Lynn Slaughter is addicted to the arts, chocolate, and her husband’s cooking. After a long career as a professional dancer and dance educator, Lynn earned her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. Her first mystery for adults, MISSED CUE, came out this month from Melange Books. She is also the author of four award-winning young adult romantic mysteries: DEADLY SETUP, LEISHA’S SONG, IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU, and WHILE I DANCED. Lynn lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she’s at work on her next novel, serves on the board of Louisville Literary Arts, and is an active member and former president of Derby Rotten Scoundrels, the Ohio River Valley chapter of Sisters in Crime.
MISSED CUE: When ballerina Lydia Miseau dies onstage in the final dress rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, homicide detective Caitlin O’Connor is faced with the most complicated case of her career. She strongly suspects that someone murdered the ballerina, and her investigation uncovers several people close to the star who had reasons to kill her. But the autopsy reveals no apparent cause of death. If Lydia Miseau was murdered, who did it, and how?
Meantime, Caitlin’s worried about her partner at work, who’s drinking way too much. And then there’s her own hot mess of a personal life. She has a bad habit of getting involved with married men. She knows it’s wrong, so why does she keep entangling herself in unhealthy relationships?
Writing About Adults Instead of Teens – I was a teenager when it occurred to me that many grownups I knew weren’t’… well, actually grown up. Granted, as teenagers, we had less experience and could claim our share of dumb decisions and impulsive behavior. At thirteen, I decided it would be no problem to explore an abandoned castle with my friends—except it turned out the place wasn’t abandoned, and an elderly lady with a shotgun chased us off her property. And I shudder when I think about willingly getting in a car three years later with one of my crazier boyfriends who thought it would be fun to show me what it felt like to go 100 miles an hour on the freeway.
But were the adults around me so different? As far as I could tell, they were doing some pretty dumb stuff, too. The glamourous mother of the girls who lived on the floor below me in our apartment building was cheating on her married lover by having an affair with the local barber. Then there was my best friend who came home from school one day to find her mother passed out dead drunk on the kitchen table. And did I mention my yearbook advisor the year I was the editor who chased me around the classroom after the last day of school, trying to put the moves on me?
So, when people ask me if it’s very different to write about adult protagonists rather than teenage ones, I’m not quite sure what to say. Yes, developmentally, the challenges in adulthood are distinctively different, but adults seem to me to be every bit as capable of messing up their lives.
Take the protagonist in my first mystery for adults, MISSED CUE. Homicide detective Caitlin O’Connor is terrific at her job, a hard-working crackerjack professional known for her ability to close cases. And she’s a good, caring person who’s loyal to her friends and terribly worried about her fellow detective who’s been drinking non-stop ever since his wife left him. The problem is that her private life is a hot mess. She has a bad habit of getting involved with married men and has finally decided to go into therapy to figure out why she keeps doing something she feels horribly guilty about.
Then there’s Lydia Miseau, the revered ballerina whose suspicious onstage death Caitlin is investigating. Lydia is universally admired for her brilliant dancing and kindness toward everyone associated with the ballet company. Even the janitor loves her! But as Caitlin digs into Lydia’s life, she discovers the star dancer’s behavior was every bit as imperfect as her own, and several people close to the ballerina had reasons to want to harm her.
As a writer for young adults who’s now dipped my toe into writing for adults, I’ve discovered the waters aren’t so very different. Likable, flawed, and vulnerable characters continue to interest me. Perfect people not only don’t exist in real life, but they’re incredibly boring to write and read about.
And in both my young adult novels and now MISSED CUE, I enjoy writing about characters who grow and change during their journeys. Caitlin not only solves the case but gets a better handle on her personal life.
A hallmark of young adult literature is some sense of hope that in the end, our youthful protagonists can move toward a more positive future.
Hope’s not a bad thing for us adults, either. The idea that throughout our lives, we can continue to solve problems, grow, and mature is one I find incredibly appealing.
Visit my blog at www.lynnslaughter.com
Missed Cue (forthcoming, Melange Books, 2023)
Deadly Setup (Fire and Ice/Melange Books, 2022), Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Silver Medalist
Leisha’s Song (Fire and Ice/Melange Books, 2021): Agatha Nominee, Silver Falchion Award, Moonbeam Bronze Medalist, Imadjinn Award for Best YA Novel
While I Danced (Write Words), EPIC Finalist
It Should Have Been You (Page Street), Silver Falchion Finalist