By Martha Reed
Hearted Killers,” the novella you’re about to read, spontaneously generated.
two years of COVID-19 isolation, a group of Writers Who Kill (“WWK”) authors met
in the lobby of the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center to celebrate
Malice Domestic 32-33-34, to meet face-to-face again, get re-acquainted, and to
take a long overdue blogging group photo.
gathered, Rosalie Spielman and I chatted. We both agreed how great it felt to reconnect
with people in-person. We remarked on the amount of pure writing talent that
was being represented on the WWK blog and in the works of the individual mystery
and crime fiction writers surrounding us.
conversation sparked an idea. Being a keen student of crime fiction history and
a big fan of Dorothy L. Sayers, I considered her involvement in The Detection
Club (“TDC”). Formed in 1930 during British mystery writing’s Golden Age, the
TDC’s membership list was truly impressive. C.K. Chesterton served as the
club’s first president. Members regularly met for black-tie dinners. They collaborated
to resolve knotty plot problems in their individual works. They agreed to abide
by Ronald Knox’s Commandments to give their readers a fair shake at solving
each mystery and at guessing the identity of the guilty party.
I also knew
that TDC member authors wrote “The Floating Admiral,” a serial “detective novel
of all the talents.”
Chesterton wrote the Prologue. TDC members Victor Whitechurch, G.D.H. Cole and
Margaret Cole, Henry Wade, Agatha Christie, John Rhode, Milward Kennedy,
Dorothy L. Sayers, Ronald Knox, Freeman Wills Crofts, Edgar Jepson, Clemence
Dane, and Anthony Berkeley contributed individual chapters.
like that, standing in the lobby at the 2022 Malice Domestic convention, an
intriguing new suggestion reared its head. If TDC members could write a serial
mystery tale, why not the Writers Who Kill?
that be fun? I
casually floated the idea with Rosalie. To my surprise and delight, and with a
modicum of personal incipient panic, she immediately and enthusiastically
How it Came About
shuffling about lining up for the photo, we floated the suggestion to the other
WWK authors, fully expecting the idea to get torpedoed since everyone was
already overbooked with building their own writerly careers, participating in
many conferences and author events, and fulfilling their publishing contracts.
We received a
shock. The other convention attending WWK authors loved the novella idea. After
the photo shoot, we posted the idea online. 16 WWK blog authors agreed to climb
aboard: Connie Berry, Sarah E. Burr, Shari Randall/Meri Allen, Rosalie
Spielman, Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Nancy Eady, Martha Reed, Kait
Carson, Marilyn Levinson/Allison Brook, Paula Gail Benson, E.B. Davis, KM
Rockwood, Jim Jackson, Grace Topping, and Debra H. Goldstein.
WWK author agreed to write one 500-1,000 word serial blog entry chapter based
off the storyline that had preceded their assignment. As outlined by Dorothy L.
Sayers in her “The Floating Admiral” Introduction: “Each writer must construct
his instalment with a definite solution in view – that is, he must not introduce
new complications merely ‘to make it more difficult’ … [E]ach writer was bound
to deal faithfully with all the difficulties left for his consideration by his
generously volunteered to write an Epilogue to wrap things up. I was asked to
provide a bit of backstory in this Introduction.
calendar and individual schedules, we determined a target date range with the initial
chapter installment being published on February 2nd and finishing the novella
on February 18, 2023. Including St. Valentine’s Day among the dates suggested
our theme: “Broken Hearted Killers.”
Hearted Killers” steamed on, full speed ahead.
The Experience of Writing a Serial Novella
with 16 different authors
chapter, the intricacies and underlying inherent difficulties became apparent. Following
previously established hints, clues, potential red herrings, and McGuffins
(e.g., an object, device, or event that is necessary to the plot and the
motivation of the characters but that is insignificant, unimportant, or
irrelevant in itself) proved to be a strenuous exercise in writing practice as
the WWK authors constructed the story while keeping the overall narrative voice
lightly, the final version was edited for naming conventions and character
action consistency with everyone agreeing that part of the charm – and the
challenge – of writing a serial novella was in knitting together the myriad
details established by 16 different writers exhibiting 16 different writing
In the end,
I believe we pulled it off.
further ado, I am delighted to introduce “Broken Hearted Killers,” a serial crime
fiction novella from 16 author members of the Writers Who Kill blog.
February 1, 2023