Originally Published: December 12, 2013 6 a.m.
PRESCOTT - Three local mystery writers, three styles, and one panel discussion.
Mysteries run the gamut from forensic procedurals to "cozies," a term that often refers to the work of Agatha Christie and similar writers. Television shows, such as Castle, Sherlock, Law and Order and more, satisfy that craving for the unknown on a weekly basis. With so many styles to choose from, myriad influences with every new show and novel, how does one determine the right mystery to write?
Authors Susan Lanning, Scott Mies, and Al Lodwick share a love of mystery, but like most great detectives they approach the genre from different angles. The three will host a Mystery Writers Panel Discussion on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Peregrine Book Company near downtown Prescott. The free public discussion begins at 2 p.m.
Lanning, a former English teacher, recommends following local news headlines when it comes to seeking a good story for a mystery. Besides writing, she also teaches a novel writing class for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Yavapai College.
"I like a good writer. I like a good mystery," Lanning said. "If you're going to write a novel, you have to be serious about it. You have to sit down and write the thing. I would say write the first draft and then go back and rewrite. As far as mysteries go, just look around you and see what's happening. The mysteries that sell the best have to do with whatever is currently happening in the world."
In Arizona, for instance, she cited cases of immigration and racism, political scandals and more.
"Figure out who is doing the crime, figure out who you want for a detective and go from there," Lanning said. "A villain really should be someone who thinks they're doing something right, but does wrong.
If you have an interesting main character and an interesting villain, and a few interesting characters in between, you'll probably have a good book."
Lanning has written more than 15 books in all, with five of them published. Her latest is another in her Belle Evans series, which features school security counselor Evans and the fictitious town of Granite - located in about the same spot as Prescott. Her first Evans book, "Granite Justice," is currently available on Amazon.com, Hastings and the Peregrine Book Company. She's been writing, off and on, since 1970.
Mies, meanwhile, recommends authors write what they know.
"I know that's the advice everyone gives when it comes to writing a book," Mies said. "It's a matter of getting familiar with what the trials and tribulations are for committing a crime and keeping the readers in suspense, throwing out a lot of red herrings so they think maybe that guy did it, and leaving them with cliff-hangers at the end of chapters. Those are things that keep readers really spellbound."
Mies, a former college instructor and retired human resources director; and Lodwick, a retired pharmacist, co-authored the mystery novel "Murder or Pestle?" The book is available on Amazon.com, at Hastings and the Peregrine Book Company, as part of a planned trilogy of stories that focus on medical crimes.
"They're things that are either associated with medications or they have some kind of medical tie-in. The first book focused on trying to decide if the person was killed or if it had something to do with the medication he was taking for a medical condition," Mies said.
Both combined technical expertise with creative writing to develop the trilogy together.
All three authors plan to read from their books to start Saturday's panel, followed by a discussion on the beginnings of their story ideas, with a question and answer session. For more information, visit the Peregrine Book Company online at www. peregrinebookcompany.com. peregrinebookcompany.com.
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