by Guest Blogger, Desiree Villena
So far, the year 2020 has been shaped by — and continues to be shaped by — the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the death of George Floyd and subsequent renewal of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the very recent devastating explosion in Lebanon. Though many of us have spent more time in our homes than ever before, it’s been a time of tremendous change.
At a time when so much is uncertain, it’s difficult to make guesses about future publishing trends in the cozy mystery genre. But like our favorite sleuths, we can make some reasonable predictions, relying on news from the publishing world as well as common sense.
It’s worth noting that it will take some time before current events are reflected in published books, as they’re influencing writers who are only now beginning their projects. Assuming a writer doesn’t need to find a literary agent, and secures a publishing deal quickly, it can still take anywhere from 12 to 24 months for a manuscript to become a published book. Expect many of these predictions to come true with a staggered delay.
That said, let’s take a look at five cozy mystery trends we can expect to see in the near future.
According to an article by the Bookseller, editors expect feel-good, escapist fiction to flourish in the midst of this chaotic year. For cozy mysteries, this means an overall boost to the genre, as these stories are inherently escapist. Readers will be seeking solace in the wholesome worlds of feline sleuths and lovable crafters and hobbyists (a community so pure they actually share cozy recipes with each other).
With so much happening in the world, we can expect the settings of cozy mysteries to venture further afield, away to tropical beaches, remote mountain ranges, deserts, and ships; basically, as far away from the quotidian urban lives many of us lead, and as close to travel mysteries as possible. Escapism might also take the form of historical fiction, with mysteries looking into unresolved cases in the past, like this book set in China during the Ming dynasty.
To clarify, these aren’t likely to be projects written during lockdown. However, it’s likely that anything of this sort already in publishing pipelines will be successful, and that editors will look at such projects favorably in the very near future.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the sort of readers who have been inspired to read more about fictional epidemics, as The Guardian reported in March. In terms of cozy mysteries, expect books featuring large-scale catastrophes to become popular. Mysteries investigating explosions, seemingly-natural disasters, or indeed the spread of diseases, are likely to resonate with readers looking for fictional parallels to current affairs.
As with escapist mysteries, we’re talking about books that were already on their way to publication, not projects written in the current moment. Books reflecting directly on coronavirus will take a while to reach publication, for practical as well as emotional reasons — humanity will need some time to collectively come to terms with recent events.
3. Increased diversity
After the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, new discussions have begun to take place in the publishing industry. It’s become clear that publishing needs to become more diverse, if it aims to accurately represent the wide spectrum of literary voices currently out there.
Many publishers have promised change, and one can only hope their vows will lead to real results down the line. For cozy mysteries, that could mean more ethnically or racially diverse sets of characters, written by more diverse authors. We can’t wait!
As with diverse mysteries, domestic mysteries are likely to crowd bookstores in a few years’ time. These are the novels that are being written presently. If you’re a writer, you’ll know that writing about the outside world from a state of quarantine is an utterly surreal, and nearly impossible-seeming task. It just doesn’t feel natural!
For mystery writers, we’re predicting that this sense of literary displacement will lead to more mysteries taking place in an indoors setting. Think family curses in need of investigation, couples investigating their own attics, or even house cat detectives noting suspicious movements within their territories.
Just as we have been confined to our domestic environments, so too will cozy mysteries, and I for one am excited to see the environment of the home be taken over by the suspense and clues of mystery.
A final trend we’re likely to see in a few years’ time is a renewed emphasis on themes of claustrophobia. A remarkable number of classic mystery novels take place in confined spaces like ships, trains, isolated islands, or snowed-in mansions. Yes, I’m thinking of Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, The Mousetrap, and And Then There Were None. These are among the best Agatha Christie books, and they all take place within the tension of a sealed-in environment, cut off from external help.
If it hadn’t occurred to you before, being isolated from the rest of the world is the perfect setting for a suspenseful cozy mystery tinged with elements of light horror, and these sorts of books are likely to trend alongside domestic mysteries in the near future.
Like I said before, these are informed guesses. Things may very well change dramatically in the near future; only God knows what’s coming next! That said, the way life has unfolded thus far in 2020 makes it likely that these trends will surge soon. As for how it’ll happen, that remains to be seen!
Desiree Villena is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. She’s very passionate about indie publishing and believes the industry will emerge from this crisis stronger than ever! In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction and writing short stories