Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Guest Post: "Mysteries are Harder to Write Than I Thought" by JoAnn Smith Ainsworth

What a delight to welcome JoAnn Smith Ainsworth, a fellow Oak Tree Press author, to share her experience in mystery writing. I think you will find this an engaging read, particularly if you are thinking of venturing into mystery writing, too! And don't her books sound like fun reads?

I'm a suspense writer. I like the quick pace, the easy-to-understand language. I like that the reader knows all that is going on in the heads of the point-of-view characters. I always include the villain as a POV character, along with the heroine and the hero.

A few years ago, I decided to try writing a mystery where I had to keep information back from you—the reader—and feed it in bit by tantalizing bit. Was I surprised! Mysteries are harder to write than I thought.

The reason the mystery was so difficult for me was because of that very point—I had to keep information back from you. I could only feed it in when it was critical for you to know. Too early and I would resolve the story’s mystery before arriving at the novel’s conclusion.

For a writer who likes to let you know every thought in the heads of the main characters, it was difficult for me to hold things back. My critique partners would throw their hands up and say to me, "JoAnn, you're bringing that in too soon. You’ll give away the ending."

Still—with the help of my friends and my critique partners, I finished writing the mystery, which is also a romance.

The Farmer and the Wood Nymph takes place in Wyoming in 1895 in a time of no fast foods. Everything eaten had to be grown, gathered, fished for or hunted. Meals took many hours to prepare.

The novel is the story of two totally opposite personalities who need to learn “unconditional” love to have any chance of a “happily ever after.”

The heroine was found wandering alone in the woods with no clues as to her family. She has a wedding ring and amnesia. The hero is a member of the posse which finds her. The mystery woven throughout the story is about finding out who she is and whether she is married or widowed. The resolution of the mystery is essential to the love story. They are both honorable people who live by their vows and the social dictates of society. Even after learning how to unconditionally accept each other’s different viewpoints and approaches to life and to try not to change one another, they still cannot plan a future—not until they know who she is and if she is a widow.

One of the tender moments of redemption in the novel takes place in the kitchen of a boarding house. Breakfast is being prepared on a wood-stoked stove and the process of new love and new understanding is woven in with slicing bread, bringing the butter from the pantry to the table and scrambling the eggs.

In those days, the dining room table was a place for conversations and debates. Hours were spent over meals or, afterward, during a board game among the residents. The novel reflects these leisurely activities.

On the other hand, my paranormal suspense, Expect Trouble, gallops along from crisis to crisis.
Every thought and action by the protagonists and the schemes in the mind of the villain are an open book for you, the reader.

In Expect Trouble, the U.S. government recruits psychics to find Nazi spies on the East Coast during WWII. All the past history, all the current action and all future plans are written out for your knowledge. All action is up-to-the-minute, present-day. It’s not a mystery. There is no need to hide facts.

What a relief that is for me as the author.

When writing a 90,000 word novel, there are enough elements to juggle and remember. Holding back on facts and feeding hints in sparsely—and even throwing in a few red herrings—adds immense difficulty for me. The Farmer and the Wood Nymph may be the only mystery I ever write.

My hat is off to those authors who can create book after book of well thought out and exciting mysteries.

My question to you is:  Have you met or heard of anyone skilled at cooking on a wood-burning kitchen stove?

When JoAnn Smith Ainsworth carried wood as a pre-teen so her Great Aunt Martha could stoke up the iron stove to prepare dinner, she wasn’t thinking, “I could use this in a novel someday.” Yet, the skills she learned from her horse-and-buggy ancestors translate into backdrops for her historical romance and paranormal suspense novels. Her debut medieval romantic suspense novels received 4 stars from RT Book Reviews.

Twitter @JoAnnAinsworth
Facebook’s JoAnn Smith Ainsworth Fan Page.
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&query=joann+smith+ainsworth

Contact her at joannparanormal@gmail.com.


  1. Good morning, Readers. Thank you for visiting and reading how I'm sticking with writing suspense and thrillers because a quirk in my personality makes mystery writing a "tough go" for me. I hope you get a chuckle out of it. Let me know if you have family and friends who can cook on wood-burning fires. My son's scout troop made a whole Thanksgiving meal over campfires.

  2. I so appreciate you sharing your experience, JoAnn.