Guest Post: Nancy Mehl on Writing Suspense and Mystery

This week, Nancy Mehl is sharing a piece of her writing journey with us. It’s always fascinating to me how different every author’s publication stories are! Hope you enjoy an insider’s look.

Mehl_NancyWhen I first started writing, I was pulled toward mainstream mystery. That’s what I read, and it was all I wanted to write.

I’d sold a couple of novels to small publishers before my agent asked me if I wanted to submit a proposal for a cozy mystery to a publisher that was starting a book club. “Sure,” I said, “but first, what’s a cozy mystery?” A quick explanation revealed that they weren’t much different than what I was already writing. I tweaked my proposal—created a small town with some eccentric characters—and then added the other elements that make up a cozy. I found that my story flowed easily. Cozies were fun! I got the contract and ended up writing seven inspirational cozy mysteries, even winning the Carol award for one of them.

Then one of my editors asked me to turn a cozy mystery proposal into romantic suspense. Here I am, six books later, writing romantic suspense, not a genre I’d originally envisioned for myself.

By nature, writers are introspective human beings, so not long ago I began to wonder if I was really happy where I was. Had all the twists and turns in my career led me to a place where I could be happy? Surprisingly, the answer to my question was “Yes!” But why? What had I discovered in the suspense genre that brought me fulfillment?

I love writing cozy mysteries. The characters are quirky and the stories have humor. There is a feel to them that I really enjoy. But suspense allows me to do something that cozy mysteries don’t. I can tackle the “tough” subjects. The loneliness of abandonment. The effects of loss, depression, or fear. In my upcoming book, Rising Darkness, I confront the trauma of incest, a topic that could never be part of a cozy mystery. I’ve discovered that suspense has a darker edge that allows writers to delve into some of the painful struggles many of us face.

Nancy's latest romantic suspense novel released this month!

Nancy’s latest romantic suspense novel released this month!

So why do authors need to write about uncomfortable subjects? Shouldn’t we simply focus on presenting a compelling story? Aren’t we literary “entertainers”? Yes, that’s true, but many of us also see ourselves as ministers. I don’t believe God has called me to write just because He wants me to create good stories. I believe our novels can be used as “parables” in the lives of readers who need to hear that God loves them and that He has a wonderful plan for their lives. That no matter what you’ve been through, God offers healing and restoration.

Christian authors are in a unique situation. We are able to present characters who need redemption. Between the pages of our books, readers can actually find hope for their lives. Maybe it sounds as if we’re biting off more than we can or should chew. But we’ve been given the opportunity to speak into the lives of others, and I believe our stories can have the power to draw readers closer to God. What higher calling can a writer have?

So, as long as I’m allowed to write, I will be always be grateful to the editor who suggested I write suspense. It wasn’t the path I would have chosen, but I’m certainly glad I ended up here. God is so good to me. Recently, He opened up an opportunity to also write cozy mysteries. Now I truly have the best of both worlds!

Thanks so much for joining us, Nancy! Now, for the readers out there: do you enjoy reading suspense or mystery novels? What is it about those genres that appeals to you?

17 thoughts on “Guest Post: Nancy Mehl on Writing Suspense and Mystery

  1. I enjoyed reading your publication story, Nancy! “Christian authors are in a unique situation. We are able to present characters who need redemption. Between the pages of our books, readers can actually find hope for their lives.” I completely agree! Like you, I started my writing life aiming for the mainstream market. But I’m so glad that God steered me to Christian fiction because — yes! — our books offer hope. I love that our books are more than stories, more than entertainment.

  2. Nancy , I enjoyed your review . I have read Deadly Echoes and I absolutely loved it . I like a good romance suspense novel . You have me hooked now .

  3. It was really interesting reading about your story and how God directed you in a different direction from what you had originally planned. It’s awesome to see how He works in our lives when we let Him.

  4. I love reading the Christian Suspense and/or mystery books!! Loved Deadly Echoes!! Why do I like them – they challenge me to try to figure out “who did it”. I don’t like the “gore” in the secular books or the language, so I was very happy when they started coming out in the Christian market.
    Keep writing Nancy!!!

  5. I like suspense and also mystery, but like Suspense best. It keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat. I am looking forward to your next book Nancy. But, would have them all if I could. Enjoyed your story. I’m glad for the topics you authors can run through your stories and help someone many times. And can bring some to know God. Maxie

  6. I love mysteries and suspense novels as they pull me into the stories and allow me to participate in the action….trying to figure out WHO DID IT. Love your books! Keep writing!

  7. I LOVE suspense/mystery…its my favorite genre. I love the build up and the tension in the story, and I love trying to figure out who dunnit. Nancy is absolutely one of my all time faves in this genre. I love her mix of Amish/Mennonite ‘wholesomeness’ with the thrills and chills of suspense.

  8. Nancy’s books are entertaining, enlightening and most of all exceptionally readable! Even my brother -in-law loves them. He drives for a lot of people and reads as he waits. He is always asking if Nancy has new books out. 🙂 Mary Shipman AKA oldentimes

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