by Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson
It is both an honor and a privilege to be one of the lead bloggers on this brave new experiment called Classic and Cozy. And part of my delight is purely selfish. For years I have preferred to read traditionally – love stories without explicit or highly descriptive sex. For the same reason I love cozy mysteries – no hard-boiled police procedurals, no graphic descriptions of blood, gore or other assorted horrors, just brain-teasing puzzles of ordinary people dealing with extraordinary events. I had begun to worry that I was alone in my likes and prejudices, that the reading world had abandoned me just because I like my books to focus on the story’s action rather than sometimes far-too-graphic details.
None of that means, however, as some people seem to think, such books are bland or boring. I personally think it takes a great deal of skill for a writer to convey an idea or emotion without necessarily resorting to such erotic or gory lengths.
Now I am a grown-up, most of the time at least, and I know that falling in love will sooner or later involve sex, and that murder in itself is a ghastly and usually messy crime. I don’t have to be shown every splash and touch to get the idea. In fact, the visuals in my head - for me, at least – may be more moving than the author intended. Murder is an inherently terrible thing; we don’t have to be shown every blow and blood spatter to know that. Sex is intensely romantic and personal, and what is inside my mind is so much more intense for me than any author could ever write.
I guess I just just don’t believe in showing the monster. As I’ve blogged and spoken about in several places, I once worked on a rather cheesy horror movie. When the crew was putting a rather ghastly rubber monster suit on a poor actor, an old gaffer snorted and said they were making a bad mistake. When I asked why, he responded that everyone was frightened by something different. To show this rubber-suited actor would take their worst fears away. The best way to scare the most people, he said wisely, was to suggest the monster, to show what it could do, and let the viewer fill in the blanks with what was most frightening to them. Instead of the film trying to scare the viewer, create an atmosphere where the viewer could scare himself.
It’s the same for books. Obviously we don’t have monsters in cozies or romance, but the idea is the same. We read books for many reasons – for escape, for pleasure, for learning, for just about anything. Why should our reactions be shaped and confined by the author’s vision of what is scary or sexy? I know that no romance I’ve ever read, erotic or not, has ever come close to my imagination… or my memories.
As a reader I say, lead me, don’t force me. Let my mind be free to imagine my own perception of your path. Let me personalize the story in my head. Let me become a partner, an active participant in my mind. Let me dream.
Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson is a 7th-generation Texan and a 3rd-generation wordsmith who writes mystery, romance, horror, children’s and scholarly. Once an actress and a singer Janis has also been editor-in-chief of two multi-magazine publishing groups as well as many other things, including an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist. Janis’ husband even proposed in a moonlit garden near the Pyramids of Giza. Janis and her husband live in
Texas with an assortment
of rescued furbabies. She can be reached through www.JanisSusanMay.com or www.JanisPattersonMysteries.com