I’m 1.5 chapters into Illona Andrews’ book Iron and Magic and I’m already finding it to be 10 times better than the cozy mystery I’m half-way through. The characters are stronger and because of that the world feels more real (and the Andrews’ book is a fantasy while the cozy takes place in present day California).
That’s the biggest difference in my opinion between an excellent writer and an OK writer. The cozy has a long list of rave reviews on the cover, but I feel it’s not nearly as well written. The main character in the first-person cozy feels thinly characterized and shallow when compared to Hugh, Andrews’ main character. You can feel Hugh’s motivations and emotions, while the MC of the cozy insists on telling me how she feels.
(And don’t get me started on the info-dumps the cozy writer has sprinkled throughout the book — every few pages there’s a nice lecture on some subject the author obviously researched the heck out of. I don’t care how many reviews your book gets that mention the word “intelligent,” boring your paying audience just to show off the depths of your research is not the way to go.)
Be like Illona, not like the cozy writer. No amount of well-developed plot or tricksy twists can overcome a character who doesn’t breathe. Give me a character I want to have over for dinner (OK, maybe without Hugh’s anger issues or his giant weapons) and you’ll have me hooked as a reader.