A Cozy Mystery Author’s Guide To Living The Cozy Life
by Esme Addison
Have you ever been so immersed in a cozy mystery novel that you felt like you were right there in the small town with the amateur sleuth? If you have, then you know how comforting and relaxing it can be to escape into a cozy world. I’m excited to share that as a cozy mystery author, I’ve learned a thing or two about creating a cozy life both on and off the page. So if you’re looking for some tips on how to infuse more coziness into your daily routine, keep reading!
You may or may not know this, but I am the author of the Enchanted Bay Mystery series published by Crooked Lane. I’ve spent the last couple of years talking about cozy mysteries: how to write them, the best cozies to read for certain types of readers and penning articles on coziness for Due South.
A Spell For Trouble, the first book in my series was nominated for an Agatha Award for best first book, and in the past, I’ve taught online cozy mystery classes that explained the cozy mystery genre to aspiring writers. All this to say, I feel confident in my ability to talk all things cozy with you.
My How To Write A Cozy Mystery class was a blast! It was a fun yet informative class that provided the deepest of dives into a genre that creates a warm fuzzy blanket of a setting for a not-so-nice crime. One of my favorite modules of the class was called: How To Add Cozy Elements To Your Cozy Mystery where I discussed what coziness is and how to add it to your story to create a cozy environment for your reader.
For that particular class, we spent two hours exploring ways to create a cozy small town with cozy businesses and characters doing cozy things. But guess what else we talked about? Creating cozy homes, cozy gardens, cozy reading nooks, cozy bedrooms and cozy living rooms because our amateur sleuth and their wacky cast of characters have to live in cozy places.
We also explored cozy jobs for the amateur sleuth, and most importantly how to create a cozy small-town setting reader will fall in love with as they follow the series.
For that reason, I think cozy mystery authors (and other types of cozy-ish writers like small-town romance and some women’s fiction) are veritable treasure troves of knowledge when it comes to how to cozy up anything. So, to that end, I thought it would be fun to share some of my best how-to cozy tips for readers based on my class on how to create a cozy mystery and my experience as an author of cozy mysteries.
Grab your coziest beverage, and keep reading!
You’re here because you’re wondering how to have a cozy life. You want some tips, right? Sure, I’ll share my best recommendations, but first I have a few questions for you.
Nine in fact.
Table of Contents
Once you’ve answered these nine questions, you’ll have a full understanding of how to live your coziest life.
Let’s get started!
Do you live in a cozy town?
In cozy mysteries (and Hallmark movies) cozy towns have a population of about 10,000 which is large enough to support local businesses with a charming historic main street, but small enough so that everyone knows everyone. So if you want to live a cozy life you need to live in a smaller town. A population of 10,000 or less is ideal, however you can still create a cozy life for yourself in larger areas.
As I reminded my students there is a trend in cozy mystery to set stories in larger cities like New York or Los Angeles but focus on a smaller area where the main character can find a sense of community in say a New York borough or a large apartment complex. But for our purposes, we’ll focus on small towns.
Speaking of which, in my Enchanted Bay Mystery series, I created the seaside small town of my dreams. So cozy! Many readers of my books tell me they wish Bellamy Bay was a real place so they could visit. I love hearing this!
Anyway, here are a few things to look for:
- A beautiful historical main street full of character and interesting shops
- Neighborhoods built in a variety of architectural styles like Victorian houses or cozy cottages
- An area that celebrates with lots o’ parades and festivals
- A culture of great food and drink (there must be coffee shops, bakeries and tea houses! Breweries and wine bars too.)
- Bookstores and libraries must abound
- The area should look pretty and charming
Do you have a cozy job?
In cozy mysteries, the main character’s job is key to her cozy existence because it’s something she (they’re usually she in cozies) will spend a great deal of time doing.
Just as in real life, our work can take up much of our time. Only in cozies, the main character usually leaves a job she no longer enjoys to start the business of her dreams, or she finds a way to profit from coziness.
In my series, the main character Aleksandra or Alex quits her high-paying corporate job in Manhattan and accepts an invitation to stay with her aunt and cousins in Bellamy Bay, NC. They own an herbal apothecary, and Alex begins to work in the shop surrounded by herbal remedies and natural bath and body products. She’s surprised to find that she enjoys the work, and finds it deeply satisfying in fact, working with her hands making soap and candles.
In cozy mysteries, many main characters careers are associated with small-town life, or they are business owners.
So if you want to live a cozy life, (if you can shake it) you should have a cozy job. Like…
- Bed and breakfast owner
- Anything that involves food, especially comfort food or anything baked, some possibilities could be dessert cafe owner, grilled cheese food truck chef or baker, for example
- Anything that involves arts and crafts or hobby-as-career, like a knitting supply shop owner, a soap makers boutique or a handmade broom shop
- Careers related to parties – event planner, florist, decorator, caterer
- Anything aspirational – really a cozy job is anything you consider your dream job, something that makes you happy, you’re good at it and doing the work brings you joy. Because most of all coziness is about being really happy and content.
Is your house cozy?
In cozy mysteries, the house is always… interesting. It’s not a cookie-cutter house in a cookie-cutter neighborhood. It has history. Character. It’s probably in a historic neighborhood, or it could be something non-traditional-turned-home like a carriage house. Modern homes work too but to cozy it up they should be built in a style that harkens to a different time period to imply history and character.
In A Spell For Trouble, Alex moves in with her aunt and cousin in a beautiful, old Victorian surrounded by lush gardens of flowers, veg and herb.
A few things to look for in a cozy house
- Homes with character and history. Look for styles like Victorian, Cap Cod, Farmhouse Colonial, Craftsman and Bungalow. Whatever it is, it should bring you happiness and joy when you look at it (even if it’s a fixer-upper)
- Look for homes constructed with warm and inviting materials such as wood, brick, or stone
- Consider the size. A cozy home doesn’t have to be small, but it should be proportionate to your needs. A larger home may not necessarily feel cozy if it is too empty or difficult to maintain
- Look for features like a front porch, a backyard, or a patio, where you can relax and enjoy the surroundings.
- A good cozy home has neighbors or community because part of a cozy life is having good relationships with the people around you
- A yard that can be filled with whatever you love: Flowers? Gnomes sculptures? Wind chimes? It’s up to you.
Is your home cozy?
Notice I differentiate between house and home? That’s because, I think the house is the exterior, the building. But the home? That’s what’s inside. So is your home cozy? Meaning the feeling, the vibe one feels when one enter the house. This element is not always easy to cultivate but more on that later.
Are your decor and furnishings cozy? This is an easy one – you just buy cozy stuff that makes you feel comforted and happy. Here are nine suggestions for creating a cozy home:
- Add soft, plush textures such as throw pillows, blankets, or area rugs
- Use table lamps and floor lamps to add soft, warm light
- Whether you are a reader or not, decorate with books to add to the vibe, look for books in interesting shapes, colors and textures. Also on cozy topics like sheep farming in Iceland or a mac and cheese cookbook. (I’m smiling just thinking of these books.)
- Cozy wall prints, framed pictures and photographs of family, friends and pets. Look for interesting frames with a vintage feel or in natural materials.
- Comfortable seating upholstered in warm, soft-to-the-touch fabrics or butter-soft leather.
- Candles, candles, candles. I love scented candles that evoke the season (fall, spring, holiday!) or baked cookies or whatever you love
- Decorate and accent in warm cozy palettes, like earth tones, jewel tones, soft yellows or warm grays.
- Add heirlooms, travel souvenirs, cute items that bring you pleasure or have special meaning
- For bedrooms, make sure there are lots of warm, soft, fluffy blankets, comforters and pillows
Okay, so back to the cozy vibe. So, creating a cozy life and a cozy home is about more than just buying soft pillows and lighting candles that approximate the smell of cashmere. It’s also intangible.
Do you know how to create a cozy atmosphere?
Characters in cozy mysteries are happy, like really happy (possibly strange considering they find dead bodies. a little too often). They spend a lot of time with family and friends and are involved in community events.
For example, Alex in A Hex For Danger is deeply immersed in the planning of the local summer mermaid festival (while at the same time investigating a murder).
Cozy mystery characters rarely eat alone either. It’s always with family and friends, which provides opportunities for building relationships, and providing emotional support when needed. (It’s also when a lot of clues are shared.) Alex comes from a Polish-American family, so there is a lot of Polish food in the series. But also southern… because I’m me! 🙂
But much of the cozy feeling is garnered around the family dining table where the characters talk over cups of coffee or tea or meals or baked goods. And if they’re not eating, they’re cooking together.
It’s the same in life, isn’t it? Sometimes a home’s focal point is the kitchen. Or you feel most welcomed when your mother or another relative makes you sit down and stuffs you full of good home cooking because food is their love language, and a cozy love language it is.
My point is, if you strive to have a cozy life there’s an internal component to it. Here are five ways to set a cozy tone for your life:
- Focus on experiences: Creating memorable experiences, such as hosting a dinner party or having a family game night, can enhance the cozy vibe of a home.
- Set the tone: Playing soft music or lighting candles can create a calm and relaxing atmosphere that contributes to a cozy ambiance.
- Cultivate relationships: Building strong relationships with family, friends, and neighbors can create a sense of community and support that enhances the overall cozy atmosphere of the home.
- Celebrate traditions: Incorporating traditions and rituals, such as holiday traditions or family rituals, can create a sense of comfort and familiarity that enhances the cozy vibe of the home.
- Embrace imperfection: Creating a home that feels lived-in and comfortable, rather than perfect and pristine, can contribute to a cozy atmosphere.
Do you have a cozy mindset?
I wrote a whole article on this topic, but it bears repeating again. You can live in a cozy town in a cozy house and have a cozy job, but if you don’t have a cozy mindset… it’s just not going to work.
A cozy mindset is the way you feel inside, the manner in which you view the world and the way you interact with other people. It’s the feeling you get when you watch a heartwarming movie or read a good book about baking and you’re inspired to bake so you can replicate the fuzzy feelings on the page in your home.
A cozy mindset may not come naturally to some, but it is something you can cultivate. Here are six tips for cultivating a cozy mindset:
- Practice mindfulness: By focusing on the present moment and being fully engaged in one’s surroundings, one can cultivate a sense of contentment and relaxation.
- Cultivate gratitude: Taking time to appreciate simple pleasures and expressing gratitude for what one has can contribute to a cozy mindset.
- Engage in relaxation practices: Engaging in activities such as meditation, yoga, or taking a warm bath can help create a sense of calm and relaxation.
- Connect with loved ones: Building and nurturing strong relationships with loved ones can contribute to a sense of community and support that enhances a cozy mindset.
- Create a cozy environment: Surrounding oneself with comforting and aesthetically pleasing elements, such as soft blankets, warm lighting, or soothing scents, can help cultivate a cozy mindset.
- Take time for self-care: Engaging in activities that promote self-care, such as taking a nap, reading a book, or indulging in a favorite hobby, can contribute to a sense of well-being and relaxation.
I should also mention that you should be mindful of the type of content you consume if you’re serious about developing and maintaining a cozy mindset. Watch cozy videos, tv shows and movies. Read cozy books. Listen to cozy music and podcasts. That means no serial killer documentaries, no 24/7 news channels, or crime dramas.
Instead focus on seeing, hearing and experiencing things that are happy and positive. It may even include decreasing your social media activity which can sometimes bring negativity to you that you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
A big part of cozy mysteries and being cozy is cultivating strong interpersonal relationships. Cozy mystery sleuths always have a sidekick – a best friend who not only helps them solve mysteries but is their friend and confidant.
Sometimes the main character in a cozy mystery lives with or around family and they spend a lot of time together, but sometimes they live in a town where they have no family. In this case, they meet people. Create friendships. Regardless of the scenario, they get involved with the community planning events, befriending shop owners and participating in town functions.
Do you have a pet?
As the owner of a long-haired German Shepherd named Max, I know firsthand the joy and comfort that pets can bring to our lives. In my mystery series, I feature a short-haired German Shepherd named Athena, who plays an important role in helping my protagonist solve crimes.
Having a pet, whether it’s a dog, cat, or other animal, can bring a sense of coziness and warmth to your home. Here are some tips for creating a cozy life with your pet:
- Create a comfortable space: Whether your pet sleeps in a crate or on a bed, make sure they have a comfortable and cozy space to rest. Add soft blankets, pillows, and toys to make the space feel inviting.
- Schedule playtime: Regular playtime with your pet can be a fun and cozy way to bond. Play fetch, tug-of-war, or simply snuggle up together on the couch.
- Take walks: Dogs in particular need regular exercise, so taking them for daily walks can be a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy nature. Walking with your pet can also be a relaxing and cozy way to unwind.
- Incorporate your pet into your routine: Whether it’s cuddling with your cat while reading a book or taking your dog on a car ride, find ways to include your pet in your daily routine. This can create a sense of comfort and familiarity for both you and your pet.
- Practice self-care with your pet: Taking care of your pet can be a form of self-care. Grooming, brushing, and cuddling with your pet can be relaxing and therapeutic for both you and your pet.
Are you an integral part of your community?
It’s key to feeling cozy. Surprised? Don’t be. Feeling cozy means going out in your neighborhood, shopping on Main Street or attending the local farmer’s market and seeing friends everywhere.
Here are seven ways you can get more involved in your community to foster a cozier environment:
- Attend community events: Participating in local events, such as fairs, festivals, or charity events, can be a great way to meet new people and become more engaged in the community.
- Join community groups: Whether it’s a book club, a neighborhood watch group, or a volunteer organization, joining groups and clubs can provide opportunities to connect with others who share similar interests and goals.
- Get to know your neighbors: Taking time to introduce yourself to your neighbors and engage in friendly conversation can help create a sense of community and connectedness.
- Support local businesses: Shopping locally and supporting small businesses can help build a sense of community pride and foster a cozier atmosphere.
- Volunteer: Offering your time and skills to local organizations and charities can not only help others but also provide opportunities to meet new people and become more involved in the community.
- Participate in community clean-up efforts: Joining in community clean-up projects, such as litter clean-up or park beautification, can be a great way to contribute to the community and connect with others.
- Attend town hall meetings: Participating in local government meetings can help keep you informed about community issues and provide opportunities to voice your opinions and concerns.
Overall, being more involved in your community can help foster a sense of connectedness and create a cozier atmosphere for everyone. By participating in local events, joining groups, supporting local businesses, and volunteering, you can help make your community a better and more welcoming place for all.
Next, I have a question that may surprise you.
Do you find yourself seeking out outdoor activities as a way to feel cozy and content?
As a cozy mystery author who sets her books in small towns on the beach in North Carolina, I know firsthand the benefits of spending time outdoors to feel cozy. There’s just something about being outside, surrounded by the beauty of nature, that can create a sense of calm and tranquility that’s hard to find anywhere else.
In my books, my characters often spend time outdoors to clear their minds, think through a case, or simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings. Alex jogs on the beach to clear her mind, characters often meet at the park by the mermaid statue, and aunt Lidia can often be found in her backyard garden.
But it’s not just in cozy mysteries that spending time outdoors can help you feel cozy. In fact, many forms of media, from romance novels to Hallmark-style movies, feature outdoor settings and activities as a way to create a sense of warmth and comfort.
So if you want to feel cozy, consider spending more time outdoors. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Take a walk in nature – Whether it’s a local park or a hiking trail in the mountains, taking a walk in nature can be a great way to feel cozy. The fresh air and natural beauty can help to clear your mind and reduce stress.
- Sit on a porch swing – There’s something about sitting on a porch swing that just feels cozy. If you have a porch or a balcony, consider adding a swing or rocking chair to create a cozy outdoor space.
- Enjoy a picnic – Pack a blanket and some snacks, and head to a local park for a cozy picnic. Bonus points if you bring along a cozy mystery to read while you enjoy your lunch.
- Watch the sunset – Sunsets are one of nature’s most beautiful displays, and watching one can be a great way to feel cozy. Find a spot with a good view, and settle in to watch the colors change in the sky.
- Visit a local farm or orchard – For a cozy outdoor activity that’s also productive, consider visiting a local farm or orchard. You can pick your own produce, enjoy the fresh air, and support a local business all at the same time.
- Grow and work in a veg, flower and or herb garden.
Do you participate in cozy activities and hobbies?
Lastly, do you do cozy things? Some activities and hobbies are cozier than others. And by doing them you can increase both your cozy mindset and the cozy atmosphere around you.
In my series, Alex (as mentioned earlier) makes soap, candles, perfume and other natural products. That’s cozy. When her aunt Lidia is accused of murder in A Spell For Trouble, she spends her time on house arrest baking Polish desserts and knitting. Also cozy.
This is not an exhaustive list, but here are ten things you can do to feel cozy:
- Knitting or crocheting: These activities are not only practical, but they can also be very relaxing and satisfying.
- Reading: Curling up with a good book, a warm blanket, and a cup of tea can be a perfect way to unwind and escape from the world.
- Baking: Whether it’s baking cookies, pies, or cakes, the warmth and aroma of a freshly baked treat can create a cozy and comforting atmosphere.
- Watching a movie: Snuggling up on the couch with a loved one or a pet and watching a favorite movie can be a great way to relax and unwind.
- Crafting: Engaging in craft projects, such as scrapbooking, painting, or drawing, can provide a creative outlet and a sense of accomplishment.
- Hiking or nature walks: Spending time in nature can be a great way to recharge and find peace, especially when paired with warm layers and comfortable shoes.
- Journaling: Writing down thoughts, feelings, and reflections can be a therapeutic and calming activity that helps create a sense of introspection and self-awareness.
- Cooking: Preparing a warm and comforting meal can be a cozy and satisfying activity, especially when shared with loved ones.
- Board games: Gathering around a table and playing board games with friends or family can be a great way to connect and have fun in a cozy setting.
- Listening to music: Whether it’s listening to soft, acoustic melodies or upbeat tunes that make you want to dance, music can be a great way to create a cozy atmosphere and set the mood.
If you poke around Due South, you’ll find we write about many of these topics as we encourage our readers to live their coziest lives. If you’re interested in learning about more cozy hobbies and activities, check out:
- Try These Five Cottagecore Aesthetics For Cozy Writing
- Get Cozy: Six Ways To Transform Your Reading Experience
- Words from the Heart: Start Writing Letters Today
- Five Benefits of Knitting for Your Well Being
And subscribe to our newsletter for more cozy content. You can also join our community of cozy lovers on Facebook as we support each other in our quest for coziness.
At the end of the day, having a cozy mindset is about being happy, feeling comfortable in your skin, being content with your life and having a practice of sharing your cozy vibe with others.
I hope this article has been helpful! Did you learn something new? What will you change about your life? Or do you already lead a cozy life. Share in comments.