Sunday, December 2, 2012

Light or Dark? A Tale Of Two Books


I am happy. Today is release day for my first hardcover in years – a cozy mystery called EXERCISE IS MURDER coming from Five Star/Gale Cengage Publishing. Who doesn’t like Release Day? My story is going out into the world, which I hope will treat it kindly and everyone buys lots and lots of copies!
Compared to my October release – BEADED TO DEATH, Carina Press – EXERCISE IS MURDER is darker and more realistic. BEADED is much more lighthearted.
So why is one story darker? Same writer, roughly same length, roughly same socio-economic setting – what’s the difference?
I’ll be honest – I don’t know. Both deal with heavy issues – politics and infidelity and murder in EXERCISE, drug dealing and murder in BEADED. I can’t tell you why one turned out lighter than the other. I just know that when I was writing BEADED it was a struggle to keep the story from going into farce. Of course, the 7’3” nephew on the run from an unwanted basketball scholarship helped. That is hardly a realistic circumstance.
But on the other hand, a harmless plumber’s widow being brutally murdered in the middle of an exclusive exercise class in a very expensive condominium is not very realistic either. When I was working on EXERCISE it was hard to keep the story as light as it is. The characters each had so many problems – and motives – it was difficult to keep the story from falling into a morass of noir. Yet a reviewer – a lady whose taste and judgment I have admired for years – called it a ‘laugh-filled romp.’
One person’s romp is another’s whatever… etc.
So if I have learned anything in this writing life it is that the story will tell itself. Oh, we writers have to spell and watch POV and make sure the names and the tenses are straight, but it is the story and the characters themselves who decide if a story is light or dark. No amount of cute descriptions or a running barrage of jokes is going to change the basic tenor of the story.
As writers we are accustomed to being in control. We know our characters, we decide where and when and how things are going to happen – most of the time. Sometimes we just have to hang on and let things go as they may. That’s when the magic of writing occurs.
If I were a pushy publicist type, I’d suggest that you read both BEADED TO DEATH and EXERCISE IS MURDER and compare the two. I’d urge you to explore the difference of shadings, and ask you to let me know what you think.
That, however, would be utter commercialism. Besides, you’re very astute and learned readers – you’ve probably already thought of it yourself.
At least, I hope so.
In any case, share my joy in this release week for EXERCISE IS MURDER. Thanks for coming by!


Janis Patterson is a seventh-generation Texan and a third-generation wordsmith who writes mysteries as Janis Patterson, romances and other things as Janis Susan May, children’s books as Janis Susan Patterson and scholarly works as J.S.M. Patterson.
          Formerly an actress and singer, a talent agent and Supervisor of Accessioning for a bio-genetic DNA testing lab, Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist.
          Janis married for the first time when most of her contemporaries were becoming grandmothers. Her husband, also an Egyptophile, even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in Texas with an assortment of rescued furbabies.

www.JanisPattersonMysteries.com

14 comments:

Marcelle Dubé said...

Congratulations on the release of Exercise is Murder! I believe you're right -- the story will be what it wants to be. Your subconscious may well be directing from the sidelines, however. :-)

Anne Marie Becker said...

I'm sharing your joy, Janis! :) Congratulations on the release!

The light/dark thing is fascinating to me. I am constantly trying to put the right balance into my Mindhunters series (which is pretty dark - especially the serial killers' POVs). But sometimes I tend toward more "adventure" than psychological thriller. Perhaps my next series will be lighter. ;)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

It's interesting how different reviewers see the same novel in a totally opposite way. I had the same experience with my paranormal Regency romance also published by Five Star/Gale. One reviewer called it "a delicious romp" while another felt it was "darkly passionate." Dark or light, good is all that matters. Congrats and best of luck with the new release.

Ellen Larson said...

Congratulations! And the more reviews, the better!

Morgan Mandel said...

You're right. No matter how we originally envisioned a story, it will tell itself that way it wants to!

Congratulations, Girl! You are certainly busy and productive!

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com

Roxy Boroughs said...

Congrats! Great that your covers managed to give the correct idea of tone, while still being similar enough to look like they came from the same author.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Both books sound intriguing. I think it's the tone that determines if a story is dark or light. Interesting, that some of us write both light and dark mysteries. Good luck with your new release.

Kathy Ivan said...

The characters themselves tend to guide my stories, whether darker or lighter. Of course the subject matter, i.e. murder, kidnapping, etc. tend to run darker anyway, but injecting a bit of lightness and humor just makes the scarier parts that much scarier.

Congratulations again on your latest release. :-)

Janni Nell said...

Yay! Another Janis Patterson mystery is always cause for celebration.

Sally Felt said...

I've had the same experience when speaking to you, Susan. Sometimes dark, sometimes light, and always with massive intelligence that has me crossing my fingers you aren't working nefarious schemes that will cause puppies to sicken and little old ladies to explode.

Um, you aren't, right? Right?

Janis Susan Patterson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Janis Susan Patterson said...

I deleted the first version of this post because just after it went up I realized I had left out two very small but essential words, without which all was meaningless.

Hey, it's late in the day and I've been working all day... Sorry. What I meant to say was :

Thank you for all your comments - you make me feel so very special. I know most of you and feel proud to have all of you as friends.

And Sally... all I can say is hehhehheh, with a small tight smile!

Earl Staggs said...

I like what you said about a story wanting to tell itself. I love it when that happens.

Big Time Congrats on the release and best wishes for tons of sales.

Shirley Wells said...

Congratulations on your new release, Janis. I'm sharing your joy!

This dark and light thing is fascinating. Stories will be what they need to be - and reviewers will see them differently anyway. I saw two reviews for one of my mysteries on the same day. One called it "a dark psychological thriller" and the other "a fine cozy British mystery". :)