Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Visit with Susan Santangelo

Susan Santangelo has worked as a feature writer, drama critic and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. A seasoned public relations and marketing professional, she designed and managed not-for-profit events and programs for over 25 years, and was principal of her own public relations firm, Events Unlimited, in Princeton, New Jersey for ten years. She also served as Director of Special Events and Volunteers for Carnegie Hall during the Hall's 1990-1991 Centennial season.
 Susan, tell us about your latest novel, Marriage Can be Murder.

In Marriage Can Be Murder, the third in my Baby Boomer mystery series, the main character, Carol Andrews, is thrilled when daughter Jenny announces her engagement  She’s dreamed of planning her daughter’s wedding since the day Jenny was born. But with only two months to plan a destination wedding on Nantucket, Jenny insists on hiring Cinderella Weddings to organize the event. Father-of-the-bride Jim objects to the cost, and Carol objects to having her opinion ignored. When Carol finds the body of the wedding planner at the bottom of a creepy staircase at a Nantucket inn, and her BFF Nancy’s philandering husband is suspected of her death, Carol has more to worry about than getting to the church on time!  

How has your indie publishing career evolved?

When the first book, Retirement Can Be Murder, was published in 2009, I never dreamed it would sell so many copies. I’d taken a giant leap of faith – along with my number one fan, husband Joe – and started Baby Boomer Mysteries here on Cape Cod. I wanted to address the emotional issues Boomers are facing today – it’s a lot more than the financial piece – and no one seemed to be writing about them. I figured the book would sell a few hundred copies. To my utter amazement, we sold out of the first printing almost immediately. (The book is now in its fourth printing.) But when the book went on Kindle, that’s when it really took off. It sold 10,000 copies in only three months, and is still selling very well. I realized I’d touched a nerve when I began to get e-mails from wives all over the country telling me I’d written the story of their lives (without the dead body, of course!).  And asking me when the second book in the series would be out. I wasn’t sure I was going to write a series, but I had been thinking about the downsizing and moving issues for Boomers, so the next book, published in 2011, is titled Moving Can Be Murder. And the third book deals with the marriage of an adult child. I’m now working on Book 4, which will be about a high school reunion. I’d like to think that the old stigma of being an indie author is gone, but it’s still lurking in the shadows.  The trick, I think, is to write the best book you can, and know who your audience is.  And, in my case, my friends and I are my audience. I write about the issues we talk about. Hope that makes sense!      

 Has working for Cosmopolitan Magazine opened any doors for you since you began writing novels?

Working for Helen Gurley Brown at Cosmopolitan Magazine taught me that women can do anything if we just try. She was an amazing boss – a real iron fist in a velvet glove – and demanded excellence from all her staff. She was a true role model for me in many ways, and opened doors for so many young women. I don’t think she was appreciated as much as she should have been. She was a real pioneer in the feminist movement.    

Why did you decide to write about retirement-aged baby boomers?
There are so many Boomers facing retirement these days, it seemed like a natural! I had lots of fun writing it, and I hope the retirement quiz in the back of  that book helps other couples talk about the issue and make joint decisions about what comes next for them.

Are your novels all set in your own home area?

The books are set in the fictional Fairfield County, Connecticut, town of Fairport. We lived in Fairfield, Connecticut in an antique house for many years. In my mind, when I’m writing, I’m in that house. In fact, Fairfield Magazine recently did a piece about the books and their connection to my old house. 

What has been the most rewarding aspect of publishing for you?

I would have to say that the most rewarding aspect has been connecting with so many people all over the world because of the books. Writing, as you know, is a solitary process. But the people who e-mail me, and whom I’ve met at book signings, are folks I’d never have connected with through any other process. It’s truly a gift for me.

Tell us about your protagonists?

Carol Andrews is a smart, emotional, opinionated woman, married to her husband Jim for over 30 years. Any resemblance between Carol and me is purely coincidental. (Ha!)  She has a quick wit, but knows when to keep her mouth shut. And she also likes to have things her own way.  Husband Jim is recently retired from a NYC public relations firm, and having trouble with the adjustment. Too much time, not enough to do. So he does things like rearrange the  kitchen to make it more efficient, which drives Carol nuts. They have two adult children, Mike and Jenny. Jenny has moved back to Fairport and reconnected with an old boyfriend, Mark Anderson, who happens to be a Fairport police detective, and marries him in Book 3. Son Mike lives in Florida, runs a successful bar, and is recently married. Or, is he? And, of course, there are three best girlfriends of Carol’s – since childhood – Nancy, Claire and Mary Alice. And two very smart English cocker spaniels, Lucy and Ethel, who really run the Andrews house.  

What’s your secret for selling so many books?

I think I write about situations, and have characters, that many people, especially women, can identify with. At least, that’s what I hear from readers, who tell me I’m writing their life and ask me when I met their husbands! .

Advice for novice writers?

Write every day. Even if you don’t feel inspired. Just do it. And believe in yourself.  

 Thank you, Susan.

You can learn more about Susan Santangelo by visiting her website:
She's alo on Facebook: Susan Santangelo  and Twitter: Grammasuze


Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Visit with Kaye George

Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated twice for Agatha awards. She's the author of three mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, and the Fat Cat cozy series with Berkley Prime Crime. Her last two novels will debut in 2013. Kaye's short stories can be found in her collection, A Patchwork of Stories, as well as in Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, All Things Dark and Dastardly, Grimm Tales and in various online and print magazines. She reviews for Suspense Magazine, writes for several newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye is agented by Kim Lionetti at BookEnds Literary and lives in Texas, near Waco.

Kaye, how do you manage to write three mystery series?

With a great deal of difficulty right now! I fell into all three at once, but parts of them have been written over the last four years or so.

Please describe each one.

The Imogene Duckworthy series, of which I have three out, is a humorous mystery series set in west Texas. Immy lives with her retired librarian mother, Hortense, and her small daughter, Nancy Drew (nicknamed Drew), in a single-wide in Saltlick where as the series starts, she's waiting tables for Uncle Huey. She wants, more than anything, to be a PI, but that's the last thing her mother wants for her, since Louis Duckworthy, Immy's father, was shot and killed as a police detective a few years ago. I'm self-publishing these after the first was published by a small press with which I've parted company. (These three books are complete and published.)
The Cressa Carraway traditional amateur sleuth series will follow classical musician and composer as she pursues her dream to become a conductor, encountering bodies along the way. The series, so far, takes place in the Midwest, but may branch out to just about anywhere. The first of these will be published next spring by Barking Rain Press. (The first in this series is being edited.)

My agent, Kim Lionetti at BookEnds Literary, got me the contract for a three-book cozy series with Berkley Prime Crime, called the Fat Cat mysteries. (BTW, I snagged the agent by submitting my novel, CHOKE, the first Imogene Duckworthy book to her agency, but that's not the usual method.) Chase Oliver, co-owner of a dessert bar shop in the Dinkeytown area of Minneapolis, has a cat named Quincy who is pudgy. He dislikes his diet cat food and, being a clever feline, escapes to lead Chase to dead bodies and clues. The first of these, as yet untitled, will be out next fall, tentatively.  The publication dates are not yet definitely set, nor is the name I'll write them under, since these will require an author name specific to the series. (The first in this series is being written.)

I'll add that I may have another coming out, a Neanderthal mystery.  It's being considered by a publisher now and I should know soon. (This book is finished, unless some editing is desired by the publisher.)

As a Suspense Magazine reviewer, what turns you off about current books in general?

About the only mysteries that I can say turn me off are a few that have run on too long. I'm sure the authors are only producing books in old, tired series at the behest of publishers, but some of them need to be retired.

And what makes you want to review another book by the same author?

If I get a good feeling, some sort of satisfaction, I'll want to read more by an author. Usually this is because I've connected with the characters and want to spend more time with them. Sometimes, as happened with Hillerman's books, it's also because I love the setting and want to be there.

How important are organizations such as Sisters in Crime to both fledgling and journeymen authors? And how long have you been a member of SinC?

For much of the last 10 years, the length of time I've been writing full-time, I haven't had access to other mystery writers in person, so the online groups, Sisters in Crime and Guppies, have been my lifelines. It's so important for humans to connect with each other, and also with others who think the same. Only other writers completely understand each other, I think. Online contact is the next best thing to getting together with a group of other mystery writers for a good chat.

What’s the most important way for a mystery writer to promote a novel? And the worst?

I sure wish I knew that! I'd be selling tons of books if I knew better how to do that. I just try things that I see others doing, things I see suggested, and do as much of it as I can. I have no idea what matters and what doesn't, but, on the chance that one of the things I do is the deciding factor--facebook, twitter, blogging, conferences, book club and library talks--I'm compelled to continue all the promotion I can fit in.

Which do you enjoy writing most? Short stories or novels?

Definitely short stories. Novels are work for me and short stories are play. I relax between heavy novel-writing sessions with shorts. I think writers tend toward one or the other. What I like about a short story, being a simple-minded person, is that I can hold the whole story line in my head while I'm setting it down. With a novel, I have to keep track of things. Like where was this character yesterday, and what kind of car does that character drive, and is the sleuth wearing the same thing every day?

Who influenced your own work?

O. Henry and Mark Twain, for stories. Dame Agatha, Nero Wolfe, and Dick Francis were early influences for mysteries. I discovered Dorothy Hughes fairly recently and love her noir writing.

Advice for novice authors?

Read a whole heck of a lot, and write all you can. It doesn't hurt to get advice, take classes, and get critiques. But be careful of rewriting to suit someone else. You need to write your own voice, and it won't be like any one else's.

Your social media links.

Since you asked (told you I'm trying to do a lot):