Crossing Over in a Crossover

Jun 9, 2021 | 2021 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Terry Odell

One thing I knew when I started writing—which didn’t happen until I had a well-worn AARP card—was that I would write the kinds of books I wanted to read. At the time, those were series mysteries. Robert B. Parker, Michael Connelly, John Sandford, and more. I hadn’t studied writing, had no desire to be a writer. I had stories in my head, but the one time I sat down to write one, the simple mechanics of typing—punctuating dialogue, for example—made it a chore. Eventually, I got over that hurdle and found that I enjoyed the writing process. I set out to write a mystery.

Two things happened. First, my daughters, who were reading as I wrote said, “This is a romance.” The second was the only writer’s organization near where I lived was a Romance Writers of America chapter. “Go,” people said. “They cover all aspects of writing, not just romance.” So I joined.

Terry Odell

I still thought I was writing a mystery. After all, I’d never read a romance. How could I write one? Then, as fate would have it, I discovered romantic suspense. I realized that all the mysteries I enjoyed, what I paid most attention to were the “B” plots. What went on when the protagonists went home? What were their private lives like?

I crossed from attempts at writing “romance” to writing romantic suspense. Several books in that genre later, I crossed back into the mystery genre, and wrote Deadly Secrets, the first book in my Mapleton Mystery series. But, true to my reading preferences, in addition to the mystery, there were budding relationships, and the introduction of a cast of characters—Mapleton’s inhabitants.

When I first submitted it to an editor, she liked my writing but told me to make up my mind. Was it a cozy or a police procedural? Because, she said, they needed to know how to market it. I could rewrite it one way or the other and resubmit.

Wasn’t going to happen. Enter the world of indie publishing. I didn’t have to pigeonhole my book. Cozy police procedural? No problem. Marketing aside, there were readers who liked my crossing the genre line.

Fast forwarding to 2020 and my tenth Mapleton Mystery, Deadly Options. Here, I not only had a genre crossover, but a series crossover as well. I confess that the pandemic influenced the story—not in content, because, I had no desire to write about something we were living—but in a “there’s too much bad stuff going on in the world” sense. The protagonist, Gordon, had already had his life in peril—often with injuries—too many times, and I couldn’t face hitting him with yet another life-threatening situation. Still, genre expectations require crimes, and mystery readers tend to expect murders, so yes, I included them—more than one, in fact.

However, alongside his crime solving, I leaned more heavily into the cozy side for this one, focusing on Gordon’s relationships with his coworkers and his new bride. Instead of putting his life in peril, it was his job on the line. He toyed with leaving Mapleton, and I sent him to the location of another of my series: Pine Hills, Oregon. Little did I know how much that would complicate the writing process.

I had already written six Pine Hills Police novels, and I spent a LOT of time going through the series for the details. Description and layout of the police department. City Hall. Municipal Building. Character descriptions. Character quirks. All in all, a challenge, albeit a fun one, revisiting old friends and places.

And, since I’m not a plotter and rarely know much of the story in advance, I wasn’t sure whether or not Gordon would leave Mapleton. I had to write it and see.

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Website—Terry Odell
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Terry Odell began writing when she ran out of room on her walls for any more needlepoint. She writes mystery and romantic suspense, but prefers to call them all “Mysteries With Relationships.” Her series include Blackthorne, Inc. covert ops, Pine Hills Police, Triple-D Ranch, and Mapleton Mysteries, as well as several stand alones and short story collections. Terry grew up in Los Angeles, spent three decades in Florida, and now resides in the Colorado mountains with her husband and rescue dog. When she’s not watching the wildlife from her window, she’s working on her next book.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.


  1. Love it! WHY do books have to be one or the other? I love your stories, and my own are… Unpublishable according to editors, because they… Can’t. Be. Classified! Why can’t you have humor in a horror novel? Or romance in a suspense novel? It’s like eating only meat. Or only vegetables. Combining them makes everything so much better!

    • That’s one of the primary reasons I prefer to take advantage of indie publishing. Readers don’t care if a book doesn’t fit neatly into a box as long as you don’t stray too far afield from genre expectations and conventions.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Interesting post. I suspect Indies will force trad publishers to be more flexible.

    • I think Indie authors have been forcing traditional publishers to take stock of their processes for a while now. Although they’re very slow to accept change.


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