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Home > Book, Humor, Mystery > Indie Saturday – Author Elaine L. Orr on her Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series

Indie Saturday – Author Elaine L. Orr on her Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series

Today, we have author Elaine L. Orr featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for her Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery series which currently has three books out – Appraisal for Murder, Rekindling Motives and When the Carny Comes to Town – and a fourth, Any Port in a Storm, out soon.


Elaine L. Orr writes :

Cozy mysteries are as much fun to write as they are to read. You get to create and solve a puzzle, but if there is a description of a murder victim it generally does not involve gory autopsy details or discussion of the life cycle of maggots. For the writer, there is more flexibility than in police procedurals, where officers cannot stray too far out of bounds without jeopardizing a case. No one worries about a warrant when an amateur sleuth is listening at the keyhole.

The less rigid structure does not mean I ignore authenticity. For example, the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series, which I self-publish, is set in a (mythical) New Jersey beach town. When there is a hearing it had better use terminology that would be heard in a New Jersey courtroom. I found a book entitled You and the Law in New Jersey, which has a general discussion of the state’s criminal justice system and is geared to issues the average person could face. It’s perfect for what I (and my characters) need. Authenticity is important for the setting, too. The characters cannot refer to a rocky shoreline — that’s Maine. Think of how annoying it is to see palm trees and mountains on the NCIS television show. They supposed to be in Washington, DC and Virginia, not California! Readers have the same reaction when authors are sloppy.

Most authors consider one of their books a favorite. Mine (so far) is Rekindling Motives, the second book in the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. The idea — having Jolie discover a skeleton for a man who had been missing since Prohibition days — percolated for a long time. I’d write a few thousand words, take a big consulting assignment for my day job, write a couple months later, and so on for more than two years. Eventually I decided to stop thinking of writing as a reward for other work and tackle the series as if it were a job. Then it was even more fun.

I issued the first two books in the series in October and November 2011. I could pretend that I deliberately held Appraisal for Murder until Rekindling Motives was complete, but that would be an exaggeration. After a point I stopped trying to market the first book and was pleased it had not sold — I could do more foreshadowing in the first book, and Jolie, Scoobie, Aunt Madge and the other characters went through some changes that led to a better first book in the series as I worked on the second.

You never know when something will influence your writing. At the 2011 Midwest Writer’s Conference in Muncie, Indiana, I took a one-day course with Mike Lawson, who writes the Joe Demarco political thriller series. Several times he referred to the importance of the first sentence and paragraph. Ok, we all “know that,” right? Probably, but something about listening to how he put it led me to write an entirely different first paragraph for Appraisal for Murder. It is much better and draws a reader more directly into the story. That’s always the tradeoff, when is a book done? No wisdom here, just a willingness to stay open to more ideas.

Writing a series can be the height of vanity. Why should I assume readers will want more of a group of characters in a New Jersey beach town? Because the Jolie Gentil series combines a whodunit with friendship and humor. While there is nothing remotely autobiographical in the series, it marks the first time I decided a couple characters could have a sense of humor similar to mine, so the writing is more natural for me.

Now comes the bigger challenge. When the Carny Comes to Town came out in February and I’m working on the fourth book, Any Port in a Storm. Time, as in the passing of it, is a question with which I have not fully grappled. The first few books take place over time, but if time keeps passing some of the older characters will either have to die or spend time in the local nursing home. That could be a setting for another murder — just have Aunt Madge help investigate crimes in the nursing home kitchen. Kidding aside, I have to decide to make my characters stay in one point in time (as Sue Grafton did with the Kinsey Milhone series) or age. It’s a tough question.

There are lots of things to consider in growing a series, including an ending point. So far, I enjoy the characters enough to keep working with them, and reader feedback indicates they want to know how much trouble they can manage in the next book. I would love to hear your thoughts on Jolie, Scoobie, Aunt Madge and the other residents of Ocean Alley.

Elaine L. Orr has been writing fiction for more than 20 years, and began “seriously” publishing in 2010. She is a former analyst and finds those critical thinking skills are handy when she is developing plots. Characters speak for themselves. The first mysteries she read were the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy series, and she graduated to Mary Stewart after seeing the movie “Moonspinners.” Her favorite mystery authors are Margaret Maron, Robert Parker, and Sue Grafton. Her books are with all major ebook retailers and paperbacks are published by Create Space. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and regular attendee at the annual Midwest Writers Conference in Indiana.


Appraisal for Murder (Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series #1) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Rekindling Motives (Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series #2) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. When the Carny Comes to Town (Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series #3) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. Check out her Amazon author’s page for more info! Elaine’s books are also available at Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

To learn more about Elaine L. Orr, follow Elaine on her website: http://elaineorr.com/. Elaine also regularly blogs on Irish Roots Author and you can also follow her on Twitter: @elaineorr55. Drop by and say hi to her!

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Do you want to be a featured ‘Indie Saturday’ author too? Go here for more info!

Read an embedded sample of “When the Carny Comes to Town” after the jump!


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