Wednesday, August 25, 2021


One of my projects has been to explore and experiment in the craft of writing stories in various genres and topics. An example is the 26 short stories I wrote in an eclectic assortment of genres for an April 
AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The research, reading, and writing involved were all beneficial learning experiences for me. (The master plan is to include the stories in a wider project.) 

Many writers focus on one particular genre. Mystery writers can choose from a plethora of subgenres: Cozy Mystery, Police Procedural, Hard-Boiled Detective, Soft-boiled Mystery, and Thriller, for starters. Sub-sub genres can include vampires or fairies or science fiction characters that meld with cops and robbers. But even with all these choices, mystery writers sometimes decide to branch out into a totally different genre, such as Young Adult fiction.

Stories in every genre hold a mystery, and mysteries remain at the top of my list for reading and writing. Yet all genres have unique appeal, with young adult fiction ranking high. Some of the articles concerning YA fiction writing are timeless in their information or advice. Much has changed in the marketing industry, but when writing novels for a specific genre the rules, guidelines, and writing process remain fairly solid. 

As has my addiction to dark chocolate.

Of course, YA and Mystery aren't necessarily exclusive genres, but writing for adults and for young adults can feel like writing for two completely different worlds.

For those of you interested in or toying with the idea of writing YA, several timeless blog posts I've found interesting offer excellent advice for writing in the Young Adult fiction genre.

Links are included below.

Cherie Colyer wrote an article, Writing for a young adult audience, that gets right down to basics of audience, character development, and protagonist backstory.

This is an interview of author Stacy Juba by author/interviewer Judy Penz Sheluk:
plus: 10 YA Sports Novels for Teens and Tweens:

Brian Klems welcomed teenaged writer Jamie S. Margolin to his blog site, The Writer's Dig, to discuss What NOT To Do When Writing YA Books:

This is a post about the " Top 5 Dos of Writing YA Lit" on the WiseInkBlog (actually 4 with a "don't" included):

And here are some writing tips from editors concerning authenticity, subject matter, and trends when writing YA:


With this information at my fingertips, I may decide to write a young adult mystery of my own. Of course, this will require a whole new mindset and a willingness to take myself back to the days of my youth. Maybe I'll begin by stocking up on chocolate - and rereading a good YA novel by a fellow mystery writer to get me in the mood:


Review comments:
The character development is awesome
Wonderfully interwoven twists and turns

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Switching Genres: Interview with Author Laurie Hanan #NovelResearch

Following is an interview with author Laurie Hanan from 2018 in which she discusses the process of switching genres, from writing mysteries to young adult (YA) fiction. Laurie is a charter member of Sisters in Crime/Hawai'i and we have shared many writing experiences during our friendship over the years. After a career with the Honolulu Post Office, she took up writing full time. You can read her interesting biography and more here: Laurie Hanan: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle


Author Laurie Hanan joins us today to discuss her most recent novel, The Rainbow Connection, a YA novel set in Hawai‘i. Laurie has a successful mystery series, also set in Hawai‘i, featuring mail carrier Louise Golden who gets tangled in mysterious situations she uncovers on her mail route. With four Louise Golden novels published, Laurie took a break to write a young adult novel. 


From a synopsis of The Rainbow Connection
by Laurie Hanan:

With graduation looming, Emmy’s only friend in her new school goes missing. Brett’s run off before. Her mother and even the cops figure she’s done it again. But Emmy is convinced Brett can’t wait to begin college in the fall, and she would never ditch her super-hot boyfriend. Something bad must have happened to her. Emmy is determined to find out what.


Gail: Thank you, Laurie, for sharing some of your thoughts today on your latest book, The Rainbow Connection. After writing mysteries for so many years, did that discipline allow for an easy transition into writing a young adult story?
Laurie Hanan: Mahalo, Gail, for inviting me to your blog!

     I don’t know if  “easy” is a word I’d use for transitioning to the Young Adult genre. It’s been a long time since I was seventeen, and of course teens today live in a totally different world from the one I grew up in. Developing an authentic voice for Emmy’s character took trial and a lot of error before I felt I was even close. My teen years were painful. Imagining my own seventeen-year-old self in the same tough situations Emmy faces, re-experiencing the raw emotions, and sorting through what my thought processes might have been at that age, gave me more than a few sleepless nights. I also paid close attention to my teenage daughter and her friends, taking notes on their mannerisms and quickly jotting down samples of their lingo. 

     But it was a natural and enjoyable transition to take a peripheral character who I love in my Louise Golden series, develop her personality even more, and give her a mystery of her own to solve.
Her search leads to a secretive religious group. Emmy suspects there is more to the group’s simple lifestyle and ecstatic dance rituals than the peace and harmony they preach.
 Gail: Your comments about re-experiencing raw emotions of teen years and sleepless nights reminded me of the Ernest Hemingway quote — 'There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.'

     In The Rainbow Connection, protagonist Emmy’s maturity has developed through an array of responsibilities within the family, at school, and on the job. Can some of her more questionable decisions that draw her into precarious situations, such as the isolated meeting with Byron at a retreat for a secretive religious group, be attributed to the still-developing reasoning of a teenager?

Laurie Hanan: Absolutely. Science shows us that a teen’s brain is not fully developed. They tend to act on impulse, misjudge precarious situations, and misread social cues and the emotions of others.

     Emmy is impulsive, prone to exaggeration, at times irrational, and makes choices that are downright dangerous. Being a teen necessarily makes her an unreliable narrator. The reader is given insights into the missing girl only through Emmy’s skewed remembrances of her, adding another layer of questions about her disappearance.

Gail: You have taken the characters Emmy and her brother from your mystery series and created a new storyline for them in the YA genre. What, if any, details from their backstories play a role in or contribute to the plotline of The Rainbow Connection? How important is it for a writer to develop a character’s backstory, in a series or a stand-alone novel?
Laurie Hanan: I will answer your questions out of order. When writing a series of stand-alone novels, there can be a fine line between including enough backstory to help readers understand the character, and throwing in so much backstory it confuses the reader and bogs down the flow of events in the new mystery. While each of my novels stands alone, reading the series in order does offer a broader view of the characters’ development over the years.

     In my fourth Louise Golden mystery, Stairway to Heaven, seventeen-year-old   Emmy makes some misguided decisions, resulting in her being kidnapped and held for ransom on a small sailboat during a hurricane. Twelve-year-old Jackie is pulled into the rescue efforts and ends up killing a man to save his sister. While these events play no role in the plotline of  The Rainbow Connection, the experiences do bring about dramatic changes in both Emmy and Jackie, and permanently alter the dynamics between brother and sister.  I originally included some of this backstory in The Rainbow Connection, but my editor felt it “belonged in a different book.” I reluctantly agreed. So, I am currently working on a novella-length recreation of the kidnapping and rescue from the perspectives of Emmy and Jackie. I hope this will shed more light on how the traumatic events affected the two kids.

Gail: This coming of age story has a missing person at its center, supporting the idea that stories in all genres involve a mystery. Having written mysteries, and now YA, did you develop a specific preference in genre for future works, or will you continue with the YA series while adding to your Louise Golden series?
Laurie Hanan: A big part of why I write is to make my readers happy. Louise fans are clamoring for more time with Louise, while Emmy’s new fans are pleading for the next Emmy Hanlin YA novel. My hope is to continue writing more in both series. 

     I’m currently working on another spinoff from the Louise Golden series, a humorous, classic whodunit starring Louise’s eighty-something-year-old stepmother and her geriatric neighborhood watch group.
Gail: Mahalo for sharing so much personal insight into your writing style and  character development, Laurie. The information about backstory is especially educational. I look forward to reading your YA novella and the humorous geriatric mystery. 
Laurie Hanan's Facebook page:

Laurie's books are available at in trade and e-book formats: 


Monday, August 2, 2021

Reviewing the Practice of Reviewing Books

Today's review is not a book review but rather a review of the practice and art of reviewing books in general. I will focus not on professional reviewers but bloggers such as myself and the myriad readers (including me) who offer reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub.

Shopping venue in the "good ol' days"

In certain instances, a book review requires a star rating; a short synopsis of the book; and a narrative of likes and dislikes. The point of this review is to give potential readers information upon which to base their decision to read or not to read a particular book.

The star rating may be influenced by any number of factors and categories, including
1. book cover attraction
2. genre faithfulness
3. character development
4. plot progression, and
5. editing level

First, some hypothetical questions about this list:

A. How often have you heard that a cover design can make or break a sale? But also that you can't judge a book by its cover?

B. Should a genre book stick to just one category: Mystery. Romance. Sci-fi? Or is a mixed genre story more appealing?

C. Can characters make or break a story if the novel is character driven? Must they all be likable protagonists and despicable villains? If the story is plot driven, must the action be non-stop?

D. Editing level - this, now, is the impetus for my post: a novel I read yesterday. What if a book doesn't conform to standard punctuation rules - of which there are many? Should the book then be avoided? After all, life is short. The world is filled with an abundance of classics and best sellers and award-winning tomes.

Austen, Lee, Orwell, Brontë, Hemingway, Melville, Lewis, London, Woolf, Shelley, Marquez, Stowe,
Tolkien, Twain, Dickens, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, Stoker, Hugo, Dumas, Stevenson, Doyle, Fitzgerald, Poe . . .
Why waste time on a rule-breaking story that doesn't conform to an acceptable level of editing? I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to proofreading, but for me, the answer is easy.


Because, if the story/plot line appeals to me, I will read the book for its entertainment value, regardless of missing punctuation such as end quotes or the Oxford comma (don't get me started); skipped words; and unique sentence structure or dialogue format. And my review will reflect the high points of the book that held my interest. 

Because there are many diamonds-in-the-rough with interesting story value that receive discouraging reviews for reasons unrelated to story content when, to me, the story is what reading is all about. (Besides, can you even hear that Oxford comma on an audio book?)

Some believe it is important to let other readers know what foibles or foul-ness they may encounter in a book so they don't enter into a reading experience unequipped for the situation. 

But isn't reading meant as an adventure best experienced "through one's own eyes"?

What is your criteria for choosing a book to read, and whether to submit a review?