Dead on Doughnuts Author Notes
Dead on Doughnuts was the first ever cozy mystery book that I wrote and published for myself. It was late 2018 and I had not long been made homeless after my landlords in the English Lake District decided to sell my rented house, and having moved three times in the prior 3 years due to Storm Desmond floods and previous landlords selling up, I was at a very dark point in my life. And so it was that I ended up on the opposite side of the country in one room of a very brown B&B bedroom with my three cats and my elderly dog Isla. I had no idea how I was going to make ends meet since I'd always travelled for work on film productions and as a professional speaker up to that point, and since I couldn't leave my pets unattended at the B&B all day, I had to create a way of earning a living that I could do from my laptop in my room, which would pay me on a daily basis so I could pay my board each day.
There was no kitchen, a shared bathroom which I shared with all sorts of strangers, and frequent invasions by police breaking up fights outside my room or sweeping for drugs. Not exactly what I had envisaged when hitting my 40s!
Fortunately, I had taken part in my very first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Event) in November 2017 and having worked on the film set of both Agatha Christie's ABC Murders and The Romanoffs, I was starting to realise that my favourite genre of crime fiction actually had a name; 'cozy mystery'. It was only when I started to offer my services on Fiverr and Upwork that I started to get enquiries about my copy writing services and was asked whether I could write novels? I had no idea, other than the romance I had secretly written during Nano, but I said I'd give it ago for the grandly sum of £15 - enough to pay for my room at the B&B for the night. I ended up writing a few novels over the next few months. It was hard work, but it was the cash I needed to not get thrown onto the street. I wrote Amish romance, alien romance, space opera, and then I began getting request for cozy mystery books, which were written in a very different way than I was used to with the romance, they were much more challenging. Sometimes I would be given the previous books in an already written series and asked to write the same characters, in the same world, and the same voice which was quite a challenge, and other times I would have freedom to write whatever I wanted.
What I quickly began to see, was that these authors were making 7 figures a year and some of the books I had written had even gone on to get USA Today and New York Times bestseller status. Which was awesome, but also a little annoying, given how little I was charging, and because I was ghostwriting and signing NDA's I couldn't even tell anyone what books I had written. But I wasn't brave enough to write under my own name since I was a newbie, and I also had no idea how to publish a book. But I also REALLY wanted to be in my own home again, where I wouldn't get woken up in the night by people having a punch up outside my room. I did a Google search for pre-made book covers, and found a series of three covers for $15 for the set. I liked the titles, and that's how I created the setting for my three book series - the Snow Mountain Cafe in the fictional Austrian ski resort of Val D'Isera. I also missed my old city of Oxford, and I'd recently read Robin Stevens latest book 'A Spoonful of Murder'. If I remember correctly, I had purchased this book and some of Agatha Christie's books by way of researching the cozy mystery genre when I'd first been asked to ghostwrite for some clients.
There was something so joyful about A Spoonful of Murder and a bit of nostalgia for my youth with the two young detectives in historical Hong Kong. And that was the inspiration for my two main characters, Maddy and Eloise. I knew I needed a murder, so I set about thinking on the kinds of places you might find at a ski resort in Austria, and the kinds of people Maddy and Eloise might meet. I don't think I had any idea that I would end up with such an international cast, but it was a wonderful change from my real world of newly released prisoners and domestic abuse victims that the council put up at the B&B. a sort of refuge from the stress of my daily life, writing was my therapy. I began with my murder and from there I was able to work backwards and pull the different pieces of the puzzle together.
Since I had been ghostwriting to very strict deadlines, I was writing about 10,000 - 15,000 words a day. There was no choice if I wanted to eat and have a bed for the night! Since I was freelance and paid per book, it was pretty scary from one day to the next, would I have another job come in or not? On one particular day, when I was freaking out that I hadn't received a new project, I decided to publish my romance book (under a pen name) and when I started to sell copies and was getting good reviews, I took the plunge and published Dead on Doughnuts under my own name. There was just one BIG problem! I had written it over three days and I didn't have the means for an editor, nor did I know how to even get an editor. The book began selling immediately, much to my surprise and I was getting 3-4 star reviews. People liked the story but complained (rightly so) at the lack of editing. Importantly, it was enough to make me realise that writing for a living could become a viable option for me, and from there, I made it my goal to save up and hire and editor, to republish the book, and so I began my career as a cozy mystery author. I haven't looked back!