Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blasting My Cozy Label

Cozy, yes
A lot of authors who write traditional softer mysteries don't mind being labeled a "cozy" author. Others dislike the label intensely.  I've always said I didn't care what people called me as long as they bought my books. Worked for me.

Now, more than a dozen years into my writing career, I'm finding I dislike the cozy label. Not because I have a dislike for the word (which I don't), but because it fits like a pair of size 6 shoes on size 9 feet.

In other words, it's cramping my style!

Let's review the evidence, shall we?

Out November 2016!
A cozy novel is one in which the violence and sex are not displayed on the page. There is no gore, profanity, or highly charged adult themes. Most take place in a small geographic area with an amateur sleuth playing the lead. Often they are humorous.  My Ghost of Granny Apples series fits this bill perfectly, except for maybe the geographic thing.

My Odelia Grey books are more "soft boiled," meaning that they often do contain violence, some profanity, and adult themes on the page, but not very often graphically described.

Definitely Not!
The Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries are more "medium boiled" maybe even leaning a bit beyond that. There is quite a bit of profanity, sex and violence on the page, and the books are very dark in feel and setting. Far from cozy, as this review of MURDER IN VEIN on Amazon will assure you:

I have enjoyed Jaffarian's other books and thought I'd give it a try. Mistake. Please don't think you're going to get anything like what you have gotten from her other series. Bloody, nasty, and totally unlikeable. I only gave the one star because there isn't apparently a way to give a book ZERO stars.

 Frankly, I don't understand why the cover of this book or the back copy didn't give this reader a clue. It is about VAMPIRES after all!  Even though it had my name on the cover, she should have been smart enough to see that it was not a cozy.  Although I beg to differ about the "totally unlikeable" comment. Other folks have loved this book, and even several years later, I continue almost daily to get requests  to continue the series. (BTW, expect to see the 3rd book in the series, BETRAYED BY BLOOD, in the next 12-18 months.)

Warning: BETRAYED BY BLOOD will NOT be a cozy or even soft-boiled. Trust me on this!

Cozy? Duh, what do you think?
My new Winnie Wilde series, written under the pen name of Meg Chambers, is definitely not cozy. It's a steamy, often erotic romance series.  In fact, one of the covers recently got me bumped from being included in an interview!   (BTW, I've recently moved the release of the 2nd book in this series, WILDE WOMEN, to early 2016, since I have a couple of other books coming out between now and the end of 2015.)

My short stories are a mixed bag, both in genre and level of adult themes. Although not hard-core, they run the gamut of mild to thrilling, often with sex, profanity and even some drug use.

Now here's a twist. As I've said above, my Ghost of Granny Apples books are cozy, BUT in December Penguin is releasing THE GHOST OF MISTLETOE MARY, a novella that is definitely not a cozy, unless hookers and the homeless on Skid Row in Los Angeles are you definition of "cozy." It's not full of profanity, but there's definitely violence and very tough topics on the page. Not to mention, the protagonist is a professional P.I., not an amateur sleuth.
Out December 2016, but
not a cozy Christmas story

And wait until you see the new projects I have planned for the future!

I never set out to be a "cozy" author. I didn't even know what the term meant when I first became published, and was rather surprised to see it stick to me like a gummy booger to an index finger.

I write.


I write the stories and characters that present themselves to the writing side of my brain. Sometimes they are soft in nature. Sometimes not. If there is a common thread running through any of these books and stories, I'd like to think it's good character development, a well-thought out plot, and humor ranging from mild to bust-a-gut. I can't seem to write a book without including humor of some sort, but a lot of writers write humor and are NOT labeled cozy. (Oh, but those are mostly men ... just saying. )

While I won't assault anyone who calls me a "cozy author," based on the above evidence, I'd like to be referred to in the future simply as "Sue Ann Jaffarian, author." I am not only a cozy author. I also don't write only mysteries. I'm an author who writes many things, including some cozies, so it's not fair to me, or to readers, to stick me in a small box and stick a label on that box.

You're not mailing me. You're reading me.

My favorite professional review ever came from Kirkus and referred to MURDER IN VEIN, but more importantly, I feel the reviewer got me and my writing:

 Like Stuart Kaminsky, 
Jaffarian juggles her franchises deftly, 
giving each a unique voice and appeal. – Kirkus 


Mark Baker said...

Honestly, I wish more men would write cozies.

But your main point is spot on. An author should never feel confined to a box because of what they've written in the past. I'm really looking forward to Mistletoe Mary, and I enjoy some darker themes at times. In fact, there are several "cozy" authors who do make their books deeper, and I enjoy them for it.

Crafty Damn Hero said...

I totally agree with this post! I was surprised to find Odelia filed under "cozy" just because one of your other series' are. Vampires aren't "cozy" lol. And as you said, your books don't fit the definition.
Is there any way to avoid being type-"cast" in this way? It's unfortunate that it happens to authors so often.