Thanks for having me back on your blog, Pat! It’s always such a pleasure.
To clarify, that “Mature Themes” in the title shouldn’t scare anyone off – and will likely prove disappointing for those who find the phrase enticing. But I’ll get to that a little later.
First, I want give a bit of background on the new cozy mystery series I’m writing as Bailey Cattrell. The first one, Daisies For Innocence, will release on January 5, 2016. Less than a month away!
Elliana Allbright owns Scents & Nonsense, a custom perfume and aromatherapy shop in the fictional tourist town of Poppyville, California (think gold rush, covered wooden walkways, hot springs and riding stables). She lives with her corgi, Dash, in a garden shed converted into a super-efficient Tiny House at the back of the shop property.
In the space between Ellie’s small-scale home and Scents & Nonsense is the Enchanted Garden – an expanse of tiered garden beds, seating areas, and cozy alcoves interspersed with fairy houses, gnome doors, and charming miniature tableaus tucked almost, but not quite, out of sight. It’s a relaxing place to sip tea and nibble on the cookies Ellie’s best friend, Astrid Moneypenny, brings to the shop every day. It’s a place to inspire fantasy and imagination. And to Ellie, it’s a place to grow the plants and flowers she distills down into custom “perfumes” that do more than just smell good.
Ellie learned about plants and how to distill their essences from her gamma, who gave her an ancient, copper alembic for that purpose. She’s always had a fine-tuned sense of smell, which, combined with a natural ability to know how scents can help other people, uniquely qualifies her to create these special perfumes. When Astrid calls it a superpower, Ellie just laughs. Turns out Astrid might be more right than Ellie realizes.
Oh, and let’s not forget the murder! There has to be one of those, right? In this case it’s Ellie’s young employee, who’s killed hours after informing Ellie she’d started dating Ellie’s ex-husband. When she turns up stabbed on Ellie’s property, guess who the prime suspect is?
Ah, but what about those mature themes?
The Daisies audiobook, narrated by the amazing Vanessa Daniels, will release at the same time as the paperback and ebook versions. However, while reviewing the audio cover a few weeks ago, I was surprised to see Contains Mature Themes in a prominent location.
Huh? It’s a cozy mystery, not Fargo. Cozies are intentionally light fare. No on-screen sex, no gore, no swearing, etc. Now, I have been known to push those rules a bit now and then, granted. Once an author refused to blurb one of my Home Crafting Mysteries (written as Cricket McRae) because there was a recovering alcoholic and someone else was being treated for clinical depression. Not cozy enough, I was told.
I’m okay with that.
Still, I was curious when I saw that warning, so I looked up some particulars. There are several self-regulating agencies that determine ratings, and while “mature themes” isn’t a rating, per se, the rules appear to be similar. The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) bases their rating system on the one movies use, and if something is intended for mature audiences it might include:
Intense and/or realistic portrayals of violence such as blood, gore, mutilation, and depictions of death. There’s a dead body in Daisies, a few drops of blood, and references to a stabbing.
Strong sexual themes and content. Hmm. Maybe the strip club counts? Of course, it’s long defunct, and there’s no reference to any actual, you know, stripping.
Partial nudity. Okay. Got me there. Ellie takes a shower. Pretty much every day. So we can assume that she does it in the nude.
Frequent use of strong language. Not so much.
Drug use. Nope
Consumption of alcohol. Well, sure. There’s a bottle of hard cider. Astrid knocks back a bourbon in one scene. And I do believe there is some champagne in there, too.
Gambling. Only the killer betting that Ellie won’t solve the case – ha! Guess how that works out?
There’s also a homeless guy, a cheating spouse (and unpleasant divorce), and a hostile relationship between a brother and sister. Would those raise a flag?
What do you all think? What themes would you consider warning-worthy in a light mystery?
Bailey Cattrell is the author of the upcoming Enchanted Garden Mysteries. As Bailey Cates she also writes the NYT bestselling Magical Bakery Mysteries featuring baker and new witch Katie Lightfoot. She writes, gardens, and cooks in northern Colorado, where she lives with her guy and two felines: Cheesecat the Orange and Minerva the asthmatic wonder kitty. You can keep up with all of her personas at her website: www.baileycates.com.