Share This

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Author Guest Post - Jennifer David Hesse

I have read and reviewed two of Jennifer David Hesse's Wiccan Wheel cozy mystery series, the 3rd Yuletide Homicide (click here) and the 5th Mayday Murder (click here).  I am tickled to have her guest post today about featuring an often misunderstood belief system in her cozy mysteries.

Ms. Hesse is the author of the Wiccan Wheel Mysteries, a cozy mystery series published by Kensington Books. Born and raised in Central Illinois, Jennifer earned her undergraduate degree as an English major from Eastern Illinois University and her law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia. After an eight-year stint in New York, she now makes her home in Chicago with her husband and daughter. When she’s not writing, or working her day job as an environmental lawyer, Jennifer enjoys yoga, hiking, and movie night with her family.

“How will my books be received?”

Should authors worry about how their books will be received?

The obvious answer is: Of course! Authors all want their books to be well-received. We want to be liked, highly reviewed, and successful. Duh!

But another camp might say: Don’t worry about it. Just write your story. Tell the tale in your heart without regard for how it will be received.

There’s validity in both points of view. Writers really shouldn’t obsess over what readers will think. They have no control over it anyway.

Still, doubt and angst are very common among author types. First time authors, especially, worry about how their books will be received. For me, I had double the concern. My debut book series features a main character who practices Wicca—an often misunderstood belief system. I wondered how my books would be viewed by folks who knew very little about Wicca. Would they find it threatening or weird? Might they even find it antagonistic to their own beliefs? I’d heard of some books receiving one-star reviews simply based on the subject matter. Quelle horreur!

But that wasn’t really my biggest concern. On the flip side, and more importantly, I wondered how the books would be received by actual, real-life Wiccans.

Wicca has been an officially recognized religion in the United States since 1986. And it’s been practiced in its modern form since at least the mid-twentieth century. In a nutshell, Wicca is an earth-based religion in which practitioners recognize the divine in nature and work with the elements to connect with sacred energy. (The five lines that form a pentagram represent earth, air, fire, water, and spirit.) It’s a peaceful religion, guided by the principle: “If it harm none, do as you will.”

In fact, because it’s such a life-affirming path, where practitioners take responsibility for their own growth and actions, it can be particularly offensive to Wiccans for anyone to associate them with anything evil or negative. Yes, most Wiccans call themselves “witches.” But there’s no “devil worship” in Wicca. Satan doesn’t even exist in Wicca.

Beyond the outdated fear of “evil witches,” there’s also an unfortunate tendency for some to view Wicca as frivolous or kooky (especially in the media around Halloween time). But this form of spirituality is just as valid as anyone else’s. It’s nothing to be made fun of.

Knowing all this, I wanted to write Keli, my Wiccan heroine, as realistic as possible. And I definitely wanted to be respectful.

Luckily, I think I succeeded. I’ve released five books so far, and I continue to receive positive feedback. I’ve heard from many witches, Wiccans, and Pagans, who enjoy the books. Several have commented that it’s refreshing to see someone like themselves in the pages of a cozy mystery. And many have said that they can relate to Keli’s concerns and struggles around keeping her faith private.

As for non-Wiccans, I’m happy to say I’ve gotten positive reviews from them too. In the cozy mystery genre, authors really do need to consider their readers’ expectations. (For example, there shouldn’t be any graphic violence or overt sex in a cozy mystery. Even strong language should be kept to a minimum.) Cozy fans are in it for the puzzles and light suspense, the quirky characters and element of fun. But cozy readers are smart too. I’ve heard from many who have said they’ve enjoyed learning about a spiritual practice they were previously unfamiliar with. By the same token, some have noted they’re glad there’s not so much Wicca as to be distracting from the main story. After all, these books are first and foremost mysteries—not religious textbooks.

Of course, you can never please everyone. Some readers like more romance or humor in their mysteries; some want less. In the end, the author has to go with her gut and just tell the story that wants to be told.

Funny enough, early on I did receive one critical email from a reader. She felt it was unrealistic for a vegan to eat bar food and drink a rum and coke. Ironically, that part was probably the most realistic thing I wrote!

Of course, vegans are as diverse as Wiccans. Everyone is different. Yet we’re all human. And that’s a good thing for us all to remember.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
THANK You Jennifer for joining us today.  Thank you for your series being unique in many ways.  Variety is the spice of life, and I like variety in my mysteries.  

Jennifer can be found online at: Website || Facebook || Twitter || Instagram || Goodreads || Amazon || Newsletter

Bookmark and Share


Related Posts with Thumbnails