By Nikki Knight
A cozy assassin. Really?
Really. Suburban mom Grace Adair only kills creepy men who deserve it. And she makes fudge afterwards.
The Hit Mom is a chemistry test. Right now, you’re either laughing and wondering when you can meet her…or you’re wondering why someone sick enough to create Grace is allowed around children and pets. If you’re still reading, you’re in the first group, and I’m happy to tell you how she (and I) got here.
Grace started as a much darker character. Several years ago, my husband was in his first round of cancer treatment, and I was querying an earlier novel. I wanted to write someone who did terrible things and got away with it; someone who had the power to do whatever she wanted to do instead of waiting for medicine, publishing, and the Lord to decide what would happen.
And so, Grace was born. A suburban mom with a part-time job, a kid, and a clueless husband. Plus a secret life as a member of an ancient order of lady poisoners who remove evil men – for a price. The idea of the order, consecrated to the Archangel Gabriel, wasn’t a paranormal thing. It was a way to make Grace a committed person of faith with a code rather than a vigilante.
In the original domestic suspense-ish version, we see Grace taking out an evil media mogul, and the plot revolves around her having to stop a copycat without getting caught. That one ended with Grace safe, free, and poisoning a politician, because why not?
Fast-forward through a pandemic debut and a few interesting years of life and work, and I’m looking for a new idea to pitch to my agent. By this point, I know I’m really more comfortable at the lighter end of the mystery spectrum, and that my dry and snarky sense of humor is one of my best assets.
And I’m surrounded by cozies. Cat cozies, crochet cozies, cuchifrito cozies – themes of all kinds. So, I think: why not a killer cozy? Surely nobody else is doing that…and with a couple decades of dark newsroom humor behind me, I’m the perfect person to pull it off.
By this point, I’ve taken a few of Jane Cleland’s wonderful webinars on writing craft, and I’ve learned the best mysteries are unique to their people and place. What’s a story that could happen only in this setting with these characters – and only my detective could solve
Nothing better than having a killer catch one!
So I take my wicked assassin lady and turn her into a lighter, cozy sleuth. Give her a giant dog, a bunch of colorful pals, and a comically evil nemesis. And it works.
At least for me.
My publisher at the time took one look and ran screaming into the night.
Part of the game. I moved on to other things, including trying to sell a Grace short story (which is still looking for a home, BTW) and different projects. Until one winter afternoon, when I found out about a new, exciting, and different kind of publisher. A publisher who is looking for exactly this kind of out-of-the-box story.
Okay, I say. I have something a little different. But you may not like it
No points off, I say. Feel free to tell me you hate it. I know everyone doesn’t get
Well, you’re reading this, so you know how that ended. My editors Kent Holloway and Britin Haller got Grace, Charade Media bought Wrong Poison, and they’re turning Grace loose on the world July 11th.
Everything in the right place with the right people.
What say you, readers? Would you be surprised if a carpooling mom in your neighborhood turned out to be an assassin?
Nikki Knight describes herself as an Author/Anchor/Mom…not in that order. An award-winning weekend anchor at New York City’s 1010 WINS Radio, she writes short stories and novels. Her stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Black Cat Weekly, online, and in anthologies including Deadly Knightshade: Best New England Crime Stories 2022. She’s been short-listed for Black Orchid Novella and Derringer Awards. As Kathleen Marple Kalb, she writes the Ella Shane and Old Stuff mystery series. She, her husband, and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat Rheba.