Archive for the ‘YA mystery’ Category

Characters Who Are Too Dumb to Live

August 22, 2011

As I might have mentioned before, one of the tricky things about writing in the suspense/mystery/thriller genre is ensuring that your characters aren’t too dumb to live.  There has to be a reason for them to keep their deadly secrets or roam through dangerous places.  In fact, there was one series of books by a mystery writer that I finally had to give up on because I couldn’t believe that the main character would keep endangering herself with no good reason whereas she had a serious and deeply personal reason to do this in the first two novels.

Today, I had a mini-breakthrough for my character. Since she was supposed to know quite a bit about art, at least for a high school student, she needed to consider an alternative. I didn’t have the first idea of how to slip it in until I was living in the moment with her. Bang.  There it was at what Jack Sparrow would call “the opportune moment.”

I have found that a lot of logical problems will sort themselves out when you get to them as long as you’re conscious of them and let the backbrain work.

Promoting the Backlist

July 1, 2011

Peachtree Publishers does such a lovely job of promoting the books on their backlist.  My friend Sondy was at ALA and took a picture of SUSPECT being promoted even though it came out last fall. She also found SAVING THE GRIFFIN face out. It does have an extremely tempting cover.

When It All Goes Down

June 11, 2011

Once again I can’t help thinking about how this is the weekend in June where the mystery weekend in SUSPECT would take place. Weather did really play a role in the plot.

Weather, seasons and climate do play or at least should play an important role in establishing the setting in novels. In every book that I’ve had published I’ve done a study of what’s blooming. If an author gets it wrong in an area that I’m familiar with, I’ll notice. With SUSPECT, I could rely on the Missouri Botantical Gardens website. And that reminds me that I’m going to have to start checking the weather in various parts of Italy for PORTRAIT during the first and second week of July. The internet makes this incredibly easy. In fact, I’ll be able to go to webcams for certain locations and check for haze and visibility. I’m planning on spoiling my characters, though. It rained the day before the action opens, so they’ll have blue skies and incredible visibility.

This brings to mind another little review popped up for SUSPECT this week in The Crimson Review of Children’s Literature, a blog put out by the graduate students taking a course in young adult materials at the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies.

“Nitz has created a strong female character, a distinctive setting, and well-laid clues that will have the reader frantically turning the pages to figure out whodunit.”

I’m betting that the reviewer was thinking more about my bed and breakfast, weather and climate would have definitely contributed to my setting.

‘Tis the Season to Read SUSPECT

June 9, 2011

I’ve always enjoyed reading books in the season when they are set.  I’ve done this most often with the work of Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels because that writer, whose real name is actually Barbara Mertz, does such a fabulous job of bringing in the season as well as the physical setting. So I can’t help thinking about what might be going on in Augusta, Missouri with Jen and her fellow characters even though I’m up here in the slightly cooler state of Michigan.  Much like in my mystery novel,  we have storms rumbling through that are bringing cooler air and lower humidity.

By my book’s timeline, this upcoming weekend would probably be the one when Grandma Kay’s mystery weekend would take place. Today would be when Jen and Bri are putting the final touches on the Schoenhaus. And tomorrow bad things begin to happen.  I wonder whether I’d be able to read my own book for its early summer atmosphere.   A lot of novelists can’t go back because all they can see are the things that they would have done differently.

Keystone State Reading Association

May 13, 2011

SUSPECT was one of ten books picked for the High School KSRA 2011 YA book award .  Students can vote on their favorite title as long as they’ve read at least four of the following books:  

      Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins, Charlesbridge     

     Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, Simon and Schuster

      Five Flavors of Dumb by John Antony, Dial

      Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Scholastic

      Jump by Elisa Lynn Carbone, Viking

     The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X. Stork, A.A. Levine

      The Miracle Stealer by Neil Connelly, A.A. Levine, $17.99

      Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Mabery, Simon and Schuster, $17.99

     Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz, Peachtree, $16.95

    Wolves, Boys, & Other Things That Might Kill Me by Kristen Chandler, Viking

The PSLA YA Top 40 (or so)

April 27, 2011

Suspect made the Pennsylvania YA Top 40 (or so) list.  I’m afraid that “or so” means closer to 200 books, but it’s still a lovely honor.  Here’s the review from the librarian who nominated it: 

Seventeen-year-old Jen goes to help her Grandma Kay for the summer at the bed-and-breakfast she owns, but finds herself investigating the disappearance of her mother, who left when Jen was just three years old. Her grandmother, who always believed Ellen was alive, now has the feeling that she is dead, and Jen’s dad doesn’t know if Grandma is just getting strange or if she really suspects something. Jen is also dealing with an attraction to Mark, who is her “uncousin” by marriage. She finds out what really happened to her mother, experiences another family tragedy, and discovers what Mark’s true feelings are for her. This is a very satisfying read – a combination of mystery and romance.

Mystery/Romance Nancy Chrismer, – Juniata High School

Reading Reviews

November 15, 2010

One extremely wise writer compared good reviews to crack and bad reviews to poison.  And she’s right.  It would probably be wiser to stay away from places like GoodReads where you run the simultaneous risk of becoming addicted to the “Attagirl!” feedback and being injured by the people who just don’t buy into your book’s solution.  So why do I keep doing it?  Why did the elephant child risk his nose? Insatiable curiosity. 

And sometimes, it’s just nice when someone gets what you were trying to do. I didn’t mind it one bit when one reader observed that my book wasn’t stellar when she went on to note that she truly enjoyed SUSPECT for what it was:  ‘a fun, “I don’t wanna think too hard, just wanna be entertained, darn it!” read.’ 

That’s what I was shooting for with this project.  Mission accomplished!

Best Fiction for Young Adults 2011

November 12, 2010

SUSPECT was nominated to YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults list! A group of fifteen will evaluate the nominees at the American Library Association Midwinter conference and come up with the 80 or so  finalists.  I’ll add the link once this list is updated.  Right now, it only shows the nominees through September 30.  My son wanted to know what kind of list this was. I told him that Megan Whalen Turner was on it and instantly received a high five.

The Flip Side of Tight and Focused

October 7, 2010

One of the reasons that there are so many books in the world is that different things appeal to different readers.  While the New York Journal of Books reviewer felt that the writing was tight and focused, one blogger felt my book was about fifty pages too short and ended too soon.  I have to take this reader seriously.  Judging from her other reviews, we have very similar tastes in books. 

I couldn’t do much about the length. While I don’t want to get too mystical about writing books, I do have to say that scenes can’t be forced into existence.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t take direction.  SAVING THE GRIFFIN pretty much doubled in size when my editor wanted me to include more Italian characters. And fortunately, my friend and fellow writer Sue Bradford Edwards had already put in a request for a scene showing flying practice with Grifonino.  As noted a few posts ago, my work in progress has expanded from 40,000 to 65,000 words.  But for SUSPECT, I would have needed my Peachtree editor to say, something like, “How about another scene with Bri?”

And then there’s the difficulty with endings.  Writers don’t want to cut things off too soon, but they have an even greater fear of maundering on for too long.  I went with the basic Elizabeth Peters model, which means wrapping things up fairly quickly after the climactic moment. But there’s one person who I probably should have brought back on stage for a final scene. But this character can’t really be forced either.  I usually just got out of the way and let her go.  So when I stumbled across what became the last line of the book, it felt like a good place for that final period.

New York Journal of Books Review Revisited

October 6, 2010

While I was delighted by the suggestion from THE NEW YORK JOURNAL OF BOOKS that I’d written something with a bit of edge,  my publisher pulled out the following quote:

The story is sharp and lean; the writing is tight and focused.

I’m sure that my mentorship with noted author and all-around great guy Gary Blackwood back in 1999 had something to do with this. Here’s a quote from one of his emails to me: “There’s no room for deadwood in a novel. Everything needs to contribute to plot, setting and characterization.”

Any good advice can be taken to an extreme.  My current WIP needed to gain just a bit of weight, but I suspect that I’m doing it with tightly focused subplots.