Tag Archives: #letterwriting

Author interview with SUSIE BLACK, author of DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE

You all know by now I Iove my Wild Rose Press sistahs and I love introducing you all to new writers I think you’ll enjoy. Today is no exception to that premise.

Meet Susie Black. Susie is new to the Rose Garden and her debut cozy humorous mystery, DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE is out now and getting fab reviews. Susie was kind enough to stop by recently, answer my grilling questions, and then we discussed her beloved grandmother and a forgotten art: letter writing. She also gave me a little excerpt to share from her book and I think you’ll agree that once you read it, you’ll want to get this book!

First, here’s our interview:

Susie Black: The Writer Questions

What drives you to write?

Coming from a sales background, I am a student of human nature, a people watcher, and a born storyteller. During the course of my ladies’ apparel sales career, I have kept a daily journal that chronicles the quirky, interesting, and sometimes challenging characters I come in contact with, as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My journal is the foundation of all I write.

What genre(s) of Romance do your write, and why?

 I actually write in the humorous cozy mystery genre, but unrequited or ill-fated romance is usually one of the motives for the murder in my plots.

What genre(s) of Romance do you read, and why?

I read romantic mysteries. I lean towards whodunits, but like them spiced up with some romance that usually drives the plot.

What’s your writing schedule? Do you write every day?

Honestly, I do not have a writing schedule. If I had only specific days and hours when I could write, then I would. I set my own schedules and find that writing when the urge to write hits instead of checking the calendar or clock to see if it is writing time, makes for a writing atmosphere that is much more creative for me.

Give us a glimpse of the surroundings where you write. Separate room? In the kitchen? At the dining room table?

Most of the time I write in my office at my computer adjacent to a window that overlooks a golf course. I have also been known to write on my laptop while sitting on the deck of my houseboat.

6. Are you the kind of writer who needs total quiet to compose, or are you able to filter out the typical sounds of the day and use your tunnel-vision?

 I am used to white noise around the house, so I am able to filter out the typical sounds of the day. Also, I have a hearing problem, so in this case, it is a benefit as I simply do not hear a lot of noise.

Do you listen to music while you write, and if so, what kind? If not, why not?

It depends. If I am working on a chapter that I have a good idea of how to write, then I listen to either cool jazz or oldies in the background.  If I am working on a new section or one that is challenging, then no, I prefer as few distractions as possible, so no music for me to sing along to.

How did you come up with the plotline/idea for your current WIP?

The plotline/idea for my current WIP came from an incident I had with an unscrupulous buyer that I used poetic license to take to a much more dramatic level.

 Which comes first for you – character or plot? And why?

I am a people person, so for me, the characters always come first. My characters always drive the plot, never the reverse.

What 3 words describe you, the writer?

 Funny. Honest. Passionate.

Susie, the Gal…

Tell us one unusual thing about yourself – not related to writing!

I eat each item on the plate separately and completely before I go to the next item and I eat my least favorite item on the plate first.

Who was your first love and what age were you?

My first love was Dean Schneider. We were five years old.

If you could relive one day, which one would it be? Think GROUNDHOG DAY, the movie for this one – you’ll have to live it over and over and….

My Wedding Day

What’s one thing you love about your significant other?

He makes me laugh every, single day.

If you had to give up one necessary-can’t-live-without-it item, what would it be?

My car

What three words describe you, the person? Honorable, Trustworthy, Sassy

If you could sing a song with Jimmy Fallon, what would it be?

“I won’t grow up” from Peter Pan

If you could hang out with any literary character from any book penned at any time line, who would it by, why, and what would you do together?

Nancy Drew because she got me interested in mysteries. We would solve a mystery together.

Bonus round

I love the Actor’s Studio show on Bravo, so this is my version of it:

  1. Favorite sound: Waves breaking on the seashore
  2. Least favorite sound: Fingernail scratches across a chalkboard
  3. Best song every written: People, by Barbra Streisand
  4. Worst song ever written: Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
  5. Favorite actor and actress: Favorite actor: Jack Lemon Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
  6. Who would you want to be for 1 day and why? ( It can be anyone living or dead): Fearless Golda Meir because she was one of the first female heads of state in a major country and did what was necessary to defend Israel. 
  7. What turns you on? Love
  8. What turns you off? Narrow minds
  9. Give me the worst 5 words ever heard on a first date ( here’s mine: “Is that your real hair?”): “I’m sorry, but I’ve got to be at work really early tomorrow.”
  10. What’s your version of a perfect day? My husband, son, and I are together enjoying one another’s company.

And now, A little on that forgotten letter-writing art form:

In this modern time of smart phones that do almost everything including talking for you, it is hard to believe, but back in the early days, telephones were difficult to use, often unreliable, and expensive to own. Not every family, including mine, could afford the luxury of having one.

Like many families, once my Nana’s siblings grew up and left home, they scattered across the country. Nana knew the importance of keeping her family together no matter how many miles separated them. Since a phone was not an option, as the oldest child, Nana was chosen to write letters to family members living far from home. With the same level of dedication as the postman; come rain, sleet, or snow, war or peace, prosperous times or the depths of a national depression, my blind-as-a bat without her coke bottle-thick glasses Nana sat every Monday night at her dining room table and wrote a letter to each of her siblings. Her letters sewed the thread that kept our close-knit tribe connected.

When I was in my sophomore year of college my family moved from Los Angeles to Miami. Despite their valiant attempts to persuade me to join them, I wasn’t interested in relocating to “God’s waiting room,” and remained out west. The good news was that Nana added me to her list of weekly letter-writing recipients. Lonesome for my family, Nana’s weekly letter was an eagerly-anticipated lifeline to my family’s heart and soul. For all of us, that letter was the glue that kept our family bound together no matter how far from home one of us wandered.

The designated town crier, Nana’s letters were more like a newsletter. A date with her friends at the movies? After reading her letter, I was in the seat next to her. She reported who went, what they wore, if they were late or early; where they sat, if they had a snack, what the snack was, editorials on how much the snacks and the movie tickets cost, and every detail of the movie that was so complete, the recipient of her letter could write a decent review based on Nana’s commentary.  If she described what an attendee was wearing, I could close my eyes and picture the outfit perfectly. Her descriptions were so detailed and rich, that if she was describing a meal, I could smell the wafting aroma and taste the food.

Out of sentimentality or maybe a sixth sense that someday I’d need them, I kept every one of those letters. Like Nana, they were strong-willed and hearty; surviving dogs, a child, countless moves,  several major earthquakes and a devastating house fire. I had no formal creative writing training when I decided to write my first manuscript. I had a story to tell, but no clue how to tell it. I instinctively pulled the carefully wrapped packets of letters out of the storage box and re-read every one of them. I could picture Nana at the dining room table writing the letters. I  heard her voice inside my head speaking to me. My long-gone, full-service Nana had given me all the tools I needed. I re-packed the letters, started to write, and thanks to Nana, I never stopped.

In a detached society that values cheaper and faster, we are insulated from direct contact with one another more each day. E-mail and texting replaced a phone call, and Zoom is the new version of a face to face meeting. We don’t need brick and mortar to build walls anymore. Modern technology has certainly had an impact on society mores and improved many aspects of our lives. Regrettably, technology was also a death knell for several means of personalized communication. Nana would have been horrified that a quaint, old fashioned skill like letter-writing disappeared. My debut humorous cozy mystery Death by Sample Size is out now. Thanks to Nana, my story has been told in a distinctive voice that comes through loud and clear.

Peggy here: I lovelovelove writing letters – and receiving them!!

Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?

The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer.  Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.

When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob.

It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?

Get your copy here:

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Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

Looking for more? Reach her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com

Just behind my college graduation, wedding day, and the birth of my son, June 9th was truly one of the most amazing days of my entire life. My debut cozy mystery Death by Sample Size was released for publication. I am humbled, honored, and proud to be able to say that now I am officially a published author! A life-long dream has come true, a hard-fought-for goal has been accomplished.

You can connect with Susie here:

Twitter * Linkedin * Pinterest * Facebook * Instagram

And here’s something special just for you from Susie: CHOOSING THE RIGHT SWIMSUIT

Peggy here – Susie, thanks so much for being my guest today. DEATH BY SAMPLE SIZE sounds fab!

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