A while ago, I mentioned something about wanting the cozy mystery equivalent of fantasy — some adventure, but without anything really bad happening to people I cared about. I know that editors and agents are always looking for books with really high stakes and lots of conflict and tension, but there are times when all that is too much and I just want something pleasant and escapist.
Right now, I’m reading a book that I’m really enjoying, but it’s the middle book in a trilogy, and it’s definitely got that Empire Strikes Back thing going on, where things are getting serious for Our Hero. Bad things are happening all around him, and he’s doing what he can, but he’s powerless to deal with a lot of it, and the people who can do something aren’t listening to him. You can see the train wreck coming.
And it’s almost too much for me to take. I ended up flipping to the end to see how it all came out, and, yep, Empire Strikes Back, where the “happy” ending is that the characters I like managed to live to fight again, but things aren’t good at all. That wasn’t quite reassuring enough, so I went to the Amazon page for the next book in the series to see if that description made it better. And then I found that there’s another trilogy involving these characters, so I checked those descriptions. I now finally feel reassured enough to forge ahead.
I don’t think I could ever sell low-stress reads to a major publisher, but I think I might try to put together some books — probably those fairytale-related romantic fantasies — that I could publish myself and market as what to read when you really don’t want to follow the heroes into hell. There still would be action and suspense, but with stakes that are more personal and less that the whole world is going to be devastated because the people around the incompetent ruler refuse to do anything about it because they have their own agendas.
Though “low-stress reading” probably isn’t the best label. Maybe “Escapist Fantasy.” I know sometimes “escapist” is used about fantasy and “light” reading as an insult, but sometimes, escapist is exactly what I want. I think in general that’s what I write, but it’s very, very hard to sell right now.