great and small has, to me, three major components: character, plot, and setting. We may excel, as authors, in one of the three areas, but to leave an element out would doom the writer’s project to any editor’s rejection pile.
Characters light up our lives. We care about them and their various flaws and strengths, their actions and how they make it through to the end of a book. Even things like “The Perfect Storm” or the shark from “Jaws” have personality that we root for or against.
And characters never stay exactly still in their progress through a book. They have plots to help them along—challenges, wins, and losses. Plot is life itself working with character to help us all learn a little more.
Then there’s setting. Would Scarlet O’Hara be anything more than a spoiled southern woman without the setting of Tara and the Civil War to add dimension to her life? What about the farm in “Charlotte’s Web” and how it gave us the security of everyday life there?
For me, I chose Littleton, Colorado, as the setting for Faith on the Rocks because it seemed so perfect for my needs:
• Location, location, location! – Many, if not most, mystery readers live in some form of suburbia today. We know that life here is a little quieter than the bustling city, but that it’s full of interest and interesting events just the same. I’d like to stay connected with readers and their experiences, so a suburban setting felt right. Plus, with Littleton only 8 miles from the big city of Denver, there are always possibilities for “big city crime” to creep into my work.
• Keep the story contained – I admire those who can place their mysteries in large places like New York or Los Angeles, but a cozy is more focused and needs a smaller setting in order to showcase the characters and their quirks. At least, that’s how I feel about it. Even television shows like The Mentalist, and Monk keep the focus in the police department setting more than the city at large. I keep my focus in Daisy’s house and car—two places I hope suburban readers could easily identify with.
• The name is important – I love playing with names. They help create a feeling immediately, and what could be cozier than a name like Littleton? What could be less threatening in a sleuth’s name than Daisy? Even police lieutenant Gabe Caerphilly (pronounced Carefully) is an angel name with a man who treads cautiously, where Daisy flings herself through the mystery.
• Easy research – Let’s face it. I’m not the most ambitious research person in the world. Plus, I love to experience a place that I’d write about. It was great fun to go walk along the Platte River and “see” where a nice murder could take place. I actually drove around town looking for a good spot before settling on the Platte. Then, I sat for a few minutes and jotted down what I heard, saw, smelled, and felt, just as if I were the victim, and these would be the last things I experienced in life. Very cool, and you can’t really get that from Internet sites or books.
• Room to grow – While I sprinkled names of real places throughout my book (again, for reader interest), I played the same game as J.K. Rowling, when she made Platform 9-3/4 at King’s Cross station. There is no Independence High, or Most Holy Saints church. It just seems like these places could exist, so I put them into the story.
From my publisher, I learned you can reference real celebrities, places, and products in your fiction work, but be careful not to contradict their public persona. In other words, be nice. And isn’t that what your mom always taught you anyway?
• Ulterior Motives – As part of another portion of my life, I like to paint watercolor pictures. I can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, by slinging along a camera when I go on research treks. I hope to use those photos for reference and turn some into sketches I can post on my website for my readers. Hopefully, this will give my site a more unique feel, and I can post my work there instead of on my fridge. I plan to start posting scans of my work in October or November.
• I love Littleton – Though not a native, I’ve lived in Littleton for the past 17 years. I’ve come to love the weather, the views, the people, the life here. Oh yes, Dallas, Tampa, London, and Detroit were all great too. But here, I’m comfy and cozy, and isn’t that just how a cozy mystery should be set?
Thanks again for having me visit, Jeanne. Best wishes on your upcoming mystery release, All Things Murder. Meanwhile, hoping for a cozy reading day for everyone.
Debut novelist Liesa Malik considers herself quite lucky to have been steeped in reading from an early age. Both her parents and teachers read widely and out loud to expose her to tales like A Secret Garden and Odysseus. She supplemented this with her own reading of children’s classics.
Liesa’s love of reading and interest in writing led to work on several school publications until graduating from the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications, Journalism.Today, Liesa lives in Littleton, Colorado with her husband, her German shepherd dog, and her wonderfully cranky cat. Weekly calls with her daughter and granddaughter keep Liesa up-to-date on what’s another new “good read,” and introduces her to her next best friend–a great book.