About Jane Bennett Munro

I've published 5 murder mysteries set in Twin Falls, Idaho, where I live. My main character, Dr. Toni Day, is a pathologist in a rural hospital, much like me. Murder under the Microscope came out in 2011, Too Much blood in 2012, Grievous Bodily Harm in 2013, Death by Autopsy in 2014, and The Body on the Lido Deck in 2016. I'm currently working on my sixth, A Deadly Homecoming.

Top things to think of when writing your own book/series

When writing your own book/series, keep these three things in mind:

  1. Write as yourself. Don’t try to be someone you’re not.

It’s all very well to read other author’s books and figure out what it is that makes you like to read a certain author. In fact, you should read at least as much as you write. But at the end of the day, it’s you who’s writing. If you’re not a person who normally uses big words or flowery phrases, don’t use them when you write. It will sound stilted and unnatural and put people off. It’s best to write the way you normally speak. I occasionally talk to book clubs and I like it when people say that when they read my books it’s like they’re listening to me talk.

  1. Write what you know.

All writers, regardless of genre, have to do some research to make sure they get the details right. So, it’s best to write about something you know well to cut down on research and make your story sound real. My mysteries are set in the world of a hospital-based pathologist because that’s what I am. When I put medical jargon into them, it sounds authentic and then of course I have Toni explain it to Hal or someone else so that the reader will understand it too. But I don’t try to write as a nurse, or a teacher, or a lawyer, because that’s not who I am, and it wouldn’t sound real, and I’d make a lot of mistakes, besides.

  1. Determine your genre, your point of view, and your audience before you start.

Yes, yes, I know, that’s actually three pieces of advice, but they’re all important. It’s a good idea to write the kind of stories you like to read. I write mysteries because that’s what I like to read, starting with Nancy Drew when I was a child. I don’t mind the occasional romance or chick-lit, but mysteries are my first love. That’s my genre.

There are lots and lots of genres. Romance, adventure, historical, fantasy, children’s, young adult, and so on. Some genres have sub-genres; for example, mysteries can be cozies, thrillers, horror, police procedurals, women sleuths, medical, legal, etcetera. It’s not a good idea to mix genres. My mysteries are cozies with a woman sleuth who is medical. That’s just fiction. There are a lot more genres for non-fiction.

Your point of view can be either first person or third person, and it’s important not to mix them up. My mysteries are first person. It’s Toni Day who’s telling the story and I have to be careful not to attribute thoughts or feelings to other characters, besides Toni because how does she know how another person is feeling or thinking? She knows because of the way they act, and that’s what I have to have her describe and deduce from that what she thinks they’re thinking or feeling. In the third person, where the writer tells a story about characters other than the writer, that’s not a problem.

Finally, what audience is your book directed at? Adults? Youth? Children? Professionals? Men? Women? It makes a difference what you put in it: for instance, you couldn’t put sex or profanity in a book meant for youth or children, but you can if it’s meant for adults. My mysteries don’t have a lot of sex, but they do have language, even the occasional F-bomb, so they’re meant for adults, and to appeal to medical professionals as well as mystery lovers.

Those are the top three, but there’s more.

  1. Keep the action moving.

Regardless of genre, it’s important not to let the story get bogged down. You want the reader to keep turning pages, not lose interest in the middle of the book. You also need to start a book with something that grabs the reader’s attention. You don’t want to start a book with a lot of backstory; you can insert little snippets of it in strategic places but keep them short.

  1. Join a local writer’s group. Or an online group.

Other writers in these writers’ groups are a great source for advice and ideas; they know people who can give you tips on how to get published in ways that are affordable to the average person. They know people who can get the book printed, people who do illustrations, and places to sell them. You can use things like Facebook and Instagram to market your book and establish a website and a blog. There are also websites like Goodreads who will do an online interview with you and post it for a small fee. There are also websites where you can pay for book reviews and post them on Amazon.

It’s extremely hard to get a book published by a traditional publisher, who pays you to write and markets your book for you; I really have no idea how they do it. I use an online independent publisher, but they charge for their services, and it can be very pricey. To purchase a publishing package can cost several thousand dollars. Add editing, proofreading, cover copy polish and cover design can be several thousand more. Then there’s marketing, and that is where we’re talking about real money. And that’s just for one book.

In other words, if I wasn’t a doctor, I wouldn’t be able to afford it. The upside is that it’s deductible as a business expense.

Also, if you plan to sell books yourself, you will need a state seller’s permit and pay state sales tax. That’s important too, unless you live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax. Idaho isn’t one of them.

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The mysteries continue!

After taking Toni Day out of her comfort zone by sending her on a Caribbean cruise, I thought it would be fun to send her back to her and Hal’s hometown of Long Beach, California in A Deadly Homecoming, the sixth Toni Day Mystery. After all, her mother and stepfather live there, and so do Hal’s parents. So, okay, Toni is out of her comfort zone by virtue of not having the hospital and police connections she has in Twin Falls, but at least she’s in the United States and on dry land.

I also thought it would be fun to have someone actually ask her to get involved in a case. In the first five books, she gets involved against the wishes of her mother, her husband, and the police. In Grievous Bodily Harm, her stepfather-to-be, Nigel, actually scolds Toni for scaring her mother, the woman he’s about to marry, out of ten years growth. “I’m not ready to be done with her yet, thank you very much,” was his take on the situation. Of course, Nigel, as a retired Scotland Yard detective, can’t resist getting involved himself; it’s in his blood.

So, Toni’s mother, Fiona, actually asks Toni to get involved on behalf of her best friend, Doris, whose husband, Dick, has disappeared. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a little walk down memory lane by having one of the homicide detectives be someone Toni knew in high school, the Los Angeles county coroner be someone she knew from her pathology residency and the Long Beach city legal counsel, be her childhood best friend.
In reality, my own British mum and I moved from Maine to Long Beach when I was twelve. I went to Charles Evans Hughes Junior High, and Long Beach Polytechnic High School. Like Toni, I actually was a Polyette, and I did my internship and part of my pathology residency at St. Mary’s. The house in which Toni grew up is based on the house my mother and I lived in while I was in school. And the public library really was 8 blocks away with a Foster’s Freeze right across the street.

I was criticized on one review for giving Long Beach a small-town atmosphere at odds with reality as Long Beach has a population of over 400,000, and even back in 1958 it was over 300,000. Sorry about that. I did mention that Long Beach had five high schools, however.

As a final bit of fun, I put in a haunted house with a secret staircase, a laird’s lug, a malfunctioning dumbwaiter, and a half-empty bottle of white arsenic.
As usual in these mysteries, the murder is only the final event in a string of crimes that require Toni to go back decades to find out what started it, solve the mystery, and then put herself in danger to convince those who doubt her.

A Deadly Homecoming came out October 30, 2018, and is available online from amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and iuniverse.com. It was given the Rising Star designation, which is better than Editor’s Choice, and means it might, just might, show up on some bookstore shelves somewhere, someday, maybe.

Now, I’m working on number 7, with the working title of The Twelve Murders of Christmas. Toni and Hal are back home in Twin Falls, Mum and Nigel come to visit, an old villain returns, and that’s all I’m going to say about it as I’m only 90 pages in. Anything can happen from here.