Why Not Write a Murder Mystery?

Northanger Abbey castleThings are on track for a June 23rd release of my next novel! Yay! All four of my beta readers have reported back with very positive feedback and no major changes recommended. Now just a proof read, formatting, and the final touches to the cover remain!

“I have just finished Murder at Northanger and I really loved it. As I mentioned before, I re-read Northanger Abbey before starting Murder at Northanger, and it felt as if I was reading the same book. Both the writing style and the characters remained very close to Austen’s, so this was very well achieved in my opinion. I particularly loved to see what you did with Catherine’s character, I do not believe she is a very interesting character, but you made her interesting, and that is impressive…”

So says one of the lovely beta readers who previewed the book!

Yes, in case you hadn’t heard, this new book is a sequel to Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen’s spoof on the Gothic novel – entitled Murder at Northanger Abbey.

“What?” you say. “Isn’t a murder mystery a little out of your line?” Yes, but I like the challenge of attempting something new. I would get bored doing exactly the same type of book over and over again.

From the beginning, pretty much every book I’ve written has presented a new challenge. My first (The Darcys of Pemberley), well, it was the FIRST! I’d never written a novel of any kind before, and I wasn’t even sure I could do it. But I borrowed Jane Austen’s characters, which gave me a running start. With the next (For Myself Alone), I faced the challenge of creating my own characters as well as an original story, but still in a Jane Austen style. Since then, I’ve written a story about Jane Austen herself (The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen); two time-travel books (Leap of Faith, Leap of Hope), one JAFF and one not; a non-fiction book (Prayer & Praise: a Jane Austen Devotional); and three others, each with its own set of joys and its own set of difficulties to overcome.

So why not write a sort of cozy murder mystery? How hard could it be?

One thing that put me at a real disadvantage from the start was that I’m not very good at plotting out my stories from first to last. Unlike some writers, I tend to only have a vague idea of where I’m headed and then fly by the seat of my pants in that general direction, following the story where it takes me instead of sticking to a pre-planned route. Exciting, but a little risky!

For example, I’m pretty sure most mystery writers know “who done it” from the start, but not me. No, it could have been one of half a dozen interesting characters in Murder at Northanger Abbey. All of them had motive and opportunity, and I could imagine a plausible scenario for each one. It wasn’t until I was more than halfway through the book that I finally decided which way to go!

Even then, I wavered. So, consistent with the “new challenges” theme of this post, I did something else I’ve never done before. I wrote an alternative ending – one that works just as well but results in a rather different outcome for the heroine, Catherine Morland Tilney. I prefer the main one, but you can have your pick, because they’re both included in the book!

Will I ever write another murder mystery? I don’t know. I had a lot of fun doing this one, especially carrying on in Jane Austen’s quirky, tongue-in-cheek style from the original. And besides, I never say “never.” I like to go where inspiration takes me, especially if that means tackling a new and interesting writing challenge!

No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy, would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her… But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way. (Northanger Abbey, chapter 1)

northanger+abbey+kissPS – If you haven’t read Northanger Abbey lately or perhaps ever, I’d like to invite you to read/reread it now, so that you’ll be ready for its sequel when it comes out next month! – for that seamless transition the beta reader spoke of above. Think you won’t care for NA? Take another look with an open mind. Although in a different style from Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightley, Henry Tilney is a worthy hero (and a passionate guy). And some of the early examples of Austen’s patented ironic wit contained in the book are laugh-out-loud funny. Speaking of challenges, I challenge you to read chapter one without chuckling here and there. I don’t think it can be done!

Read excerpts and more about Murder at Northanger Abbey here.

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
This entry was posted in Jane Austen, Jane Austen Quotes, Shannon Winslow's writing, Uncategorized, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Why Not Write a Murder Mystery?

  1. I am so excited to read this Gothic mystery, Shannon!! I love Northanger Abbey (although I do find myself cringing when Catherine’s motives are discovered–that she is trying to live out the Gothic novels she so adores and is caught in the act by Henry–and I do not enjoy cringy books or movies…thus my great dislike of Emma–both the novel and the title character), and I’ve been thinking that it’s time for a re-read for a while now. So I definitely have a very good reason to re-read it with your book coming out!! πŸ˜‰

    Congratulations!!! πŸ˜€

    Take care and be well and blessed!!
    Soli Deo Gloria,
    Susanne πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Susanne! Yes, I can’t understand why NA isn’t more popular. I think it’s hilarious, and I had so much fun writing this sequel!

      • Perhaps 21st-century readers of NA aren’t familiar enough with the finer points of Gothic novels so that much of Austen’s irony flies over their heads…or at least doesn’t connect completely. We might compare it (badly, I know) to someone in the 22nd century trying to read a spoof of Twilight.

        That, and Catherine is not Austen’s most compelling heroine; there just isn’t the same interest and gravitas in her character as we find in Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Elinor & Maryanne Dashwood, and Fanny Price. (No, I don’t like Emma and I doubt I ever shall.)

        Thanks, Shannon!! πŸ™‚

        Soli Deo Gloria,
        Susanne πŸ™‚

  2. Vesper says:

    As historical mysteries are my favourite genre to read (JAFF comes in at 3rd as long as it is not Darcy and Elizabeth) I look forward to reading this

    • This book is made for you then! – historical mystery + non-D&E JAFF. Hope you enjoy it!

    • I love historical mysteries, too, Vesper. They are also my favorite genre with JAFF coming in second. Which are some of your favorite series?

      I love Anne Perry’s Charlotte & Thomas Pitt series (Victorian) and also the newer Daniel Pitt series (pre-WWI), the Maisie Dobbs series (WWI-WWII) by Jacqueline Winspear, the Sebastian St. Cyr series by C.S. Harris (Regency but pretty dark), the Lady Darby series (1830s) by Anna Lee Huber, the Daisy Dalrymple series (1920s) by Carola Dunn, The Gaslight Mysteries (turn-of-the-20th-century) by Victoria Thompson, and The Chronicles of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon series (medieval) by Melvin R. Starr. I’ve dipped my toe into the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, but I prefer the others I have listed here.

      Susanne πŸ™‚

      • I’ve only read the Maisie Dobbs series myself – first 6 so far. πŸ™‚

      • I love that series; it’s my favorite of all the ones I listed. I’ve read all 15 and can’t wait for the next one!!

        Soli Deo Gloria,
        Susanne πŸ™‚

      • It’s entirely possibly you’re the one who told me about it in the first place! I really don’t remember. πŸ˜€

      • I think I was the one who recommended Maisie to you. You’ll have to let me know what you think some time. πŸ˜‰

        ~Susanne πŸ™‚

      • Vesper says:

        I like most of the ones you mentioned but I also like older series like Lexie Conyngham – Orkneyinga, Lindsey Davis, Jason Vail – Attebrook series, Denise Domning Servant of the crown, Anna Castle – Francis Bacon; and Regency series by Ashley Gardner of Captain Lacey

      • I’ve liked the Maisie Dobbs books well enough to read 6 in the series so far, Susanne!

        I remember voraciously reading Mary Stewart’s romantic mysteries as a teenager, and I was reminded of those stories as I wrote this book. I know there was one called ‘The Spiral Staircase’, and so I wrote one of those in!

    • I’ve been meaning to read Mary Stewart’s mysteries; they’re on my “to read” list, and I’ll get to them someday!! πŸ˜‰

      I have the first Miss Marple mystery checked out from the library on my Kindle right now, so I’m excited to see what all the fuss is about, LOL!! πŸ˜‰

      Have you read the Lord Peter Wimsey series, Shannon and Vesper? Dorothy Sayers is brilliant, and Jill Paton Walsh has recently completed a few of her unfinished books in the series with the permission of Sayers’ estate. They’re quite good.

      Happy mystery reading, ladies!
      ~Susanne πŸ™‚

  3. DIKSHA GUPTA says:


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