Zac Bissonnette is the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute. He is an equity analyst at a hedge fund, and lives in New York City with his partner and a tuxedo cat named Perry Como. Find him on Twitter.
In this post, Zac discusses the process of writing his new cozy mystery, A Killing in Costumes, his advice for other writers, and more!
Name: Zac Bissonnette
Literary agent: Jon Michael Darga
Book title: A Killing in Costumes
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Release date: August 9, 2022
Genre/category: Cozy Mystery
Elevator pitch for the book: Jay and Cindy, married former soap opera stars turned gay divorcees, reunite to open a Hollywood memorabilia store in Palm Springs. When a battle for a 90-year-old former film vixen’s collection turns deadly, they must solve a murder before they’re forced to trade their vintage costume collection for orange jumpsuits.
What prompted you to write this book?
I’m a huge fan of Murder, She Wrote and I bought, from Heritage Auctions, a painting of Jessica Fletcher that was created by the studio for the show. When it arrived, I hung it in my bedroom, stared at it, and the premise for a mystery about a gay guy and a lesbian with a Hollywood memorabilia store came to me that night!
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I started writing in November 2019 and while there were, of course, rewrites and feedback from beta readers, the plot never really changed.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The biggest learning moment for me was how incredibly kind and helpful people in the mystery community were. Big-selling authors like Sherry Harris offered to help me with revisions—for no possible personal gain!
It really is a community dominated by passionate enthusiasts—people who love mysteries and want there to be more mysteries. Just a special group of people, really nothing like it that I’ve ever encountered.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
I think it was more fun than I thought it would be, trying to write a very specific kind of book that was similar to the books I’ve loved so much—writers like Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James. Those books are so special to me, so to kind of try to figure out why they made me so happy so I could do my own version of a cozy—thinking about cozies and why and how they work is fun!
I’ve loved the genre long enough that I actually wrote a piece for Writer’s Digest in 2014 about how to write a cozy and interviewed authors and editors for it. It took me a while to do my own, but I don’t think other ideas I’d had before would’ve worked. I needed the combination of another five years of reading cozies and the inspiration of my Jessica Fletcher painting. Hopefully it works!
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
Well, I grew up loving writers like Agatha Christie and Robert B. Parker and Dick Francis and Jonathan Kellerman. I certainly could never compare myself to any of those geniuses, but my hope is that I was able to deliver a plot and twist that they would think was cool. So, I wanted it to be a play-fair mystery novel that worked.
But, beyond that, I wanted to show a relationship between a gay guy and his lesbian best friend, and how that changed over the years but still remained so powerful for them—a deep love that’s a little different from other relationships because of that connection. My best friend in elementary school was a lesbian and I think maybe that was a source of how we felt so connected—before either of us knew anything about identity.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
For me it would be to really think about what genre you’re writing before you do anything else—where exactly the book is supposed to fit. I think people fear that that’s creatively stifling but really, I think it’s so fun to try to do certain things that are important to you thematically, while working within the confines and tropes of a subgenre.
It’s a different kind of creativity than trying to do something sprawling and literary but I don’t really think it has to be any less creative. But, of course, everyone is different, and people should just write the way that works for them.