by Esme Addison
It’s such a cliche for a mystery author to say he or she was inspired by Nancy Drew – but if it’s true, what can you do?
I always knew that I would be a published author (like most writers). It begins young, this desire to create stories and then write them down. I think I wrote my first story in 5th or 6th grade. I was in a gifted English class, and our project was to create a story, craft a cover out of cardboard, illustrate said cover and staple it all together. I remember feeling so satisfied when I looked down at my misshapen cardboard with the crudely drawn cover. I’d written my first book, and I was in love with the feeling.
After that, I could always be found lugging around a thick notebook full of my current work-in-progress. At this age, I didn’t have a well-formed idea about being a professional writer, I just knew that I loved to write, was kind of good at it (at least my Language Arts teacher told me so) and considered it my number one hobby.
It was my father who identified my passion and talent for writing early on. He told me as a child that I should set the goal to be a published author. So that idea was always in the back of my mind but didn’t become a fully-formed idea until much later.
But back to Nancy Drew! I was an avaricious writer – oh my. I zoomed through a book a day, sometimes two. Nancy Drew was a favorite. (But so was Harriet The Spy, and Encyclopedia Brown, that darn crafty kid.) I so wanted to be Nancy Drew. She was just so… aspirational. Cutely dressed, free to roam the city, had a housekeeper and a knack for solving crimes.
My parents purchased a Nancy Drew spy kit for me as a child. I can’t remember what all was in it – a magnifying glass, a small notepad and pencil and maybe a decoder? I was so excited when I received it! And I spent that entire city on the prowl in my neighborhood looking for mysteries. I never found a one – not even a missing dog case.
I went through a long period where I stopped reading mysteries. Actually what happened, is that I discovered my grandmother’s stack of bodice rippers. She had a huge stack of romances that launched a new dream – to be ravished by a dark-haired rake. My sheltered teenaged eyes were open to a whole new word then too. lol During that period, I read Falcon Crest, Gone With The Wind… and a lot of romances where pioneer women found love with sexy Native Americans and lords.
But I digress… I went from those paperbacks to Pat Booth and Jackie Collins in the adult section of my library… And then African-American fiction by writing stars like E. Lynn Harris, Eric Jerome Dickey and Sheila Copeland (Chocolate Star!). I didn’t re-discover mysteries until I was grown, married and had two children. I was working in a library on Camp Lejeune, and discovered Helen McInnes, mother of the accidental espionage novel. And after discovering an interest in world affairs and intrigue, I zipped through espionage authors like Tom Clancy, Brad Thor and Vince Flynn.
Then the chick lit era hit and I was all about Sophie Kinsella and her sister Gemma Townley. Fast forward another five years, and I’d discovered wine and wanted to read books about merlots and cabernets. I found Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries. And when I was done with those books, I wanted more. A Border’s bookstore seller pointed me in the direction of the brightly colored cozy mystery series (a section I’d never paid attention to before) – and I was hooked. I loved that these books had themes – wine, cupcakes, libraries, all of my favorite things. And… there was a mystery.
My inner Nancy Drew awoke and a new addiction was created. Cozy mysteries are such fun reads! They’re a little formulaic, but I like the formula. I want the interesting protagonist, the quirky sidekick, the sexy cop-as-boyfriend and the charming small town. – the charming small town is the best part! And the themes – I want those themes: candlemaking, herbal tea, chocolate knitting, whatever. I’m here for it!
The best part about writing cozy mysteries is that I can channel my inner Nancy Drew, and not only create the mystery, but solve it as well. I love creating mysteries, and it’s such a blast to share these stories with like-minded folk.
Do you have a favorite Nancy Drew story? Mine was The Mysterious Mannequin.