I was at Bouchercon a few years ago when I had an interesting conversation with a mystery author. This author of then four books was putting together an attractive gift basket for the silent auction. While arranging her books in a pretty array before draping the cellophane around the basket, she stopped and frowned. When I asked why she was scratching her head, she said, “I’m almost ashamed to put my first book in this basket. I’ve grown so much as a writer since I wrote that, but it is the first book in the series, so I have to include it.”
Though many would be hesitant to admit to it, authors with several books under their belts can understand her feeling. No author wants to get to one point in their writing talent and never grow from there. We are always striving to improve. What we, and readers, fail to realize is that as we improve with each book, then those books that have been published before will fail to be up to the same standard as our later books.
Well, I am one author who is going to step out on the limb to make my confession. Don’t consider this a confession of shame of anything I have written, but rather an admission to growing as an author—which I think every author aspires to do during the course of their career.
The Joshua Thornton Mysteries, A Small Case of Murder (2004) and A Reunion to Die For (2007) are my first books. Frankly, I have been proud of these books, like a mother of her first babies. These are deep complex mysteries. A Small Case of Murder was named a finalist for the Independent Publishers Book Awards for mysteries.
In these books, I introduced readers to Joshua Thornton, a widowed father of five children, who returns to his hometown of Chester, West Virginia, (the same town where I grew up and still have family.) At the beginning of my career, my small audience fell in love with Joshua and his family. Over the years, since my first books’ release, reviews have been mixed. Die hard mystery fans loved the complex mystery in these books, while other reviewers riled about various elements from too many characters to amateurish writing style.
Along with changes in my personal life, I grew and emerged as a writer. I found my voice while writing It’s Murder, My Son. Throwing caution to the wind, I allowed my sense of humor to flow. I found my audience growing with each book after It’s Murder, My Son: Old Loves Die Hard, Shades of Murder, and Dead on Ice (Lovers in Crime Mystery).
Then came the feeling of shame.
Readers, claiming to be obsessive-compulsive, started sending e-mails and even approaching me at book events: “I want a list of all of your books, in order, because I need to read them all—in order.”
Sweating as I would list them, I would even find myself making excuses for my first books. “I wrote those books long ago–in a different stage of my life. It’s a different series with different characters.” To which the obsessive-compulsives would say, “I NEED to read them in order—starting with your first book.”
Then I would be embarrassed for being ashamed of Joshua Thornton, who many readers have said they loved. After all, A Small Case of Murder was named a finalist for the Independent Publishers Book Awards. When I went back a few years ago to revise it for a re-release at the request of readers who have asked to read my first books, I thought it really was not a bad book.
It is simply a different style from the Mac Faraday Mysteries—and the Lovers In Crime Mysteries.
Child experts will tell you that every child grows up in a different household than other children—even siblings. Households and families change over time based on what is happening. A first born is born to different parents then the second child, whose parents now have more experience under their belt by the time he comes along.
It is the same with writers. By the time I sat down to write It’s Murder, My Son, I was in a different place as a writer and a person. Even now, as I finish the next Mac Faraday Mystery, Blast from the Past, I am in different place than I was when I wrote It’s Murder, My Son. My books are getting shorter as my writing style gets leaner and tighter.
When readers of my first two books asked me to bring back Joshua Thornton, I had to bring him back in a different way, by pairing him up with Cameron Gates in the Lovers in Crime Mysteries—which, readers of the first two books will find is a completely different series—thus the name Lovers in Crime instead of the Joshua Thornton Mysteries.
This week, I had to take off my writer’s (and mommy) cap and put on my business cap to make a difficult decision.
As the popularity of the Mac Faraday Mysteries and Dead on Ice has been growing, readers, some taken with these mysteries after reading them, others, admitting they were obsessive compulsive and needing to start at the beginning, began buying A Small Case of Murder and A Reunion to Die For. Over the last few weeks, reviews from readers who had not read the later books, and confused about the good reviews for my later books, began posting horrible, even nasty, reviews proclaiming me an awful writer and disappointed about purchasing all of my books—this is without reading the later books.
As a mother, I wanted to reach out to each of these reviewers and say—but I was young and dumb—then I would cover my mouth. I’m sorry, Joshua! I didn’t mean that!
While in their minds, readers may know that writers grow and hopefully improve during the course of their writing career, instinctively, they may not realize this when reading their books, especially if they read them in the order in which they were written. Based on the tone of some of these reviews, it was plain to see that some of these readers are not going to give me another chance by moving onto my later books.
Wearing my business cap, I found that I had to make a difficult decision. Even though I love the Joshua Thornton Mysteries—and I am not ashamed of him—I had to take him out of print to save the success of my later books: Mac Faraday and the Lovers in Crime. This week, I took A Small Case of Murder and A Reunion to Die For out of distribution.
Joshua will continue to live on though in the Lovers in Crime Mysteries. We are both going to stop looking back into the past and move forward as Joshua starts his new life with Cameron Gates. The first installment in this series is Dead on Ice.
For those obsessive-compulsive readers who HAVE to read ALL of my books in order, I recommend they get therapy.
Below, you will find a list of my books that are available in order:
Old Loves Die Hard (Mac Faraday Mystery) (FREE on Kindle Today (Thursday, 10/11))
Shades of Murder (Mac Faraday Mystery) (This book introduces Joshua Thornton and Cameron Gates)
Blast from the Past (Mac Faraday Mystery) (coming December 2012)
The e-book version of each of these books is available for 99 cents.
About Lauren Carr:
Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award.
Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. It’s Murder, My Son, Old Loves Die Hard, and Shades of Murder, have all been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers.
Getting rave reviews since its release on September 1, Dead on Ice introduces a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, in which Joshua Thornton will join forces with homicide detective Cameron Gates.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This spring, two books written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and two dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Gnarly’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/GnarlyofMacFaradayMysteries
Lovers in Crime Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/LoversInCrimeMysteries