There is an old adage in writing—write what you know. But when a writer does that, they limit their reach and their imagination. To reach outside those bounds, writers can do research to learn about the things they don’t know or know little about but want to write about. Research can be difficult. Tedious. Time consuming. And it’s easy to do too much research. But in writing, it’s crucial.
And the research for A Game of Cones was, as I often describe it, torture. Can you imagine having to eat tons of ice cream—scoop after yummy scoop, flavor after scrumptious flavor just to write a book? Yes, pure torture! But I buckled down and gave in to it for the sake of my story!
Cozy mysteries have a dictated formula—amateur sleuth, murder happens off stage, no graphic violence. If you read coziness, you know exactly what I mean. And although there have been a few changes made to this subgenre of mystery—stories catering to millennials, being more socially aware, diverse and a little edgier, another unwavering main staple is the setting.
As some readers may already know, Chagrin Falls isn’t a fictional place. It exists here in Ohio and there really is a waterfall that dissects the little village. A suburb of Cleveland, it is quaint and unique and the perfect setting for a cozy mystery. And what made me know it was the right place, there is a store that sits atop of the falls. That store, unlike Crewse Creamery sells mainly popcorn, but they do have ice cream. And that was when I got the idea.
Visiting the falls had been my goal that day, but after seeing it, I knew I wanted to write a book set there. Close to home and home to such delicious flavors. (There are actually two ice cream stores a couple of doors apart, so we were not lacking on finding what I needed to do for my research.) The village drew me in. I could picture my book taking place there and could imagine my characters walking around the streets with me.
My grandchildren and I landed there one warm day in May. Out to enjoy the sunshine (in Cleveland you never know how long the good weather will last), we looked forward to a day of adventure, but found the basis for my new series. Yes, the research we did there that day was grueling (I was even forced to make a second trip to made sure I got it right), eating so much ice cream. But I learned a lot—taking the steps down to get an up-close look at the falls, traversing the village, enjoying the wares in the storefront shops’ windows, the center triangle (there’s no square in downtown Chagrin Falls) and talking to residents to get a feel for everything. But all in all, we had a good time, one that I incorporated for the reader to enjoy as well.