Today Lily Luchesi, author of Daunting Darkness & Freaky Familiars, is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about how she created her Paige Papillon mystery series.
Welcome, Lily. I’ll turn the floor over to you –
In this day and age of self-publishing and small press, more and more books than ever are being released to the public. It’s a wondrous time for writers and bibliophiles alike. Unfortunately for writers, it brings about an unprecedented issue: what are we going to write about that hasn’t been done a million times before?
This was something I pondered when starting the Paige Papillon Paranormal Mysteries. Cozies MUST have a specific formula in order to work: quirky main character, likable best friend, a unique congregating area, no on-screen death, usually a handsome guy shows up somewhere, and law enforcement who doesn’t like the MC. An animal companion helps, too.
Well, plots are always reused. That’s a given. But no one, and I mean no one, wants to read or write about the same characters doing the same things, just with different names or appearances.
Recently, I was reading a book (names will not be named) where the main character was ripped right from a very popular movie franchise. Except for some physical factors, it’s a character I have seen at least a dozen times with a different face in both literature and film. I mention film because so many books become movies these days, it just seems right to include them.
Let me start on my other books, where I had the opportunity to really overdo character tropes. My book series, The Paranormal Detectives, could have truly been a cliche. Mortal cop, female vampire who can kick ass, love story background. It sounds awful when put that way, doesn’t it? I know it brings a sour taste to my mouth.
Just like writing that formula I mentioned above for Paige bothered the heck out of me.
More than a writer, I’m a reader. So when I wrote my first series, I sat down during my second draft of book one and removed every single common trope there was. Do you know what I found? I made a flat as heck book. I realized that sometimes character tropes aren’t just tropes. Sometimes, they’re a necessary plot device. So I went back and took my female lead, Angelica Cross, and took a good look at her. She’s exactly what I wanted her to be: a tough Goth girl who loves black lipstick and equally black leather. She can wield a sword against the best swordsmen of history, outshoot any sniper, and best Jet Li in combat (I am not bragging, and you’ll see why in the next few sentences). She differs from a typical character in a vampire novel because of one reason: she can be bested. She can be beaten and would have been many times in the stories I already published had she not done two things: worked hard to make herself stronger and had backup.
We’ve all seen the kick butt vampire chick who is invincible, and I bet you’re as sick of them as I am. Angelica isn’t one of them. And she is precisely what I talk about when I say some tropes are necessary, but they are malleable. Every good story uses a common character trope (Prince Charming, the kind old person, damsel in distress, the genius, the misunderstood villain, et cetera). Yes, all of them. But the best of the best also change those characters; they bend, twist, and deface a trope until it is nearly unrecognizable.
Because who doesn’t love a dashing leading man? Or a good villain with a tragic backstory? Or even a leather-clad vampire assassin? Or in Paige’s case, a cute little amateur detective. Every author worth their salt can take a trope and make it their own.
Some tropes should be avoided at all costs, such as damsels in distress. I like to think that most readers are sick of the women needing to be rescued. I know I am. So should the extremely archaic idea of a POC as a bad guy or just a sidekick. Certain tropes have to go, and they have to go for a great reason: we have evolved beyond them.
We will never evolve beyond a Lord Voldemort, a Count Dracula, a Prince Charming, or a Katniss Everdeen. Those are the types of characters we’ve grown up with, the kind we love or love to hate. They make a new story feel as warm and comfortable for our brain as a hot cup of tea and blanket does for the body on a winter night. Good versus evil, love and hate, darkness and light. Just as those plot basics are essential for most stories, so are the characters that go along with them.
So crafting Paige’s story, I realized I needed those tropes. I needed the formula, but who said I couldn’t be like a mad scientist and mix that formula with some cyanide?
Paige is a POC autistic Goth girl who uses her disability to help solve crimes. Her BFF is a POC lesbian who may or may not be inhuman. She has mentors who remind me of Gomez and Morticia, rather than the kindly older woman who gives cookies and advice.
The gathering place is a metaphysical new age shop called The Enchanted Elder.
And the handsome guy? Paige is asexual. So the relationship will develop slowly over the 5 planned books in the series.
Readers who read genre fiction love what they love. God knows I do. And I want to give it to them. I want them to feel like they have a warm blanket and have just arrived home when they crack open Daunting Darkness.
But I want the kids like me, the Goths, the outcasts, the LGBT+, the neurodiverse, to also find something they love in a genre that has excluded them for over a century. Books are amazing. Paige is amazing (yeah, I’m bragging here). I wanted her to be more than the typical cozy detective, and yet I wanted her to be able to easily sit at a table with Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and all those classic greats we’ve come to know and love.
I hope I succeeded.
Thank you for sharing this with us, Lily, and good luck with Daunting Darkness & Freaky Familiars, the latest books in the Paige Papillon mystery series.
The books are available at the following online retailers:
About Lily Luchesi: Lily is the author of the bestselling and award-winning Paranormal Detectives Series. She grew up in Chicago and now resides in Los Angeles, where she writes horror and erotica stories in between going to concerts and comic book signings. She loves vampires, classic horror, metal and rock music, anime, Supernatural, and the color black.
She has also written short stories in the anthologies Naughty Bedtime Stories: In Three Words, Death Love Lust, and Lurking In The Shadows.