We interrupt your program to bring you some breaking news. Author Susan Dorsey has stopped by to talk about her new book that comes out next week!
E: Welcome to my blog, Susan! Glad you could make it on such short notice. Here, have some stale bagels.
S: Thanks much, Erin! Stale bagels and an interview? Not too shabby!
E: You have a brand new book coming out next week. What’s it called, and what can we expect to see, and when can we get it?
S: A Haunted Death will be available from amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions on May 1st, 2013. This is the third in the Jane Brooks mystery series, but you don’t have to read the first two to follow the story.
Jane and her fellow hairdresser, Rodney, get invited to a séance at a client’s barn. Jane doesn’t really expect to see a ghost there, but then again, she didn’t expect to see a corpse either. The ghost-hunter dying in the barn is bad enough, but when other people at the séance start turning up dead, Jane and Rodney must discover if they are being hunted by a human or haunted by a ghost.
E: How did writing this book differ from writing the earlier books? Was it easier because you had the characters all set up, or was it more challenging because you needed to keep them fresh and interesting?
S: Each chapter of the Jane Brooks series starts with a quote. The first book, A Civil Death, dealt with the Civil War history in the East Tennessee area. The second book, A Discriminating Death, revealed the Melungeon heritage abundant here. It was relatively easy to research both of those books; a lot has been written about both topics. A Haunted Death was a bit trickier. I couldn’t find any good source books about hauntings in East Tennessee. Instead, I turned to my friends and neighbors for their stories. Almost everyone would deny that they had any ghostly experiences, and then they would pause and say, ‘well, there was this one time….’ It was wonderful to hear what people had seen and heard. Several people were kind enough to let me quote them at the start of a chapter. I love reading their stories. I think it sets the tone for the whole book.
I do think that the actual writing of A Haunted Death was easier because I was very familiar with the characters. It was easy to put them in a variety of situations and know which way they would jump when the trouble went down.
E: What was your process like? Do you have any outlines, reminder notes, whatnot, or did you just jump right in and see where you ended up?
S: My writing process has become more and more organized. I believe that plotting is extremely helpful in the mystery genre. There are just certain things that absolutely have to happen at certain points in the book. I also don’t have a lot of alone time to write, two kids and the husband and all, so I need to make the most of what I’ve got. It does me no good to get halfway through a chapter and then realize I needed to do it differently. My last outline was actually color coded to include the main mystery, the subplot, and key elements in the character’s development. That method helped me see where the story lagged and how to move the action around to keep the momentum.
E: You just finished up a new book, too. We have words for people like you. Luckily, I was taught not to repeat them in public. I’m kidding. Sort of. Can you tell us about it?
S: Oh, I am so happy to have just finished the first draft of a new series. The working title is The Witches of Greasy Creek. It is a mix of murder and Appalachian Granny-magic. It has taken me six months to research, plot, and write. It was a blast to research. I found out all kinds of interesting things! For instance, if you want to curse somebody, all you have to do is think about them while you burn some cornbread. Then, you just toss the cornbread to the birds. My sweet mother has been burning cornbread and feeding it to the birds for years. It makes me wonder what she was really up to this whole time!
E: Who has been your biggest influence with your writing?
S: The best writing advice I have found comes from Chuck Wendig. He has an amazing blog at www.terribleminds.com He’s not for everyone. He curses like a drunk sailor that has had something heavy drop on his foot. His advice is dead-on and often laugh-out-loud funny. I go back and reread his books periodically to get me motivated. It works.
E: This one is unspeakably cruel. That’s why I’m going to ask it. If you could only read one more book ever, which book would you choose and why?
At this point Susan stares at me openmouthed with an “I can’t believe you just asked me that” look on her face.
S: I can’t believe you just asked me that! No really, this one isn’t quite as hard as you would think. I have at least narrowed it down to one author. Hands down it has to be Terry Pratchett. I love that man. I have read everything he has ever written. I would read a grocery list if he wrote it down. My favorites are the witch books. I would choose Wyrd Sisters. Or maybe I would choose Witches Abroad. Or Maskerade. Or Lords and Ladies. Okay, I’ll have to think about this one some more.
E: What’s one thing that you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out?
S: Honestly, I wish I would have known how kind other authors are. I thought being a writer meant being alone at the computer, which is true, but even then you don’t have to go it alone. I’ve met so many authors on Facebook that have really helped me not only with my work, but with my life. I’m a member of the Knoxville Writers Guild and I have an amazing writing partner that meets with me once a week. I read her stuff and she reads mine. Getting a novel ready to submit is hard work, finding a publisher is hard work. It’s nice to know you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Authors are awesome people.
The new book comes out May 1, so why not check out the first two books while you wait? Susan also has a short story based on the same characters. You can find Susan on her website, blog, and Twitter. We now return you to your previously scheduled programming.