Guest Shelley Freydont: Romance and Mystery

16 Sep

Shelley Freydont is the author of the Katie McDonald and Lindy Haggerty mystery series, and the upcoming Liv Montgomery, Celebration Bay Festival Mysteries, A Fatal Fall (Berkeley Prime Crime). She has written several romance novels under the pseudonym Gemma Bruce.  Her novella “Bah Humbug, Baby” appeared in a USA Today bestselling anthology.  Her books have been translated into seven languages and have finaled in The Holt Medallion, Golden Leaf, Booksellers Best awards and won second place in More than Magic.

As Shelley Noble, her first women’s fiction novel, Beach Colors, will be published by William Morrow in 2012.

A former professional dancer and choreographer, she most recently worked on the films, Mona Lisa Smile and The Game Plan.  Shelley is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, and Liberty States Fiction Writers.

For more about Shelley, please visit her website

The thing I love about mysteries and especially amateur sleuth mysteries is the wealth of characters the sleuth is involved with. It’s hard to believe there was a not too distant time when detectives were only allowed to detect, no girl friends, no hobbies, just an occasional sidekick to voice his/her thoughts to.  Dr. Watson anyone?

Now it seems like anything goes: Hobbies, cupcakes, professions, crafts, children, extended families, nosy neighbors, bossy mother-in-laws, matchmaking aunts, the quirky mailman, and significant others.

I’ll admit to being partial to romantic mysteries. I’m not alone. I sometimes get an email telling me how clever the red herring on page 67 was, or how a reader loved the plot twists, but mostly everyone just wants to know: Do Lindy and Bill ever get together?   Do Kate and Brandon ever get together?  And I’m guessing next fall, when my new Celebration Bay Mystery series begins, I’ll be hearing do Liv and Chaz ever get together?

Of course, crafting a romantic mystery is a bit of a juggling act.  The mystery has to be the main attraction.  So how much romance can you get away with?  Can there be too much? How can you weave it into the story without losing sight of the mystery and ending up with neither a mystery nor a romance, but a mess?  A juggling act.

One thing that keeps me on the straight and narrow most of the time is that in my mysteries (and most amateur sleuth novels), there is only one point of view, that of the heroine.  Anything that she doesn’t see, hear or feel has to be told to her.

So the hero needs to be involved.  Which is why so many of us choose a hero with a professional interest in the crime. That way, they are constantly being thrown together and eventually fall in love even though they usually start as adversaries or, at least, wary of each other.

In my Lindy Haggerty series, Bill is a former NYPD detective who teaches criminology.  In The Sudoku Mysteries, Brandon is the new chief of police in a small town that likes to do things their own way, so he and Kate are forced to work together to solve the murder.  In my upcoming series, Liv, a transplanted events planner from NYC, moves to a small town where she has to enlist the aid of the handsome, but lazy, editor of the local newspaper who’d rather fish than work, but who also used to be an investigative reporter.

Even after the two are thrown together, the main thing they do is investigate.  I usually get into trouble about the time they start liking each other.  I’m also a romance writer and I love to dwell on the love. When I find myself wandering into romance writing, I know I have to rein myself in or I’ll end up with a hodgepodge of a mystery or an undeveloped romance.

When you’re writing a series (most amateur sleuth novels are published as series), there are two story arcs.  The mystery is discovered, investigated, and solved in each book.  But the relationship of the heroine and her significant other arcs over the entire series.

One of the best pieces of advice I received early on, was don’t marry your sleuth off at the end of the first book.  If you’re writing a romantic mystery, you can have huge amounts of fun, misunderstandings, fights, a rival as long as they all move the investigation forward, or hang it up, or set it on its ear. Even after the killer is led away, there’s still a lot of story to carry into the next book.

Readers love coming back to a series, getting to know the recurring characters, and revisiting their “friends.”  That’s one of the reasons mystery series are so successful and why just about every amateur sleuth has a romantic interest.

The hardest part for me is editing out the really romantic scenes that would be great if there wasn’t a murder to solve or they weren’t being chased by the villain.  I put those scenes in a file knowing they’ll probably never see the page, but not able to delete them, because maybe, just maybe . . .

What’s your take on romance in mystery?  Love it or leave it?


Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Guest Blog, Idaho, writing craft


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11 responses to “Guest Shelley Freydont: Romance and Mystery

  1. Liz Fredericks

    September 16, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    Hi Shelley – Thank you for blogging with us today on Gem State Writers. I think one of the most difficult genres to write is romantic suspect because of the issues you note. As for me, there’s always room for romance in what I read. I think ‘love’ serves an important counterpoint to the ugliness of criminal activity. I’m looking forward to the new release.

  2. Carley Ash

    September 16, 2011 at 6:59 AM

    I want there be some romance in every book, but I’ve never been able to stay interested in a book that’s strictly romance. Like life, there must be balance. I found your blog post interesting, and I learned a few things this morning. Thank you.

    • Shelley Freydont

      September 16, 2011 at 7:04 AM

      Thanks Carley, I like romance in my mysteries and a little mystery (it doesn’t haven’t to be murders or psychopaths) in my romance. One of the great advantages of cross genres is that life doesn’t live in one lane, romance or adventure or relationships, but includes something of everything. It’s important though to make sure one genre takes precedent over the other so no one looking for a good read is confused..

  3. Shelley Freydont

    September 16, 2011 at 7:00 AM

    Thanks for having me. and I absolutely agree about love offsetting the ugliness of crime even in a mystery where the murder is mainly off stage and not too gory. One of the things that interests me most as a mystery writer is how the murder affects each of the characters and the town and how it impacts on people’s lives.

  4. Janis McCurry

    September 16, 2011 at 7:08 AM

    Great blog, Shelley. It’s interesting that while readers may want romance, they don’t want it to be too easy! If you get the H/H together too early, the readers feel cheated in the journey to love. Thanks for guesting on Gem State Writers.

  5. Shelley Freydont

    September 16, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    I love to exchange ideas with writers about writing. Readers really do get involved with the love life of characters (well, so does the author) I’ve been following a few series through the years and I can’t wait until the new one hits the shelves. A treat to sit down and savor, usuallly in one or two sittings which means I have to wait a whole year to see what happens next.

  6. Meredith Conner

    September 16, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    I love a good mystery with romance and vice versa! Life is never one dimensional and books shouldn’t be either. A mystery that involves good detecting from the heroine is nice, but when that heroine is also in a tug-of-war with an interesting male companion, trying to find a middle ground with her cranky neighbor over how many azaleas can be planted between their houses and dealing with the town council over their proposal to tear up the street in front of her business – ooohh. How delicious is that? Looking forward to meeting Liv and Chaz! Thanks for blogging with us today.

  7. Shelley Freydont

    September 16, 2011 at 12:53 PM

    I’m with you. Delicious. Friends, family, and love interest round out a mystery and make the heroine seem real, and someone we can relate to.
    Thanks for having me at Gem State Writers.

  8. Clarissa Southwick

    September 16, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Hi Shelley, I’m one of those ‘more mystery, less romance’ people. This sounds like a fascinating series. Thank you for guest blogging at the GSW 🙂

  9. Shelley Freydont

    September 16, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Thanks everybody. It’s been fun.

  10. Peggy Staggs

    September 17, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    I love mysteries. They’re great to read and even more fun to write. I agree the armature sleuth is rich with opportunities for both the reader and the writer. Thanks for blogging with us.


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