Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Guest Post: Author Lucy Arlington: The Birth of The A Novel Idea Mysteries

The Birth of The A Novel Idea Mysteries

by: Lucy Arlington

 I’d like to say Lila Wilkins, the protagonist of the Novel Idea Mysteries, introduced herself to me in my imagination. That we grew to become friends, understanding each other’s idiosyncrasies and successfully navigating all the little twist and turns--and potholes--along the pathway to a successful partnership: me as the author, her as the main character. It would also be great to claim I’d found the ideal, quintessential location for where she could live, gave her an intriguing job as a literary agent and even a super group of pals to hang with … not to mention her handsome love interest, Sean Griffiths. But, that’s not how it happened. Lila Wilkins, the staring character of the New York Times Bestselling mystery series, A Novel Idea Mysteries, had been sleuthing through the bookshelves long before we ran into each other.

 Our serendipitous meeting was long in the making, but still unexpected. I’d started as a writer some twenty years ago, earning my way by freelancing, ghost writing and content writing. I’d even worked as a translator, converting furniture assembly instructions from English to Spanish. (To this day, I have visions of Spanish-speaking people everywhere with wonky CD cabinets.) Eventually, however, I broke into fiction with a couple short stories and then two mystery novels published by a small press. Things were rolling along. I kept writing, kept creating until one day I sent out an email query proposing a new mystery series to a well-respected agent. And she responded!

 Yes, she liked my story but she had something else in mind first. She wanted me to get to know another literary agent—well, a fictional literary agent—named Lila Wilkins who lived in rolling hills of North Carolina and spent her days reading mysteries and discovering new authors. Gee … sounded like someone I could get along with just fine. After all, Lila was not only a bibliophile, but a champion of writers. We’d certainly find common ground.

 Aw… but there was a catch. Lila Wilkins was the creation of Lucy Arlington, who was really the pen name for two talented authors, Sylvia May and Ellery Adams (whose real name, by the way, is Jennifer Stanley). Confused yet? I was. But it seemed the two original collaborators each had their own series and needed someone to take over their brainchild. And my new agent believed my writing style perfectly suited the publisher’s need for a writer to continue this already established cozy mystery series.

 So, I started reading the first three books in the series, uncertain and undecided. And, you know what? I really enjoyed Lila Wilkins and her assortment of friends and the quaint hamlet of Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, where all the shops have bookish names such as The Constant Reader Bookstore, Sherlock Holmes Realty and my personal favorite, The James Joyce Pub. It’s a bibliophile’s paradise! Then there’s Lila—a mystery lover like me. I relished the opportunity to tag along with her on the job at A Novel Idea Literary Agency where she reads hopeful writers’ queries, thumbs through intriguing manuscripts and helps launch the careers of her authors by hosting fascinating events such as literary festivals and a celebrity chef cook-off. Not to mention solving crimes in the process. Yes, Lila and I could become great friends. “So, are you up for the challenge?” my agent wanted to know.

 To be honest, I didn’t give her an answer right away. The idea of continuing a bestselling series was intriguing, heady, overwhelming and yes … intimidating. I had big shoes to fill and there were two pair, that’s four shoes! In the end, however, it was Lila who convinced me to take the challenge. Because the more I came to know this plucky literary agent, who loves all things mystery—even real life mysteries—the more I realized her own story simply must continue. You see, Lila has more authors to discover, more mysteries to solve, more fabulous events to plan and most importantly, more books to bring to readers.

 MEET THE AUTHOR: The Novel Idea Mysteries is a New York Times bestselling series of cozy mysteries, including Buried in a Book, Every Trick in the Book, and Books, Cooks, and Crooks and, now, Played by the Book all written under the pseudonym of Lucy Arlington. The writing team of Ellery Adams and Sylvia May, two friends who collaborated on the series, first conceived of Lucy Arlington and her literary agent sleuth. Together, the duo penned the first three books in the series. As time passed and their personal writing workload grew, the two passed the series to another author: Susan Furlong. In addition to now writing as Lucy Arlington, Susan Furlong is the author of another upcoming cozy mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime, The Georgia Peach Mysteries. To learn more about Susan, visit her website at http://www.sfurlongbolliger.com/

(first Published in Mystery Reader's Journal)


  1. I owe my current book deal to Lucy Arlington. I was approached about the possibility of writing the Novel Idea mysteries, and that serendipitous moment led me to meet my agent which led to my current Bad Luck Cat series deal. We are each where we're supposed to be, Lucy/Susan.

  2. I'm really looking forward to your Bad Luck Cat series, Kay. I see BLACK CAT CROSSING is already available for pre-order on Amazon. What a gorgeous cover! Congratulations.
    Sue Furlong

  3. That's a charming account of the way your series began. I'm excited that PLAYED BY THE BOOK is finally out, and I'm looking forward to reading it. It's so great that you and Lila found each other!



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