Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Beauty of an Amateur Sleuth by Hart Johnson

Hart Johnson is one of those wonderful folks I met online way back when I first discovered social media and discovered what it takes to build a blog and attract visitors. And who wouldn't want to visit a blog called Confessions of a Watery Tart? Now here she is, promoting her first published novel, and traditionally published at that.

Writing cozies for Berkley Prime Crime as Alyse Carlson, Hart also writes darker stuff which she hopes to place with a publisher soon.

Congratulations, Hart, and welcome to my blog.

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The Beauty of an Amateur Sleuth by Hart Johnson

I want to start off giving Pat a huge thanks for having me here! I was an admirer of Pat's mysteries before it even occurred to me mystery might be a genre I could write. One of the things that made me SO CERTAIN I couldn't write mysteries, is... I didn't know anything.
 
I mean... I know SOME stuff... but all that police procedural stuff... forensic evidence... detective tricks... the LAW... There seemed such a vast array of things a person needed to be expert in to write an intelligent investigator.

Now me... my expertise... I'm a statistician by day. I'm sure you can imagine what glorious fiction that would be. Can you think of a single book with a statistician for an MC? Let alone a mystery (let's, see... the odds are...) I do have other fields I know something about. I have degrees in journalism and psychology, so I'm not completely clueless... but all that crime-related stuff? Yeah, I got nothin...

Enter the amateur sleuth.

And what IS an amateur sleuth? A person who does something else for a job who happens, for personal reasons, to get roped into solving a murder. In my case, Cam Harris handles the public relations for the Roanoke Garden Society (and boy is murder bad for publicity!) Her first murder, she gets involved because her brother-in-law, who she's hired to cater, has been accused of the murder—her sister begs her to help because the police seem to think it's an open and shut case... there is the compulsion to get involved...

And Cam, as an amateur, has no need to already know about blood spatter, or rigor mortis, or how to collect blood from a soil sample (though she is more observant than the average bear... publicity being about the details...). What SHE knows, though, is the people at the event and how to snoop out information with a goal of damage control.

As she learns she can get better—it would be silly if she didn't. Her boyfriend plays baseball with a cop and Cam makes friends with him and learns to use him as a resource (though the two bicker—Jake being a by-the-book guy). But she doesn't need to know it all at the start. And she NEVER needs to become an expert (she really just learns who can help figure out what).

It's so freeing as a writer. And honestly, it adds some opportunity for humor, which Cozy Mysteries are known for. A person who doesn't really know what they're doing bumbles along a bit. Makes some mistakes (some funny, some dangerous).

I'd love to build my knowledge base enough to write a more legitimate sleuth at some point, but this one sure has been fun!

Begonia Bribe Blurb

 Roanoke, Virginia, is home to some of the country’s most exquisite gardens, and it’s Camellia Harris’s job to promote them. But when a pint-sized beauty contest comes to town, someone decides to deliver a final judgment …

A beauty pageant for little girls—the Little Miss Begonia Pageant—has decided to hold their event in a Roanoke park. Camellia is called in to help deal with the botanical details, the cute contestants, and their catty mothers. She soon realizes that the drama onstage is nothing compared to the judges row. There’s jealousy, betrayal, and a love triangle involving local newsman—and known lothario—Telly Stevens. And a mysterious saboteur is trying to stop the pageant from happening at all.

But the drama turns deadly when Stevens is found dead, poisoned by some sort of plant. With a full flowerbed of potential suspects, Cam needs to dig through the evidence to uproot a killer with a deadly green thumb.

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Thanks so much for being my guest today, Hart. I hope you'll come back soon.

Hart (aka, Alyse Carlson) writes books from her bathtub and can be found at Confessions of a Watery Tart, on Facebook (author page, profile), Twitter, or Goodreads. Book links: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

16 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Hart.

Hart - There is definitely something liberating about a sleuth who doesn't have to have a lot of technical knowledge of forensics, etc.. I think you make a really important point though that an amateur sleuth has to have some kind of intelligence and should learn as s/he goes on. What's more, I like it when the amateur sleuth can use her or his own professional knowledge to solve cases. Thanks for your thoughts and I wish you much success with The Begonia Bribe.

Alison DeLuca said...

This made me snorfle - but Hart always gets me spluttering in my tea. What a wonderful piece - and a wonderful new blog! Thanks for hosting one of my very favorite cozy mystery writers.

Trisha F said...

Hmmm, I'm trying to picture a statistician procedural instead of a police one. hehe

I think if I were to do mystery, I'd totally have to go the amateur sleuth route as well. Unless I actually wanted to do a crapload of research & try to make myself enough of an expert on the real deal stuff.

E.J. Wesley said...

I've followed Hart's blog for a very long time, and can say I'm genuinely thrilled to see her smiling in front of that stack of books. :)

Way to go Hart!

And I think a statistician's brain would be perfect for writing mysteries. So many puzzle pieces to that need to fit together and be analyzed in a good mystery. :D

Julie Luek said...

First, I love that cover-- it's one of my favorite I've seen around. I would pick that book up immediately. Second, I love a good cozy mystery. They just make fun reads. Looks like your book is a winning combination for me!

Hart Johnson said...

Margot-Oh I agree they need some skills to work with! I love smart leads. (and nosy ones... erm...)

Alison-Oh, thank you, chica! Always happy to make someone snarfle!

Trisha-might work if it were really tongue in cheek... I actually LOVE all those geeky bug guys on the forensic shows, and I've been watching Numb3rs... so there is a role for math... erm...

EJ-THANK YOU! Yeah, there is a puzzle-master thing that works that is very much my math brain.

Julie-Yeah, I LOVE my artists!!!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hart, I've found it interesting that so many mystery writers, especially those who write amateur sleuth novels, have a background in math or accounting (me) or computer/software analytics or design. Must be that puzzle-solving thing at work.

M. J. Joachim said...

Mystery writing sounds like so much fun, as does reading the book Hart wrote.

Stephen Tremp said...

One of my protagonists, the female assassin, is a statistician at M.I.T.

So there you go!

Hart Johnson said...

Pat-I really think the puzzling part of mysteries fits a mathematical mind well--there is order and answers. You just have to find them.

MJ-they ARE fun to write. I was very intimidated for a long time, but tehre are ALSO some great resources...

Stephen-I remember her! She is quite the badass...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

It's not what you know, it's who you know that already knows!
Did that even makes sense...?

Dean K Miller said...

The Amatuer anything is a great idea to open an new genre that one is unfamiliar. Your and MC learn along the way, mistakes are bound to happen and even expected. A bad move by an amatuer sluthe could bring about all kinds of drama, tension, humor, etc. into the story.

Bring out the "Dark Side" soon!

Yolanda Renee said...


Beautiful cover, and the premise is wonderful. On the TBR bookshelf for sure. I write detectives, and have police procedure reviewed by the experts, just happen to know a few, but I don't go in for all the gory details at all. Still, a cozy mystery series is so much fun. I love Miss Marple.
Congratulations, and much success!

Someone recently compared you to the 'naked writer' I highlighted on my blog. Don't see it, not at all! :)

Helena said...

Whaddya mean, Hart, that you'd like to write a more "legitimate sleuth"? Cam is as legit as they come! She's savvy, persistent, a really sharp observer and a good judge of character. That's all you need for a good long series of cozies.

Hart Johnson said...

Alex-good philosophy there!

Dean-great point that it isn't limited to mystery! I've read some great books where people inherit something and it's all brand new, too, and I love them.

Yolanda-those are fabulous connections! Definitely good to take advantage if you've got them!

Helena-I'm pretty sure I owe you money now! teehee

Gina Gao said...

This is great! I liked the cover very much.

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