Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Kari's Kave: Featuring "Why I Love Mysteries" by author Donna Cummings

I should start out by saying why I love margaritas, even though there's no real mystery involved. They are cool, icy, and refreshing, with a high citrus content, which we all know is essential to keeping scurvy at bay. It's a festive drink as well. Who could possibly be unhappy while quaffing a pitcher of frosty green deliciousness?

As for mysteries, I have loved them for so long, I'm not even sure which mystery I started with. I wasn't really a big fan of Nancy Drew, although I do remember reading them one summer to keep from going stir crazy while babysitting some neighbor kids. I'm sure the tykes got away with more than they should have while I was engrossed in unmasking one criminal mastermind after another. A while later I discovered Agatha Christie books, which seemed so elegant, and sophisticated, not to mention a world away from the crimes Nancy Drew and I had been solving together in my suburban backyard.

So mysteries can prevent boredom while you discover you're not cut out for parental activities, and they can transport you to a place more in keeping with your vision of your future life, even if it's in the past.

That makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

A lot of people seem to love reading mysteries because they like solving a puzzle, or they want to see justice prevail. Those are definitely good reasons, and I would feel cheated if either one of those were missing when I finished a mystery. But that's still not the main reason I love them. I read mysteries because of what I learn about human nature.

Yep. I confess. I'm nosy. Mystery novels are one of the best ways to discover the real, ongoing mystery in life: why do people do what they do?

The sleuth interviews a ton of different people in an effort to solve the crime, and each person has secrets, as well as reasons for hanging on tightly to information they want to keep hidden. With each scene, the sleuth gathers bits of information, hoping to link it together to find the criminal. In the process, we learn just what people value the most in life, what hurts they are holding inside of them, and how far they are willing to go to protect something--or someone--important to them.

In the most entertaining mysteries, we also learn about the sleuth as they go about uncovering the criminal. A sleuth who has frailties or issues is often forced to confront them as they interrogate potential suspects with other frailties and issues.

That, to me, is the motherlode, million-dollar lottery epic win, because I am more interested in the whydunit than the whodunit. Our daily lives are filled with so much randomness, and uncertainty, not to mention unpredictability. Reading mysteries helps give us a frame of reference for human behavior that initially seems whacko and outrageous...until we see what motivated the person to act as they did.

So that's why I love mysteries. Now where are the margaritas? While you're pouring, tell me what you love about reading, and writing, mysteries.

Donna Cummings has worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorous contemporary and historical romances. Currently she resides in Massachusetts, although she fantasizes about spending the rest of her days in a tropical locale, consuming mojitos for breakfast and wearing flip flops year-round. She can usually be found at the local Starbucks, fine-tuning her caffeine levels while working on her latest manuscript, or on Twitter, talking about writing, and coffee. To find out more about Donna, check out her website http://www.allaboutthewriting.com/


Cassy Pickard said...

Donna! How great to have you here with all our wonderful people who follow M&M. Yes, I love mysteries too. Good thing as I write them, well more to the suspense side, but who's splitting hairs?

I get what you mean about learning about the people. Characters, characters, characters. The story really becomes interesting when you related to the people who are apart of the story.

Thanks, again. Great post.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great post, Donna!

I love learning about people and studying human nature. That's why I love reality TV. Unscripted and impulsive. I love seeing how people will react differently to the same situations.

Donna Cummings said...

Thanks, Cassy! I guess I hang around here enough, so Kari HAD to invite me to post. LOL

I love to read suspense too, and I think I've learned more about keeping tension in my writing from reading suspense novels.

And you're so right about the characters making the story interesting--it keeps me turning the pages!

Donna Cummings said...

Kari, thanks again for having me here. I am fascinated by people, and isn't it intriguing how differently they act in a situation? That means there is no end to the possible stories and plots. :)

I think of reality TV as "voyeur TV". LOL It always feels like I'm learning more about those folks than they intended!

Barbie Jo Mahoney said...

Great post, Donna and soo true about the "why"dunit!

I was a total Nancy Drew junkie. Had a whole bookcase full of her books. which of course turned me on the the Hardy Boys (just in time for the hormones to kick in! LOL) And I was a faithful Murder she Wrote watcher!

It's a wonderful thing to read a story and find out those underlying facts which contributed to their motivation for murder. Having that "no way!" moment as a reader is the best high ever. I just love the ones you never saw coming, yet when you think back to the story the clues were there all along.

I'm enjoying writing cozies, and one day when I "grow up" I would love to try my hand at a full blown mystery.

But right now...it's margarita time! YUM!

Donna Cummings said...

Barbie Jo, I was such a fan of Jessica Fletcher. In fact, I devoted a whole blog post to how she inspired me to write (something about that typewriter on the kitchen table is SO sexy! LOL)

I'm in awe of you mystery writers. I have some mystery elements in one of my contemps, but it's hard work to put clues in there without making them LOOK like clues. LOL

Here's your margarita. I think I'll have a small one myself. Oh, and my word verification is "steak". I didn't realize this was such a great restaurant!

Lindsay said...

I'm glad to see there is another Starbucks addicted writer.

Donna Cummings said...

Lindsay, caffeine is the foundation of my personality! LOL And Starbucks is my office away from home -- my muse Endora loves it there. In fact, we're on our way there now!

Lindsay said...

I just got back from Starbucks after getting my second iced coffee of the day. One more to go, on my way to work.
The nice thing about writing there-I can get up from my chair and know my younger, smaller but still fat son won't/can't take my seat.
No cats or dogs allowed.

Anita Clenney said...

Hi Donna. Great post. I love mysteries. I did love Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but I love mysteries of all kinds. I love the "whydunit". That is so true. The motivation is at least as interesting as the who.

Donna Cummings said...

Lindsay, I got iced coffee today, but now my fingers are so frozen I can barely type! I can't wait til it's actually warm enough to switch over to my "summer drink" (iced caramel macchiato).

Donna Cummings said...

Anita, I've always loved knowing WHY people do things, and luckily in a mystery there are LOTS of people to investigate and interrogate. So it can satisfy that craving many times. :)

Lindsay said...

Even during the coldest days of winter I'm an iced coffee drinker. I have them trained to put it in a double layer hot cup. Keeps the drink cold and fingers not

Liz Lipperman said...

First of all, Welcome Miss Donna. I agree with everything you say about mysteries. I love that you love Jessica Fletcher. My question is ---why aren't you writing them???

Donna Cummings said...

Lindsay, I hadn't thought about using the hot cup as a holder. Thanks for the tip!

Donna Cummings said...

LOL, Miss Liz, you are a bonafide troublemaker! The contemp that caught Christine's attention has a mystery for the characters to solve, but the romance is the paramount part.

I am pondering some mystery ideas, but at heart, I'm a romance kind of gal. LOL All my ideas are romances, and they all seem to be humorous too!

Thanks for having me today, M&M-ers. It was great fun!

Maureen said...

I'm a total mystery devourer and am more likely to be reading a mystery than anything else. I may write paranormal PiratePunk, but I read mysteries.

And the whydunnit is the reason!

I never read Nancy Drew, but I did read The Bobsy Twins and Trixie Beldon.

Kari Marie said...

Hi Donna! I agree with you WHY is almost more interesting than WHO.

Great post!

Julie said...

My first love was Nancy Drew (margaritas came later). I read every. single. one. And then moved onto Trixie Belden. My parents just dropped off a dusty box of my old books and I would be excited except my daughter doesn't share my love of reading.


I love the Why. And the When. And the What. And the How. Who? Yeah. That was good, too.

And even better with tequila.

Loved the post, lady.