Apr 192012
Today I have a guest post from Alyssa Lyons, author of several books, where she reveals some confessions of a mystery writer.

I write “chick mystery.” This is cozy mystery except the amateur detective is younger and hipper than in the traditional cozy. Jordan Davis is a motorcycle-riding, catsuit-wearing entrepreneur, although she does love chai tea and small dogs. Chick mystery also has a healthy dose of hot sex in the mix. Think a young “Murder She Wrote” in stilettos.

I started as a romance novelist, the genesis of so many female authors because so many resources are available. I’ve had a number of romances published under other names. But starting with The Tattooed Man and Todd Moran, Danny Dunn or Nancy Drew, I never stopped reading mysteries and thrillers.

A few years ago, I realized I had a knack for writing mysteries with a strong dose of romance. I dug under the bed for an unfinished mystery I had started several years ago with a co-writer. After substantial reworking, it morphed into a faster paced, darker and sexier story, but still with romance and humor elements. I was invited to submit to Black Opal Books, a new small press, sold Last Wishes and got a contract for two sequels.

For the first time in my career, I had a multi-book contract. When you’ve sold everything before one by one this is heady. It also forces you to actually have to write the additional books. The nice part about writing a series is your main characters don’t have to be created from scratch each time, although you get to explore new dimensions of them.

My first Jordan Davis Mystery, Last Wishes, was released in March 2011. The second, Clubbed to Death, was released in May 2011. The third, Stabbed and Slabbed, came out in September 2011. The fourth book, still untitled, should be out this summer.

Jordan Ashley Davis is named after my eldest grandchild. Trent is the last name of a prominent Lynchburg family (there is a road called Trent’s Ferry in the Boonsboro section of town). Libby, Grayson Trent’s mother, is named after my late centenarian mother-in-law. The religious wheeler-dealer Reverend Sippard derives from his family’s history as bootleggers. FBI agent Paige Sidney, who appears in Clubbed to Death, is named after my other two granddaughters. Other names were chosen because they sounded right for the characters.

The stories are set in Lynchburg, which is a real city in Central Virginia. The places are real, using the real name might cause a scandal. After all, the only real sin in the South is rudeness, and it’s unforgivable. The city itself is a character, like Bay City, the thinly disguised Santa Monica of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer mysteries. I wanted the flavor of a city in the New South that is kicking and screaming its way into the Twenty-first Century without forgetting its Nineteenth Century traditions.

But town or no town, it all starts with Jordan Davis. What kind of woman would quit medical school to take care of her dying mother? Who would go into the business of granting the last wishes of her clients, even if it means bending a few laws to get the funeral or memorial done right? What kind of woman would install a safety cage on the rear of her motorcycle so her miniature schnauzer, in a leather motorcycle jacket and helmet, could go cruising US 460 with her? And who, if she discovered one of her clients was murdered would move Heaven and Earth and an immutable, straight-laced judge, to discover who the murderer is? Throw in being the love child of her father’s mistress and a Jew in Jerry Falwell country for lagniappe. That’s the type of woman Jordan Ashley Davis is. One of a kind.

Grayson Trent is the kind of hero any reader can love. He’s handsome, hot, and sexy without being obvious about it. I love how Jordan gets him to loosen up. He’s a Southerner who escaped the South, but found, like being in the Mafia, the moment you think you’re out you’re drawn back in.

I hope to provide new and scary villains in each Jordan Davis mystery. I want my murderers to be a surprise and maybe even get away with it if the victim “needs killing.” And sometimes Jordan and her partner Gray are suspects, making finding the killer personally necessary.

Mysteries take the most careful pre-planning of any genre. You have to keep the reader guessing, the timeline straight, the red herrings convincing and the resolution logical. It would be very difficult for a true “pantser” writer to write a mystery improvisationally.

I confess—I love writing mysteries with a strong dose of romance. I want to keep writing Jordan stories as long as readers want to read them. I get a chance to have my main characters grow and develop as I go along, carry their history with them as the series progresses, as well as continue to interact with Lynchburg. I also love having my books available in both electronic and print forms so every reader can read them.

About Alyssa Lyons
Alyssa Lyons, like her character Jordan Davis, lives in Lynchburg, Virginia. The South is her playground. Its eccentricities fuel her stories. She specializes in “Solving Crimes Southern Style.” However unlike Jordan, she is a cat person—rather she is staff to an unherdable herd of rescue cats. Like most cats, they believe they were the ones doing the saving and therefore she owes them. She taught high school American history and government, worked for the CIA, and is a retired attorney. Or as she is fond of saying, “I am a recovering attorney.”

You can read about Jordan’s adventures in solving crime “Southern Style” in Last WishesClubbed to Death, and Stabbed and Slabbed. You can reach Alyssa at her website and blog.  Her books are available at Black Opal Books and all major e-book retailers.

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