Detective novels take a lot of planning and prep work. Just how much I didn’t realize until L.K. Hill, author of The Botanist, explained some of the nuts and bolts behind writing a successful detective story, which I will share with you here.
First though, here is blurb of what The Botanist is about. (There’s also a giveaway so check out the details below]
When a mass grave is unearthed in the desert, a small-town detective must find an invisible killer before the people he loves are targeted.
In the heat of summer, a previously undetected serial killer, dubbed The Botanist by the press, re-emerges in the rural, southern Utah town of Mt. Dessicate. Detective Cody Oliver becomes the lead detective in the case as Mt. Dessicate is plunged into chaos. Alexandra Thompson, a beautiful woman from the past, may be the only person who has come face to face with the killer and lived to tell the tale. There’s just one problem: the killer remembers her, too, and is determined not to let her get away this time.
A baffling case, a media circus, an unsupportive father, and too many leads for Mt. Dessicate’s tiny PD to handle alone leave Cody fighting just to catch his breath. Meanwhile, hands come out of the darkness to snatch at Alex every time Cody’s back is turned, and his desire to protect her soon becomes more than just professional.
If Cody can’t piece together the mysterious past of the land of the mass grave, decipher how Alex is connected to the killer, and bring the Botanist to justice—or at least to civilization—he may lose the people in his life he’s come to value most. He must confront the Botanist on feral ground or risk being the only one left standing in a desolate, desert graveyard.
Writing the Detective Novel
Writing a detective novel presents its own set of unique challenges. Of course writing any book takes hard work, but with detective novels, and mysteries at large, it can be quite the juggling act.
First, the mystery. By definition, there will be a big reveal at the end. You want to keep readers turning pages. That means revealing information slowly enough that they don’t figure it out in chapter two, but quickly enough to keep them reading. It doesn’t happen easily or automatically, but rather is consciously and meticulously planned.
Then there’s the detective. Detectives, going all the way back to the tradition of Sherlock Holmes, are supposed to be super-smart and attentive to detail. They must be able to untangle mysteries that would perplex others. It’s almost like their own super power, though mental rather than physical. The challenge is also making them human enough to be compelling. We want them to be flawed enough to be believable, but still intelligent enough to solve the mystery. It’s definitely a tossup.
Finally, there’s the research. Much like historical fiction, there is some research that goes into this genre. It’s not just the author making up stuff about what the characters do. Even if the mystery is contemporary—which The Botanist is—there are still modern procedures to consider, forensics, the hierarchy of the criminal justice system, how things are handled in a small town, as opposed to a large city, etc.
As you can see, writing a detective novel takes a bit of work and preparation. But is it worth it? Absolutely! A great story is a great story, and it’s always worth the work you put into it. It’s always worth the peace of mind an author gets, finally putting story to page, and knowing that they’ve entertained their readers for a few hundred pages.
L.K. HILL has a degree from Weber State
University, and has won numerous writing
awards, including garnering first place in the
2011 League of Utah Writer Writing Contest.
When she’s not writing, Hill relaxes with her family
in Ogden, Utah, while maintaining constant
communication with her many followers.
Follow her blog at lkhill.blogspot.com and
on Facebook at facebook.com/lkhillbooks.
Giveaway: Five copies of 'The Botanist'
Please click on the link below and play to win :)