Back in the days when we could mingle freely, Eileen Watkins and I often crossed paths. Her cat cozies are great fun and (like mine) draw on real cats for inspiration. So when I heard she had a new book out, CLAW & DISORDER,I knew I wanted to share the news.
PUSHING THE “COZY” BOUNDARIES
By Eileen Watkins
It might surprise people familiar with my current Cat Groomer Mystery series to find out that I started out writing fairly gritty paranormal thrillers. I transitioned through two cozier paranormal mysteries before taking on my current series. But I still find myself a little bored by a “cozy” in which nothing very shocking happens, and there’s no real threat to the sleuth or anyone she cares very much about. I can’t shake the conviction that a murder mystery should still be at least a little scary!
Many such plots revolve not only around one very “safe” location and the protagonist’s immediate family and social circle. I can’t help feeling this strains credibility, because while anyone could be unlucky enough to have one murder occur in their normal, sane family or their quiet, respectable neighborhood, what are the odds of that happening again and again?
My series has been called realistic, and I don’t think that’s just because of the details I include about felines. Cassie’s job grooming and boarding cats brings her in contact with a wide range of people, so the felons are usually folks she hasn’t dealt with before and probably won’t encounter again (some will be behind bars). And being both smart and desperate, they place her in some life-threatening situations. Cassie escapes through her wits, but also because she maintains a convenient friendship with her town’s female police detective. Reviewers also have expressed relief that Cassie is not dating anyone in law enforcement, and that my books do not make the local cops look like idiots. Her main advantages are that she can mingle in different situations, keeping her eyes and ears open, and that people may confide in her more readily than in the police.
I’m pretty comfortable with the cozy boundaries for sex, violence and bad language. Cassie develops a relationship with the hunky local vet, and it’s implied that he stays over at her place or vice versa a couple of times a week, but the are no sex scenes. Some deaths are violent, but if they were gory we don’t see the bodies. I let a “hell” or a “damn” slip sometimes, most often when a male character is pushed to his limit, but if a villain blows his top I’m happy just to say that he “let fly a string of expletives.”
Finally, I believe that murders in real life usually occur when there’s something big at stake. Cozy writers are sometimes advised to kill off only mean characters, but I feel there’s greater motivation to solve the crime and get justice for a likeable character. The killer also appears more evil if he bumped off some innocent person who just got in the way. I’ve had likeable victims targeted for the political beliefs, because they knew too much, or just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I sometimes also tackle “disturbing” topics, such as a stalker obsessed with a pop singer or party drugs circulating in a suburban town. In my newest book, CLAW & DISORDER, I deal with two households where the owners have “material” issues—an elderly, ailing pair of hoarders, and a wealthy lady whose perfectionism is driving everyone around her insane.
It’s a good thing Cassie majored in Psychology in college and can stay one step ahead of them! The best thing about writing a cozy is that you can make everything come out (more or less) right in the end.
Eileen Watkins writes the Cat Groomer Mysteries, including The Persian Always Meows Twice, The Bengal Identity,Feral Attraction, Gone, Kitty, Gone and Claw & Disorder, for Kensington Publishing. The first four all have received Certificates of Excellence from the national Cat Writers’ Association. She previously published eight stand-alone mystery and suspense novels with Amber Quill Press, several of which won EPIC and Indie book awards in the Paranormal category. Eileen worked for daily newspapers for most of her career, writing and editing stories on fine art, architecture, interior design and home improvement. A confirmed “Jersey Girl” and animal lover, she has always shared her home with at least one cat and makes regular visits to the nearest riding stable. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit her online at www.efwatkins.com.