My Love Affair with Mystery Writing by Nancy Boyarsky
About twelve years ago I finished my third attempt at a novel. The Swap: A Mystery was good. I sent it to an agent who called me the day she received it and told me it was wonderful. Unfortunately—and what I didn’t know at the time—she had a very short attention span when it came to representing her clients. Three publishers’ rejections later, she handed the book back to me and told me I should hire an outside editor to help me rewrite it.
Rewriting didn’t help. Even then, the publishers’ appetite for new novelists was shrinking, and while I got some nibbles—editors who were interested until it was rejected by their editorial boards—I couldn’t sell that book. Rejection letters don’t hurt my feelings. I’m used to them. But it was too daunting to begin a new book, knowing I’d eventually have to face the misery of marketing it. As far as I was concerned, my writing career was over. I put the book in storage on my computer and took up oil painting.
Two years ago, I decided to reread The Swap. I figured that, after all this time, I could be objective and see what was wrong with it. But the funny thing was that I still liked it. I updated it (a lot had changed in twelve years) and got it published on Amazon
I never intended to write a series of mysteries about a single character. I’d gone to several events to hear Sue Grafton speak. I may have been wrong, but I thought she sounded weary of her character Kinsey Millhone and the idea of carrying her through the entire alphabet of titles.
But after my first novel, The Swap: A Mystery was published, and reviews indicated people were actually reading it and enjoying it, I began to wonder what would happen to my heroine next. The Swap ended with a lot of unresolved issues. Would Nicole’s love affair with the handsome inspector from Scotland Yard continue? Could a long-distance (London to L.A.) romance survive? What would her life be like when she was finally home in Los Angeles, divorced and single again?
One day, I sat down and wrote out some ideas for another mystery featuring Nicole: Who the victim would be. His relationship with Nicole. She’d need a compelling reason get involved in solving the murder herself. What would that be? And a more interesting question: what about her love life?
Who would the killer be? His or her motive? What about witnesses? Where would the police stand on this case, and what failure on their part would force Nicole to step in? She’d have to be in danger to keep the reader turning pages.
My ideas filled about two-and-a-half pages, single spaced. Then I started writing. I didn’t have a detailed road map, and yet the deeper I got into the story, the easier it seemed to flow.
By about page 70, I could hardly bear to be away from writing. I was thinking about my plot all of the time. Sometimes I’d have an epiphany—struck by a twist or complication that would deepen the mystery or make the story more suspenseful. I’d go back and put it in, then rewrite any sections this new development affected.
I had experts to consult: A close friend is a private investigator, so I turned to her with those questions. My brother-in-law is a criminal defense attorney, so he had answers in that department. My husband is a journalist with intimate knowledge of how the tabloids work, so he was a wealth of ideas for these parts of the book.
My sister and a close friend were editors and agreed to be my proofreaders. They caught some major glitches, like calling a character by a different names in different parts of the book. Or repeating a scene that had appeared earlier in the book. The funniest was when I had Nicole tie up a character who was sitting in a chair. I had her fasten his hands behind the chair with plastic wrist restraints and tie his ankles together. One of my proofreaders pointed out that all the bound character would have to do is stand up. He’d have to hop, but he certainly wouldn’t be stuck in the chair. I decided to lock him in a closet instead.
I was having so much fun researching and writing that any spare time I had—even a few minutes—would be spent working on my story.
It was like being in love. Everything else—meals, painting (which I was determined not to give up), sleep, exercise, and, yes—even promoting my newly published book, The Swap—were interruptions to what was going on in my head.
At one point, I thought I was finished. I wrote the concluding chapter, then did a word count. I had only 40,000 words. The average mystery is 75,000 words. But this didn’t set me back for long. I realized something else had to happen, knew right away what it was, and went to work on it. When that was written, I had my 75,000 words.
Then came my favorite job—rewriting and polishing what I had written. From start to finish, The Bequest took five-and-a-half months. The Swap had taken at least three years.
Several people have asked me how many hours a week I spend writing or if I have a daily writing schedule. I have no idea how many hours I spent on The Bequest. As for my writing schedule, it was any time I wasn’t doing something else.
It’s impossible to describe how much fun I had writing The Bequest. Now I’m starting my third and—I think—final book about Nicole. By the end, I hope to have her happily settled in life. In any subsequent book, another character will have to step up to fight the good fight. I just hope that these next adventures will be as enjoyable for me as The Bequest.
Nancy Boyarsky was born in Oakland, California, attended the city’s public schools, and went on to graduate from the local institution of higher learning, UC Berkeley. She supported herself working in the campus library. In addition to the pleasure of working around books, the job had an added benefit of allowing student clerks to disappear into the stacks and read when work was slow. She was married at 19 between her sophomore and junior years of college. She majored in English literature.
Her first job was as an associate editor for a small, long-vanished publishing house in San Francisco. After her two daughters were born, she began writing freelance articles for a local paper, as well as teaming up with her husband, Bill Boyarsky, on magazine articles and nonfiction books.
They lived in Sacramento for ten years, then moved to Los Angeles when Bill joined the staff of the Los Angeles Times. Once their girls were in their teens, Nancy returned to full-time work, first as associate editor of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine and later as communications director for political affairs for ARCO. She quit ARCO when the first of her two granddaughters was born. Her primary hobby is painting portraits and images from old family photos dating from the early 1900s. She loves reading fiction, the theater, films, and travel, especially to the UK, where the theater and books are a national passion.
From Marilyn Meredith:
And here's my review of The Bequest:
I can honestly say that I loved the latest book about Nicole Lewis. I enjoyed the first novel, The Swap, and it’s hard to believe, but in this one the pace is even faster. From the beginning, it is difficult for Nicole to know who to trust. One after another, those she had faith in either disappoint or betray.
Reinhardt, her rescuer and lover, from the previous book seems to have dropped out of sight. The private investigator, Robert Blair, who works for the same firm as Nicole, has also disappeared. Because she often worked with him, she goes to his home In an effort to find him. He’s been murdered. When the police find intimate photographs of her along with some of her personal belongings there, she becomes the primary suspect.
Nicole soon discovers Blair had many secrets, some that seem to incriminate her. While trying to find the true murderer and clear her own name, she becomes a target. Following Nicole sift through the evidence and put together clues while trying to protect herself is an exciting adventure for the reader.
One thing I really like about Nicole as a heroine, though she does have some help along the way, she is the one who saves herself through her own wits, bravery and intelligence. A satisfying tale about a strong woman. Definitely 5 Stars!