Today, I’m featuring an interview with cozy mystery author, Connie B. Dowell. She’s the author of the Emma and Dessie Mysteries and the Millie Monroe Mysteries. She’s also written a book on how to get the words down when you’re a parent without childcare, a topic she knows well as a mom of preschoolers. And if all that didn’t keep her busy enough, she also hosts Book Echos, a podcast for authors.
You’ll want to hear what Connie has to say about writing, penguins and cookies, so grab a beverage and a snack, find yourself a comfy chair, and have a read below.
Interview with Connie B. Dowell
1 – You’ve previously published YA mysteries. What inspired you to start writing cozies? What differences / similarities do you see between the two?
I started out publishing historical mysteries aimed at a YA audience, but they were very much inspired by the cozy and traditional mysteries I grew up reading. The lovely thing about YA is that you can publish in any genre, because YA is about the life stage of the characters, not the genre. However, about the time, an idea for a contemporary cozy mystery series started percolating, I did some surveys of my audience. It turns out they were big cozy fans and not as many were YA—and these are the folks who love my books! So I’m retooling a lot of my packaging and marketing of these books for a historical cozy audience, but like most cozies, all my books remain teen-friendly in content. It’s come with a nice bonus that I can age my characters a little more rapidly and explore what college life was like for some of the first women to attend the University of Georgia in the 1920s.
There’s some difference in expectations for the two markets. YA tends to expect more romance elements, and my historical book 1 was very light on that, perhaps why it appealed more to adult cozy readers. Also, there’s some plot challenges with writing YA versus adult mysteries. You have to come up with reasons to give your characters enough independence to find clues and talk to suspects and witnesses.
2 – What’s your favorite thing about cozy mysteries?
I adore the combination of setting and puzzle. That’s what keeps me coming back to cozies and looking for cozies set in new and interesting places and around interesting activities.
3 – Do you have any writing rituals?
I do most of my writing with two preschoolers underfoot, so I can’t be too picky about rituals. Gotta grab the words while I can. What I do as a habit, though, is micro outline my scenes before I start writing. Then, I dictate the actual words. It took a long time to feel comfortable dictating, but it has made writing while watching the kids in the backyard much easier.
4 – What’s more important – character or plot?
Character. Plot will pull me into a story but character will keep me there, and keep me coming back for more in the series.
5 – What do you like best about being an author? What do you like the least?
I love seeing people engage with my stories and have fun in the whacky worlds I’ve come up with just out of my head.
My least favorite part of being an author is a lot of the little administrative tasks I end up doing, but It’s all part of doing the job I love.
6 – What’s your favorite cookie? If you don’t like cookies, what’s wrong with you? Oops, sorry, scratch that. My follow-up question was meant to be far more polite – “Why don’t you like cookies?”
Snickerdoodle, hands down. Best flavor: cinnamon. Best name. What could be cozier than a cookie called snickerdoodle?
7 – A penguin walks through your front door wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why did he come visit you?
Actually, penguin with a sombrero is one of my husband’s habitual doodles! So I’d assume he’d speak with Steve’s voice and say “Steve found a magic pencil.” Just like the episode of Spongebob. There’d probably be an animated tic-tac-toe and some sketchy cats coming in next.
8 – What else would you like us to know about you?
I have a podcast for authors called Book Echoes where I feature author interviews and tips on all aspects of the writing life. New episodes on Wednesdays.
Years ago, I used to be a bookmobile driver in rural five-county area. It was a fun job for a grad student, and after hearing folks tell me multiple times that it sounded like the perfect inspiration for a cozy mystery series, I finally started work on the Millie Monroe Mysteries, launching in late February. It’s been great fun reliving my youth but with a murdery twist.
Connie B. Dowell writes contemporary and historical cozy mysteries as well as nonfiction for writers. When not writing or wrangling preschoolers, she plays violin badly and bakes weird concoctions. She and her family live in Central Virginia where both adults drink far more coffee than is probably wise.
Editor’s Note: Thanks so much for the interview, Connie! How fascinating that you used to drive a bookmobile! I love snidkerdoodle cookies too, especially the ones my sister makes.