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



Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome back to Mysterious Writers, Susan. Its great to have you visit here again.

Susan Santangelo said...

Lots of fun to be here, Jean. Thanks for having me!

Susan Santangelo said...

Lots of fun to be here, Jean. Thanks for having me!