Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Visit with Sue Ann Jaffarian

Sue Ann Jaffarian makes her readers laugh with her three mystery series starring paralegal Odelia Grey, ghost Granny Apples, and her latest, Murder In Vein.

Sue Ann, how did your new vampire mystery series come about? Tell us briefly about Murder in Vein.

Funny thing, both my vampire and my ghost mystery series were totally unplanned. The Ghost of Granny Apples series emerged from an online chat with my first editor at Midnight Ink about an idea I had for a short story. As for the vampires, at the launch of Ghost a la Mode last September, I told my agent I had an idea for a vampire mystery. She loved it and asked for sample chapters and a synopsis. She shopped them to several publishers, including my current one. By the end of November, we had a contract for three books with Midnight Ink, who wanted to fast-track the series. A year after I mentioned the idea to my agent, the book was released!

Murder In Vein is not a vampire book as much as it is a mystery involving vampires. Young women are being murdered in the Los Angeles area and their blood drained. Madison Rose, a young street-wise waitress, is about to be the next victim when she is rescued by an elderly couple taking a moonlight stroll in the woods. When they kill her attacker, Madison realizes the Dedhams are vampires. She quickly learns that vampires living in California are very organized and put a lot of effort into not being detected. They are concerned that the recent killings will expose them, so they use Madison as bait to catch the killer. At first reluctant, Madison is soon drawn into their world and joins forces with the vampires and a mortal LAPD officer to draw out the killer. Just this week I completed the second book in the series.

Are you writing three mystery series concurrently?

Yes, I am. I know. I know. It’s insane. But so far it’s working beautifully. In addition to the vampire mysteries, I write the Ghost of Granny Apples mysteries, which feature a 100-year-old ghost who teams up with her great-great-great granddaughter to solve the murders of ghosts, starting with Granny’s own murder in Ghost à la Mode. The second book in that series, Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini, will be out in February. I also write the Odelia Grey mysteries, which center around Odelia Gray, a middle-aged, plus size paralegal as an amateur sleuth. The Granny Apples and Odelia Gray books are both humorous mysteries.

Your paralegal protagonist Odelia Grey has been called gutsy, smart and loveable. How did the series come about?

It was a case of writing what I knew. Like Odelia, I am a middle-aged, plus size paralegal, so when I needed a career for my amateur sleuth, I looked to my own. Originally, the book started out as a dramatic-comedy about weight prejudice in our society. When my then agent suggested I turn my focus to mysteries, I easily converted the book and it worked. In fact, the manuscript took off. I guess Odelia was thrilled to finally find her niche, and it showed. Midnight Ink has contracted for twelve books in the series. I just completed book six, Twice Dead, which will be out in June 2011.

Tell us about your protagonist Odelia Grey.

Odelia is an ordinary woman who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances. She doesn’t view life through rose colored glasses, but rather through Groucho Marx glasses. She’s been hurt a lot in her life, but doesn’t let it get her down, choosing instead to turn lemons into lemon meringue pie. She’s in her late forties when the series opens, single and living a life of contented boredom. She can be cranky and crusty and will speak her mind more often than not, but she’s fiercely loyal to her friends and family, who understand that underneath it all, she’s a marshmallow. As the series goes on, Odelia is reluctantly drawn into one murder after another, always with the idea that she’s helping someone for the last time, then hanging up her sleuthing shoes.

How important is humor in a mystery novel and have you always written tongue in cheek mysteries?

I enjoy threading humor through my mysteries, using it to break up the heaviness of murder and mayhem. I love entertaining my readers and making them chuckle along the way. As for the importance in a mystery, I think that depends on the goals of the author for his or her story. In some mysteries, funny or slapstick circumstances would be totally out of place. In mine, it puts the focus on the characters and how they handle finding themselves in life and death situations. Both my Odelia Grey and Ghost of Granny Apples books contain a lot of humor. There is humor in Murder In Vein, but it is much darker and low key, not at all broad as in the other books.

Why did you take part in the Camp Pendleton Mud Run last year? How did that come about?

I was sitting on my sofa and channel surfing one evening and saw it featured on some show. I’d never even heard of the Mud Run before. (BTW, the Mud Run is a 10K (6.2 mi) through a military obstacle course over hills, walls, a river, tunnels, mud pits, etc.) I’m not sure why, but I got it in my head that I wanted to do it. That I could do it. Now, mind you, I was a serious couch potato, more than 100 lbs overweight and in my late 50’s, but even so, I set out to train for the one that was being held in 2009. And I did it! What’s more, I did it under the official time allowed to complete it, with nearly ten minutes to spare! I now have it in my head to do the Mud Run again in 2011 and have cleared my calendar for it. I want to better my time and get over the walls, something I couldn’t do last year. In a nutshell, I had to prove to myself that I could do something totally out of my box, especially since I’m as physical as a glob of Play-Doh. And look for the Mud Run in book seven of my Odelia Grey series!

Your first Odelia Grey novel Too Big to Miss was optioned for film. How’s that project coming along?

Actually, the option lapsed just a few days ago and we’ve heard nothing about it being renewed again. So folks, Odelia’s back up on the block for sale! We have, however, received some interest in Murder In Vein, but it has not been optioned yet.

What do you include in your newsletter, Hot Flashes?

Hot Flashes is an e-mail distributed newsletter that comes out about three times a year. It includes information about upcoming releases, launch parties, events and even fun tidbits (like the Mud Run) that we feel would be of interest to readers. I also like to give readers a heads-up on other books they might enjoy. To sign up, folks should send an e-mail to and put “add me” in the subject line.

Advice to fledgling writers?

The Big C – COMMITMENT. It doesn’t matter how good of a writer you are, or how good your story idea, if you don’t have commitment to your craft, it’s never going to happen. And I don’t mean pretending you’re a writer by talking about it on Facebook, Twitter, etc. I mean keeping your butt in the chair and pouring out the words hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, and also being open to constructive criticism to help hone your craft. If you’re serious about being a writer, put all the BS aside, set yourself a schedule and stick to it. That’s what writers do. And there are no short cuts or easy ways to get there. It’s like the Mud Run – to get to the finish line, you have to go over or through all the obstacles, but the sense of accomplishment is so satisfying in the end.

Her website:


Group Blog:

Readers can find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Mysterious Writers, Sue Ann. I can't fanthom how anyone could write three mystery series at the same time. How do you manage to do that (and train for a mud run as well)?

Alan Orloff said...

Very nice interview, ladies! Sue Ann, I want your secret to time management. What you've done with your three series is nothing short of incredible!

Bill Kirton said...

Another beauty, Jean. I suppose I always enjoy it when your interviewees express attitudes to writing which I share. Also, this is the first time I've heard anyone make that telling distinction between writers who write and those who talk about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Thanks, Jean, for having me! It's always a pleasure to visit other blogs and meet new people.

Alan, next time I see you, I'll whisper my secret in your ear and give you the receipe for my secret potion.

Bill, thanks for reading my rant. Sometimes postings on FB and Twitter make my head explode, then I remember I'm a writer and get back to work.

Jenny Baker said...

Wow! Three series at once. What do you do in your spare time, Sue Ann?

Anonymous said...

I love your books because they make me laugh. I'm looking forward to reading your new vampire series.