The Comfort of the Familiar Mystery Series

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Have you ever been invited to an exotic party where you won’t know a soul?

This will be exciting—an opportunity to meet new people, visit a glamorous location, eat fancy food. You accept the offer with enthusiasm.

And then the doubts set in. What will you wear? What if you have nothing in common with the other guests? Striking up conversations with strangers takes so much effort. The drive is long, and the parking will probably be terrible. Besides, you’re not used to staying up that late.

In the end you stay home in your sweats, snuggled on the sofa sharing carry-out Chinese with the dog and watching a Law and Order rerun you’ve seen five times before. Ah, so relaxing!

Sometimes the anxiety surrounding a new social experience outweighs the potential for fun (especially for us introverts). The same can be said for discovering new authors. Yes, the prospect of meeting a whole new cast of fictional characters can be almost as daunting as walking into a real-life cocktail party full of strangers. Exploring this new world requires so much mental energy! Names to remember, backstory to unravel—can readers be blamed for making the easy, familiar choice, especially at the end of a long, hard day?

Of course, authors want to cultivate repeat business—that’s what it means to have a fan base. But the knife cuts both ways. If readers aren’t willing to step out of their comfort zone and try something new, rising new talents can’t find a foothold in the market.

As a reader, I try to strike a balance—about one-third old favorites vs. two-thirds new (or new-to-me) authors. And the old favorites don’t remain the same. Eventually, even a beloved series runs out of steam. I’ll admit, I’m pretty ruthless. I come back after one disappointment, but not after two. My pet peeve: readers who say, “I haven’t liked the last seven books by (insert famous prolific author of your choice), but I keep buying them hoping they’ll get better. Newsflash: They won’t! Time to move on to something new.

So, do you sometimes pass up the thrill of discovering a new author in order to sink into the cozy familiarity of an author whose work you know well? Do you have new books on your to-read list that get pushed aside by the fifteenth book in a series you’ve been reading for years? Go ahead and try something new! Can I suggest starting with one of mine? You can read a sample here.

Oh and that party you passed up? It took a while to heat up, but by midnight I had devoured scads of marinated Kobe beef skewers, but I burned off the calories by salsa dancing with a sexy Brazilian I met during the mango martini throwdown. You should have come!

7 Responses to The Comfort of the Familiar Mystery Series

  1. Rhys April 18, 2014 at 9:38 am #

    That is the greatest post I’ve read in 2014

  2. Susan April 18, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. John Bohnert April 25, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    I love crime fiction series that I’ve been reading for years. It’s like visiting old friends. However, I’m always open to discovering a brand-new series.

  4. listen to this podcast May 23, 2014 at 2:02 pm #

    First of all I want to say wonderful blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear
    your mind before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out.
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    Cheers!

  5. Susan May 28, 2014 at 7:31 pm #

    Sorry I didn’t reply sooner–busy holiday week! I would suggest not trying to “clear” your mind, but rather write don everything that’s on your mind, without self-editing or agonizing. Accept that all first drafts are bad. Accept that you may write 4 or 5 worthless sentences before actually get around to saying what you really want to say. The next day, go back and read what you’ve written. Get rid of the junk. There were be some pearls left behind, I promise!

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  7. Susan June 9, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

    Sorry–I didn’t see an earlier comment from you. I’m a novelist forst, and a blogger second. I don’t post as often as would be ideal (2 to 3/week), but I don’t like to post drivel just for the sake of posting. I try to wait until I have something substantive to say. So I guess that’s my advice–quality over quantity! Thanks for reading my blog–glad you enjoy it.