After writing and self-publishing three novels in my planned Pepper Bibeau mystery series, I allowed “second thoughts” to erode my confidence in writing a fourth. My marketing for the third novel never really got off the ground. I lost faith in my writing, in the worth of the stories, and in myself as a writer. It was easier to promote authors more imaginative than me and novels containing more important characters than mine.
A lot of soul-searching followed the publication of my third novel.
* Why had I chosen to set my stories in the near past (beginning with the late 60s and early 70s) after reading that such novels didn’t sell? Maybe it would be better to write stories occurring in the present.
* Why was my protagonist a female with a backstory of service as a nurse in the Vietnam War? I had never been in the military, and current bestselling novels focused on action in Afghanistan or other parts of the Middle East.
* Why did I think the life of an insurance investigator would play well in the Mystery genre? Such a career could never carry a series.
Once I formed concrete questions to get a handle on my concerns, I considered answers to possible solutions. In November 2013, I used NaNoWriMo to test the theory of boosting my confidence by setting stories in present time. I wrote 50K words of a novel set in 2012. My main character’s backstory and career differed from my original protagonist. The surge of excitement I felt while writing the story compared to eating a new flavor of ice cream or wearing a new red silk dress. The macadamia nut chocolate swirl ice cream delighted my taste buds. The color and feel of the new dress affected most of my other senses.
What the ice cream and dress didn’t do, and what the new protagonist didn’t do, was to satisfy my core wants and needs. My first love is vanilla ice cream: French vanilla, Country vanilla, Simply vanilla. Ready-to-wear clothes in tranquil colors suit me best. I relish the research required in developing a character whose story spans the years missed while I was “too busy living.”
This insight resolved my concerns about why to write something “they” say won’t sell.
For me, appreciation of a good mystery set in a familiar location generates motivation. My goal is to write mysteries that evolve in personally meaningful settings, for the enjoyment and entertainment of readers with similar interests. Book Four is now underway and I am more eager than ever to write the next Pepper Bibeau mystery.