Monday, December 21, 2009

Mystery Author Susan Whitfield

Please join me in welcoming, multi-published, Mystery writer Susan Whitfield. Thank you for joining me today, Susan. Help yourself to a brownie, sit back and relax, and tell our visitors a little about yourself.

I am married with two married sons and three grandsons. We all live in eastern North Carolina within seven miles of each other, so that’s fantastic. I was an English teacher for thirteen years and a high school principal for seventeen years, writing my doctoral dissertation in 1995. Once I completed that, I knew my heart was really in fiction.

How did you get started in writing? How difficult was your journey to publication?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, always saying that one day I would write a book. I never really got serious about it until high school. I still have a 40-page outline for a mystery somewhere in my desk. After family and career duties slowed, I got down to business in 2004. I knew I wanted a smart, quirky female to investigate murders, and I wanted to set my book in my home state of North Carolina. Once I personally edited Genesis Beach 47 times, I began the queries, often getting rejections so fast no one could have possibly read the pages I sent. Even though I did my research and queried only mystery agents, I got nowhere. The journey was difficult and when writer’s block nearly did me in, I self-published it with iUniverse and finally moved on with the second novel, Just North of Luck. Fortunately I learned that some publishers would accept queries without an agent, and L&L Dreamspell published Just North of Luck and Hell Swamp.

Tell us more about this intriguing mystery series.

The Logan Hunter Mystery series was born by consequence. I started Just North of Luck when Logan kept presenting me with more adventures than I could put into one book. As I said, she’s gutsy and sometimes bends the rules to extreme, but she always solves the case. I like her because of her human-ness. She makes mistakes, second guesses herself often, but always stays focused on seeing that justice prevails. She interns at Genesis Beach under the watchful and suspicious eye of the police chief, then heads to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains to join forces with local law enforcement and catch a serial killer in Just North of Luck. I take her back to my childhood home near Black River to solve a heinous murder in Hell Swamp. Gator Creek, which will be released in 2010, forces Logan back to the coast, specifically Wilmington and the Cape Fear River. The growing number of readers and fans tell me they like Logan. I’m so proud of her.

It sounds like a great series. I’m definitely adding them to my TBR list. Okay, say you have this great idea for a book, what do you do next? How much plotting do you do?

I generally begin by writing snippets of ideas, people, personalities, flaws, etc. and write a tentative character sketch for each person, from protagonist to minor characters. I then place them inside a box that I’ve labeled with a tentative title. I collect whatever research is needed and just start writing. I normally begin with some sort of sketchy outline which is seldom followed, but it does help me get started. I prefer the character sketches to a typical outline. Then the characters take over and drive the plot. By the way, my setting is also a character. I want the reader to feel the humidity, brush off the snow, smell the fear. Once the book is nearly complete, I outline again to make certain I haven’t lost my way. Sometimes I end up deleting scenes or chapters or characters at this point. Then it all makes sense.

In your opinion what are the most important avenues an author should take in promoting their works?

I have a fairly strong web presence and try to maintain that presence even though it’s time-consuming. I network with other writers all over the world and have a blog site where I interview writers of all genres. It promotes them and my work as well. I’ve done blog talk radio shows, local radio and TV shows, and readings and signings. I enjoy all of these events and hope to continue with them. Most are free and I find that writers tend to help each other. I love that!

What is one of the most memorable things that has happened to you since you’ve become a published author?

The library in the county I grew up in hosted a book signing when Genesis Beach was released. When the doors opened and over seventy people piled into the room, I nearly cried. I recognized many of them from my childhood. Over sixty folks bought autographed books. That was so awesome!

That would be awesome! Okay, inquiring minds want to know what snack are we likely to see sitting next to your computer when you’re typing away on your next best seller?

Warm homemade cookies. Unfortunately I prefer those to carrots and apples. lol

What advice can you offer for any aspiring authors out there?

Write with passion and abandon. Edit carefully. Never give up!

That’s very sound advice, Susan. Tell us where can we purchase your books? And do you have a website we can visit?

I recently set up my website, so that folks can order my books there and have them personally autographed. Of course, they’re available at other online stores and brick and mortar stores as well but without the autograph.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just North of Luck won The Covey Book Cover Award for “Most Artistic Cover” and Hell Swamp has just won the Books In Sync “Video Book Trailer Award”. I interview authors at my blog and have just started compiling a cookbook of recipes from mystery writers, called Killer Recipes. I invite all mystery writers to submit a few recipes for the book along with their names, titles of books, and their websites. It’s another great, free, fun way to promote! Just email them to me at

I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you, Anne. I’m looking forward to turning the tables on you on January 4th. I wish you and everyone else an inspiring and meaningful Christmas!

Thank you Susan! I’m looking forward to your Killer Recipes cookbook and visiting your blog. It’s been fun today. I’m so glad you joined me. And I really like the sound of your books. They’re right up my alley. I’m definitely putting them at the top of my Christmas list! Do you hear that Santa?

Merry Christmas everyone!


jenningsalicia said...

Great interview. Your books sound like interesting reads, Susan, I'll have to check them out.

Laurean Brooks said...

I enjoyed the interview, Susan and Anne. Susan, I feel a kinship with you when it comes to plotting and outlines. Like you, I let the characters take over, then everything just comes together in the end. I'm what you call a "full-blown pantster." No outlines for me. LOL.

Please pass me one of those chocolate chip cookies. Mmmmmmmm. And a glass of milk.

Good luck! This sounds like a wonderful read.

Anne Patrick said...

Another panster...we could start a club. I love letting my characters take over. Not knowing what they're going to do next makes it more thrilling.

Merry Christmas to both of you, and thanks so much for dropping by.

Oh, and help yourself to all the cookies and brownies you want. They're calorie free :-)