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Friday, September 4, 2015

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone a guest post by Lauren Carr

Lauren Carr, author of the Mac Faraday and Thorny Rose mysteries, joins us this week with a thoughtful post on the importance of keeping storylines and series fresh without betraying the trust you've built with your readers.  The first book in the Thorny Rose Detective series, Kill and Run is available TODAY, September 4th!

Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone: Are You and (more importantly) Are Your Readers Ready?
Guest Post
By Lauren Carr

Every writer has different dreams of “making it.” Most of us determine that we have “made it” when we are able to write full-time. Some go even further. They want to write full-time and pay their bills with their earnings. About ninety-five percent of us never really make that point.

As years go by, our definition of being a successful author will recede. By the time we reach middle-age, it will be something more obtainable. That’s so we can die feeling that we have succeeded in our life dream.

When I started writing over thirty years ago, I first defined my success as making a boatload of money. Nope, never even remotely happened.

Then, I would be happy to have Hollywood call. Now, that did happen. But then, I was rejected weeks later (after rewriting the screenplay) when the producer and star who wanted to do the project dumped me for a writer with a track record. At that time, mine was zero.

Okay, I would be happy to get a literary agent. Got that, but that relationship ended when I gave birth and decided to give up writing to be a stay-at-home mom—which lasted six months at which time I started writing again, but the literary agent was gone.

So then, I would be happy to get picked up by a traditional publisher. That did happen, but when I saw how much they were getting from my book, and how little I was getting, I decided I could do it all myself and keep my royalties. (But that’s another blog post.)

By then, my defining moment of success came when I would release a book and find that I had readers waiting to buy it. That has happened. It is very nice to release a book and have readers snapping it up, seeing its ranking crawling up on Amazon, and getting great feedback.

It’s almost enough to make a writer breathe a sigh of relief and get … comfortable.

Is it really possible for a writer to get comfortable?

I don’t think it’s part of our make-up. I have learned that authors are generally insecure anyway. Maybe it has something to do with all the rejection we get from literary agents, publishers, editors, and some nasty reviewers with deep seated issues that have nothing to do with our books. You have to have a skin made of iron to take some of the feedback from these groups.

It’s hard enough to make it. But I have found that once you “make it,” then the fear comes that you may “lose it.”

Now a writer may ask, “How can you lose it once you’ve made it? You now have readers. They are going to stay loyal to you forever, aren’t they? Every time you release a book, they are going to be buying them. Now you are set for life.”

My answer: No.

I can think of numerous examples of authors who had become great successes, only to lose their readers with their subsequent books:

  •   Breaking Their Readers’ Trust

It is not uncommon for an author to strike it big with their first book--snagging the agent and the big book deal—or even a movie deal, only to flop with their second book. At a speaking engagement, one author told how this happened to him.  He wrote his first book with the goal of getting the agent and book deal. He wrote what the agents and publishers were looking for. This book became a New York Times best-seller. After achieving the success that every author dreams of, he wrote what he wanted to write, which was quite different from his first book. The audience that he had acquired with the first book was shocked and disappointed. So were the reviewers. Thus, he lost his audience.

One very successful author, who I won’t name because I have stopped following her, lost me and other readers when she took a turn in her storyline that infuriated us. After years and dozens of successful books in her series, she killed off a main character whom we had grown to love. This author is still a success and her books are top sellers, but she did lose many readers, who posted reviews saying that they felt betrayed.

Why would an author kill off a major character after years of character development and dozens of books?

Well, as an author, I can see why.  It is the next reason that authors lose readers.
  • Their books have grown stale.

It can be very easy for an artist to become comfortable in their success. We see it in actors who always appear in the same type of movies playing the same type of characters, and singers singing the same song over and over again. They are saying to themselves, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Let’s not mess with a good thing.”

However, their audience can get sick of hearing and reading the same thing over and over again. Just as an audience can get bored reading the same thing, imagine writing the same thing.

After writing so many books, especially some that are successful, an author can discover that they are writing from a formula. The basic plot is the same. The names have changed. Even the characters will have the same personalities.

This can happen without the writer realizing it. When I had finished the rough draft for my latest mystery, Kill and Run, I realized that the climax was very similar to ending in The Lady Who Cried Murder, the sixth Mac Faraday Mystery. I had to go back to the drawing board to rethink and rewrite the whole ending, which I believe is much more thrilling than the original.

Fresh storylines keep an author’s creative juices flowing. It’s what keeps the writing fun.

So, once an author has “made it,” they find that they have to do a balancing act in order to keep their readers while continuing to grow their audience. Not only do we have to stretch our creative muscles by coming up with fresh storylines and characters, but we have to do it without betraying our readers’ trust.

Readers have certain expectations from the author. It shouldn’t be any mystery to the author. They can find it expressed in the readers’ reviews. Mine have expressed their love of my complex mysteries that challenge them—which challenges me as a writer.

It was in a search for yet another challenge for my readers that I tackled a new series set in Washington, DC. The detectives in the Thorny Rose Mysteries, Lieutenant Murphy Thornton, USN, and Jessica Faraday are younger, sexier, and more edgy in keeping with the metropolitan setting. Their cases will be grittier than those in my Mac Faraday and Lovers in Crime series.

After all, anyone who keeps up with the news knows that life in Washington DC is not like Spencer, Maryland, and Chester, West Virginia.

Yes, it was a step out of my comfort zone. But, like a runner tackling her first marathon and crossing the finish line, it was a lot of fun and I feel great for having done it.

Here’s hoping my readers enjoy this venture as much as I have.

Mystery—The Next Generation

Five women with seemingly nothing in common are found brutally murdered in a townhome outside Washington, DC. Among the many questions surrounding the massacre is what had brought these apparent strangers together only to be killed.
Taking on his first official murder case, Lieutenant Murphy Thornton, USN, believes that if he can uncover the thread connecting the victims, then he can find their murderer.
The case takes an unexpected turn when Murphy discovers that one of the victims has a connection to his stepmother, Homicide Detective Cameron Gates. One wintry night, over a dozen years before, her first husband, a Pennsylvania State trooper, had been run down while working a night shift on the turnpike.
In Kill and Run, best-selling mystery author Lauren Carr delights her fans by merging the son and daughter of the detectives from her two popular series for a new series—the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Fans were introduced to Murphy Thornton, the son of Joshua Thornton from Lovers in Crime Mysteries, and Jessica Faraday, the daughter of Mac Faraday from the Mac Faraday Mysteries, in the widely-acclaimed and best-selling Three Days to Forever, which was released in January 2015.
The match-up surprised even the author. “I thought long and hard about bringing Murphy and Jessica together,” Lauren confesses. “I had developed each of the characters separately. Murphy appeared in my very first book, A Small Case of Murder. At that time, he was only sixteen and his mother had recently passed away. Jessica appeared briefly in Old Loves Die Hard and I had no thought while writing that book of pairing her up with Murphy. I was as surprised as anyone when their characters ended up being a perfect match in Three Days to Forever.”
A perfect match they are! Lauren Carr’s newest series is hot and sexy, like her newest detectives. Lauren warns, “Some readers may be surprised to see that I push the envelope just a little bit more in The Thorny Rose Mysteries than I do in my other series. Due to the combination of my detectives’ youth and the environment (the Nation’s Capital), it was virtually impossible to keep things completely pure.” Some readers may notice a few more curse words (no F-bombs allowed!) and sexual references, which Lauren will confine only to the Thorny Rose Mysteries. “What can I say?” Lauren says with a sigh. “Washington, DC, is not Spencer or Chester.”
In this first installment of the Thorny Rose Mysteries, the Lovers in Crime join newlyweds Murphy Thornton and Jessica Faraday to sift through a web of lies and cover-ups. Together, can the detectives of the Thorny Rose uncover the truth without falling victim to a cunning killer?

About the Author
An Amazon All-Star author, Lauren Carr is the creator of three popular mystery series: the Mac Faraday MysteriesThe Lovers in Crime Mysteries, and now the Thorny Rose Mysteries. Kill and Run is the first installment of The Thorny Rose Mysteries. Each of Lauren Carr’s mysteries have made Amazon’s best-seller ranking internationally.
In addition to her series set on Deep Creek Lake, Lauren Carr has also written the Lovers in Crime Mysteries, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates, who were introduced in Shades of Murder, the third book in the Mac Faraday Mysteries. They also make an appearance in The Lady Who Cried Murder.
The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.
She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
Visit Lauren Carr’s website at www.mysterylady.net to learn more about Lauren and her upcoming mysteries.


  1. Thank you so much, Must Read Mysteries, for allowing me to stop by today to celebrate the release of KILL AND RUN! Always great to stop by and meet fellow mystery fans!

  2. Thank you for the post Lauren! As always it was fun and informative. Good luck with KILL AND RUN! We noticed quite a few pre-orders for it. :)


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