Welcome to Ron Benrey

November 29, 2011

Mystery We Write Blog Tour

Ron, thank you for visiting my blog today and sharing your thoughts on Inspiration, Author Enjoyment, &  Reader Wishes

Ron Benrey has been a writer forever—initially on magazines (his first real job was Electronics Editor at Popular Science Magazine), then in corporations (he wrote speeches for senior executives), and then as a novelist. He has co-written nine cozy mysteries with his wife, Janet.  Over the years, Ron has also authored ten non-fiction books, including the recently published “Know Your Rights — a Survival Guide for Non-Lawyers” (published by Sterling). Ron holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a juris doctor from the Duquesne University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Ron Benrey

On Inspiration–I co-write cozy mysteries with my wife Janet. Virtually every good cozy begins when the protagonist’s world goes out of kilter. The rest of the novel shows how protagonist restores the order of his/her world. Part of the restoration work involves identifying a murderer, although the murder is never the main plot complication in a cozy mystery.

I generally create the storylines for our novels. So the first question I have to answer is, What will go wrong in the hero/heroine’s world? The answers to that question provide my inspiration, establish the theme of each story, and go a long way to shaping the tone of each novel.

Without really meaning to, I’ve tended to focus on two “problem generators” that can support an endless variety of different plots.

Our “Pippa Hunnechurch Mysteries” (published by Greenbrier Book Company) are “driven” by minor sins that create major problems for the characters. For example, telling “harmless lies” on one’s resumé, doing a job in a way that’s merely “good enough for Government work,” or allowing pride to blind one’s common sense.

Our “Glory, NC, Mysteries” (published by Harlequin Books) and our “Royal Tunbridge Wells Mysteries” (published by Greenbrier Book Company) are stories about the past sneaking into the present—and doing damage. This “garbage from the past” can involve prior relationships, past careers, even crimes committed years earlier.

Here is the synopsis for “Dead as a Scone,” the first novel in our “Royal Tunbridge Wells Mysteries” series:

Murder is afoot is the sedate English town of Royal Tunbridge Wells … and the crime may be brewing in a tea pot!

Nigel Owen is having a rotten year. Downsized from a cushy management job at an insurance company in London, he is forced to accept a temporary post as managing director of the Royal Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum. Alas, he regrets living in a small town in Kent, he prefers drinking coffee (with a vengeance), and he roundly dislikes Flick Adams, PhD, an American scientist recently named the museum’s curator.

But then, the wildly unexpected happens. Dame Elspeth Hawker, the museum’s chief benefactor, keels over at a board meeting—the apparent victim of a fatal heart attack. With the Dame’s demise, the museum’s world-famous collection is up for grabs, her cats, dog, and parrot are living with Flick and Nigel—and the two prima donnas find themselves facing professional ruin.

But Flick—who knows a thing or two about forensic science—is convinced that Dame Elspeth did not die a natural death. As Flick and Nigel follow the clues—including a cryptic Biblical citation—they discover that a crime perpetrated more than a century ago sowed the seeds for a contemporary murder.

On being an author–Well, I’m not one of those novelists who actually enjoy the process of writing. I find writing fiction hard, lonely work. As has often been said, I enjoy “having written” when the job is done.

When I do press “Save” for the last time, the thing I like most about writing a novel is the opportunity I’ve had to create a “world” more or less from scratch. Even though we set our tea-museum mysteries in the real city of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the Royal Tunbridge Wells Tea Museum is pure invention—and so are the people. The challenge—and the fun—lies in making these fictional story elements seem real. As Picasso said, “Art is a lie that makes us recognize truth.” This is certainly true about good fiction—the kind of fiction that Janet and I try hard to write.

Reader wishes–Truthfully, I want them to be entertained—to leave with a feeling of contentment, to feel that the time they invested to read our novel was well spent. After all, entertainment is the chief reason that most people read novels. We live in difficult times — a few hours of cheerful escapism provided by a cozy mystery isn’t a bad thing.

I know that some novelists want to advocate positions, make points, change minds and hearts. Well, I agree with Samuel Goldwin, the legendary movie producer, who once said: “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.”

Of course, I do worry about the “take-away” when I write a non-fiction book. When I write fiction, however, I try to entertain readers by telling the best story I can in the most compelling voice I can muster. If a “message” creeps in, so be it. But, rest assured that I did not put it there intentionally.

Ron’s website is at http://www.benrey.com/

Dead as a Scone

To Buy Ron’s book, click on book cover!

Thank you, Ron, for visiting my blog today- and great meeting you!

If you leave a comment, your name will go into the drawing for a free copy of Reticence of Ravens (three copies in total, randomly selected by Buster!)

9 Responses to “Welcome to Ron Benrey”

  1. jennymilch said

    I am so interested in writing duos! This fall I had the opportunity to see the mother/son writing team of Charles Todd. Thanks for sharing the insights about your process.

  2. A great dissection of the writing process, Ron. You obviously have a good handle on this crazy writing thing we do.

  3. I was disappointed to learn the Royal Tunbridge Tea Museum wasn’t a real place after I read the books!

  4. Reading DEAD AS A SCONE was delicious pleasure.

  5. Very nice post, Ron. I love English mysteries and will have to read this series.

  6. It seems to me that often we give a message in our mysteries without even know we’ve done so just because of the subject matter. However, I don’t even think about that when I start writing a book. Good, though provoking post, Ron.

  7. mmgornell said

    Good morning, Ron. Welcome to the Mojave Desert! It’s going to be another great tour today. Loved your thought about “message creeping in”. Thanks so much for stopping by today.


  8. I just love that quote about calling Western Union, Ron! It sums up my feelings as well about making a statement.

    Great post.

  9. W.S. Gager said

    Ron: What a great post. I never thought about a mystery starting with something off kilter but that is so true at least for Mitch Malone who really isn’t “cozy.” Thanks for the thought-provoking words.
    W.S. Gager on Writing .

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