Tuesday, January 5, 2021

A TIME FOR COZIES: Guest Post by Clea Simon

Clea Simon:

A Time for Cozies 

Now that the holidays are well and truly over, winter is really here – as harsh as a “Game of Thrones” nightmare. Not only are the days short and cold, between the pandemic and the ongoing political rancor, I cannot remember a darker, or scarier, era. Which makes this the perfect season for a cozy, right? 

I know the arguments. The arts – including fiction – should reflect the era. Artists should mine the zeitgeist for meaning to help us understand our conflicts and travails. And I do believe there will be time for that in coming years. (Full disclosure, I’ve got a post-pandemic short story, featuring a woman whose life has been permanently changed by the extended lockdown, in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories.)

I tend to read all over the spectrum. Only two years ago, I was entranced by Karen Thompson Walker’s The Dreamers, a novel about a strange plague that caused people to fall into a deep, coma-like sleep. Some woke up, others did not, and the reactions of both those affected and the government made for intriguing drama. But just as I don’t believe in hitting myself over the head every time I forget how horrible things are out there, I also don’t think such dystopian books are what I want to read right now. 

I suspect I’m not alone. When I tell people that my latest – A Cat on the Case – is a cozy (a feline cozy, no less), increasingly they sound relieved. Whereas, in better times, when I’d mention my kitty-centered books at, say, a cocktail party, I’d expect to see smiles start to freeze or eyes drift over my shoulder in search of a more interesting guest, these days it’s just the opposite. Maybe it’s because these parties are on Zoom now, but increasingly I’m seeing people light up, smiles appearing on mask-less faces. Actual cheer. 

“Cat mysteries?” Even newcomers to the genre sound intrigued. “Do the cats solve the mysteries?” 

“Well, yes and no,” I explain. At which point, I tend to go off into the intricacies of my fictional world, in which my three witch cats are in fact the ones who do much of the sleuthing but who are also all very aware that their decidedly un-magical human thinks she’s the one in charge. More often than not, Thisbe has joined me by this point – prompting pets being picked up and displayed on other screens, and sometimes sitting on the keyboards. And just like that, we’re all distracted – thinking not of the cold, cruel world outside but the pups and pusses we love, or the ones we visit remotely as they sniff our screens. If I’m still talking about my books at all, at this point I’ll point out that they’re puzzle mysteries – the kind of adventure that engages the reader, providing the kind of agency that we’re feeling the lack of in reality. That they have happy endings is a given, but sometimes I bring that up too – because we need happy endings right now. 

I like to think we’ll be seeing more of those beyond the pages of our books soon. Spring will come, and it seems like the end of this pandemic is in sight as well. But until those joyful days when we can gather, perhaps at a mystery con or even just a bookstore event, I think cozies fit the bill. If I can engage a reader, distract and amuse, then I’ve done my job. Right now, that’s what I’m looking for as reader, too.


Clea Simon’s latest, A Cat on the Case, will be published by Polis Books on Jan. 26. “Fans of feline cozies will be charmed,” says Publishers Weekly. Her previous “witch cat” books, A Spell of Murder and An Incantation of Cats, are available in all formats now, as are her more than two dozen other mysteries, most of which involve cats. Currently hunkered down in Somerville, Massachusetts, Clea can be reached at http://www.cleasimon.com

1 comment:

Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

Congratulations on Cat on the Case. I'm ready for cozies, too, as our national nightmares and wildfires have taken their toll. I may even almost be ready to start writing my next one.