How to Write a Cozy Murder Mystery with Assassins

Autumnal Lake

Step One (1): Write a book. A book of your heart. A book where you asked yourself “what are all the things I love to read about?” and dump them into one story. A book you tie up neatly, so that it can’t possibly have a sequel. A book that stands perfectly on its own.

Step Two (2): Revise, query, acquire an agent for that book.

Step Three (3): Have a baby.

Step Four (4): Within two weeks of said baby being born, acquire a publisher.

Step Four Point Five (4.5): Have your publisher ask that you expand your standalone into a trilogy.

Step Four Point Seven Five (4.75): Panic.

Step Four Point Seven Five Two (4.752): Profusely thank your agent for making you write down a few sequel and prequel ideas way back at the start, when your mind wasn’t a sleep-deprived smush of bad pickle relish.

Step Four Point Seven Five Eight (4.758): But you really made sure about that whole no-sequel thing, so even while mildly hallucinating from said lack of sleep, be unable to come up with an additional sequel idea.

Step Four Point Seven Five Nine (4.759): Suggest to the publisher that you write a prequel instead of a sequel-sequel.

Step Five (5): Publisher says sure why not.

Step Six (6): Celebrate!

Step Six Point Two (6.2): …return to panicking because how do you even write a prequel?

Step Seven (7): Latch on to your editor’s suggestion to explore a certain character’s backstory. In your sleep-deprived state, walk around and around and around a lake carrying your now 8-week-old and thinking a lot about backstory. About history. About what informs us and about how what we understand of What Has Happened Before informs our actions and our attitudes and our worldviews. Think about family, about what it means to be a family, and about who you think of as family and how those are intertwined. Think about found family, made family, acquired family. Think about what someone might be willing to sacrifice for that.

Step Eight (8): Add vengeful ghosts, rooftop fights, conflagrations, poison, theories on water allocation, a murder plot, broken glass, and sand for days.

Step Nine (9): Revise, revise, revise. Fall in love. Realize this, too, is the book of your heart. Realize that every book is the book of your heart until it’s done and no longer yours.

Step Ten (10): Send it to your editor. Revise, revise, revise. Get copy edits. Tweak, tweak, tweak. Get page proofs. Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle. Finally, maybe, let it go.

Step 10 Point Five (10.5): Start seeing other, Real Humans describe your book. They keep using words like “poignant” and “murder mystery.” Realize they’re correct, and this isn’t the adventure fantasy you initially set out to write.

Step Eleven (11): Congratulations! You wrote a cozy murder mystery with assassins!


The Perfect Assassin (March 2019, Tor & available for pre-order) is the story of Amastan, a historian turned assassin turned detective, who must find a killer before the storms roll in, and ends up finding love, family secrets, and bodies along the way. Come for the rooftop fights; stay for the archival searches.

Author: K.A. Doore

K.A. Doore writes fantasy – mostly second world, mostly novels – with a touch of horror and a ton of adventure. Now she lives in Michigan with her one (1) small human and one (1) wife, but it's been a long road across the U.S. and back again to get here. The Perfect Assassin, is the first book in the Chronicles of Ghadid trilogy, is her debut.

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