Today I’m thrilled to be joined on my blog by the lovely and talented author, Angela Wren. Angela’s post provides a fascinating insight into the themes of her novels and a great discussion of the central themes in ‘cosy crime’.
Over to you, Angela…
Hi, Jo and thanks for inviting me to your blog today.
For lots of books spotting the principle theme is very apparent from the outset. It is often alluded to in the blurb. But when I started to think about my own books I found that I was repeating myself. I write crime and my central character, Jacques Forêt, has to solve the crime no matter what obstacles are put in his way either by other characters or me.
That was when I thought that perhaps I hadn’t fully understood Jo’s commission for this post. I scanned my bookshelves for some of my textbooks about writing, plot, structure and language and spent an hour or so poring over them. Luckily, at the end of that hour, I was pleased to find that I did know what I was talking about and that my worry about repetition was baseless. I had reached the right answer; I just hadn’t expressed it in the right terms.
So, Jo, to answer your question directly, the central theme or universal truth that is challenged and revealed through my stories is that crime does not pay. I think that particular theme has to be dominant in any book in the cosy crime genre. And yes, Jacques does get the culprit in each story.
But this begs the question why write crime if every reader knows that the central theme is ‘crime doesn’t pay’? And then there’s the supplementary but related question, aren’t all crime authors writing the same book?
For me, the answer to the first question is that the journey taken by Jacques to get to the answer is different in each book. The people he has to deal with along the way are always different because their individual stories are particular to the needs of each plot.
My answer to the second question is both yes and no. Yes, the central theme is the same but the actual crime is different. As are the subplots and these challenge other universal truths. One particular subplot relates to Jacques’ love life and examines the question will he get the girl or not? This is a very strong theme in the first book which continues in the second and third – and no, I won’t tell you the answer. In the second book, another strong theme centres on success over adversity for one of the supporting characters. For another supporting character the various subplots examine how that individual picks up valuable life lessons. Yes, that does mean he is a very young character and he happens to be my most favourite character to write.
The use of subplots to supplement the central static theme means that a crime writer can explore other issues – be they moral, political, social or whatever. It also means that we have scope for how many subplots we include and how much a proportion of the whole novel they will take. For example, in Messandrierre, Pierre learns one very valuable life lesson in one scene. In Montbel, he comes up against an important milestone in his life but does not fully deal with the issue, thereby giving me a chance to return to the same theme but in a different guise in the fourth book. The opportunity to ‘play’ with these supplementary themes through subplots is what convinces me that I am not writing the same book over and over again. It makes me realise that every mystery story I write is different and they always will be.
Blurb for Montbel:
A clear-cut case?
A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.
When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques’ case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.
Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?
Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre. I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010. My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work. My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical. I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio. The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.
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