Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Suzanne Adair


As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Suzanne Adair is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Suzanne is running a contest for a free autographed copy of her latest release, A Hostage to Heritage, the cover art for which appears above. Suzanne will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow.

It is Spring, 1781, in the book. The American Revolution enters its seventh grueling year. In Wilmington, North Carolina, redcoat investigator Lieutenant Michael Stoddard expects to round up two miscreants before Lord Cornwallis's army arrives for supplies. But his quarries' trail crosses with that of a criminal who has abducted a high-profile English heir. Michael's efforts to track down the boy plunge him into a twilight of terror from radical insurrectionists, whiskey smugglers, and snarled secrets out of his own past in Yorkshire.

 
Sounds like a gripping read to me! Below are Suzanne's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment, and if you have a question of your own for Suzanne, ask it!

1. Who or what inspired you to start writing and when did you start?


In second grade, I experienced my first hurricane. The fury of nature made quite an impression on me. About a month later, I contracted the mumps and was quarantined at home for a week or so. I didn’t feel sick, and I quickly ran out of books to read and things to do. Then I got my hands on a pencil and some paper. The combination of being extremely bored and having something to write about was all the permission my imagination needed to launch my writing career.

2. What tools and process do you use to “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?

A Hostage to Heritage is the fifth book I’ve set in the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War. There’s a core group of characters involved in this series, and I’ve known some of them for almost fifteen years. When I start a new book, I forge ahead, write the characters, and let them surprise me.

I trust my characters to guide me. If they refuse to move the story along, I talk to them. Snags most often occur because I’ve tried to force the character do something out-of-character to serve the plot. So I go back and rewrite.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?

I do a combination of outlining and writing by the seat of my pants. Before I begin a first draft, I know how and where the book should end as well as several plot milestones in the middle that I must reach. After I turn my characters loose to develop, I depend upon them to help me hit those milestones, but the manner in which the milestones are hit is often unpredictable at the beginning of the first draft. That’s why I’m glad I can trust my characters.

4. In the age-old question of character versus plot, which one do you think is most important in a murder mystery and which one do you emphasize in your writing? Why?

In the Michael Stoddard thriller series, I emphasize character growth across the story arc of each book as well as in the arc of the series. If Michael didn’t grow, there would be no arc. His growth influences the direction the plot takes. 

5. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

My biggest challenge is that I don’t write fiction that has a contemporary setting. In 21st-century America, we're out of touch with the hardships our ancestors endured to stay alive. To write effective fiction, I must bridge that gap.

The wrong way to write characters for stories set during the Revolutionary War would be to dress 21st-century people in 18th-century clothing. Georgian-era people lived in a different culture, and that gave rise to different priorities, logical processes, values, and so forth.


What gave me a leg up into understanding an 18th-century America that didn’t have electricity, antibiotics, or overly prudish attitudes was becoming a Revolutionary War reenactor. Especially since my family and I reenact on the Crown forces side. The lessons I've learned from reenacting inform the crafting of my fictional world.

My sons have been a great source of motivation for me. Also readers, they have contacted me to tell me how much they’ve learned by reading my books. Sometimes they thank me for helping them escape into a historical world for a few hours.

I haven’t quite figured out how to modify this experience for my upcoming science fiction, set in the 24th century. :-)

6. What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Read across fiction genres as well as non-fiction. Don’t let anything stop you from writing or learning. Build a team that will give you writing support when you’re down. Persevere. Strive to improve your craft. Do the research. And whenever possible, visit places that you write about to acquaint your senses with the settings.

7. Now here’s a zinger. Tell us something about yourself that you have not revealed in another interview yet. Something as simple as your favorite TV show or food will do.

The arch-villain of the Michael Stoddard series, Dunstan Fairfax, got his surname because I kept seeing the name “Fairfax” used in 19th-century English literature like Brontë novels, and Fairfax had the ring of a quintessential English name. However the surname is more common than I first realized, and it gives me a second’s pause whenever I’m introduced to a perfectly nice, non-psychopathic person with the last name of “Fairfax.” I also wonder whether I’ve irked everyone in a certain county in Virginia.

 8. What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

The second Michael Stoddard thriller, A Hostage to Heritage, was just released. After that, more Michael Stoddard, of course. And I’m hoping to release the first book of my science fiction series this fall or next spring. Yes, I experience some time-travel whiplash when I switch series.

9. Is there anything else you would like to tell my blog readers?

I love talking with book club members! In fact, tonight I’m Skyping in on the monthly book club meeting of the Stamp Defiance chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. They’ve been reading Regulated for Murder, the first Michael Stoddard thriller, and they’re delighted that the next book in the series will be available soon.

Please visit me at my blog, my quarterly electronic newsletter, my website, my Facebook page, or my Twitter account.

Thanks for the interview, Beth!


 Thanks, Suzanne! Now, who has a comment or question for Suzanne Adair? Good luck in the contest!    

33 comments:

Beth Groundwater said...

Suzanne will draw the name of a winner in her contest Thursday evening, April 25th, so please continue to comment until then to enter the contest. Good luck!

Suzanne said...

Thanks again for this opportunity, Beth.

Felicitasz said...

"Snags most often occur because I’ve tried to force the character do something out-of-character to serve the plot."
Isn't this, more often than not, the case with real life as well? And then we have to go back and re-write, but unfortunately the mess cannot be just discarded into the paper bin :)
I need to learn a lot more about American history, and reading fiction is a great helping tool.

jrlindermuth said...

We have so many modern misconceptions about our ancestors. Good writers like Suzanne who do the research offer not just entertainment, but education to their readers. If you've not read this series, you should.

Linda said...

Beth, thanks for hosting Suzanne--and Suzanne, I really appreciate the glimpse into your writing process.

And talking about a character arc! For anyone who met Lt. Stoddard in any of your other books, A HOSTAGE TO HERITAGE manages to give a few jaw-dropping views of Michael's strengths and weaknesses. It's an awesome read, y'all!

Suzanne said...

Felicitasz, you are correct, of course. Art imitates life. (Or is the other way around?) And how much easier we'd have it if we could edit/erase the harsh words, the foolish moves.

I'd much rather learn about history from an engrossing novel than a textbook. Turns out that I'm not alone. :-)

Suzanne said...

John, thank you for your kind words! Folks, John Lindermuth is also an author of historical novels, including one called The Accidental Spy that's set during the American Revolution.

Suzanne said...

So nice to see you here, Linda! Thanks for the kudos. In the first trilogy, Michael Stoddard was a minor character, so I didn't have the opportunity to develop him there. In fact, I wasn't sure what made him tick until I gave him the floor in his own series. He's since amazed me with his characterization -- and yeah, he definitely has buttons that get pushed, just like the rest of us.

Suzanne said...

Tonight's Skype session with the book club went very well, by the way. Several years ago, when I was the guest speaker for this DAR chapter's monthly meeting, one of the ladies told me about the "Rouse House Massacre," an actual historical incident that I made into a pivotal event in A Hostage to Heritage. Well, tonight she told me about another historical incident, and that gave me an idea for another book. :-)

Gloria Alden said...

I've enjoyed your first two books, Suzanne and planned to get the next ones, but haven't gotten around to it yet. My fourth book will be dealing with a Civil War reenactment and although it will take place in present time, I'll need to know how these soldiers will be conduct themselves. Fortunately, someone in my writers group and her husband both take part in Civil War reenactments and she's written several historical books on the Civil War.

Suzanne said...

Gloria, thanks for stopping by. I recommend that you ask your friend who enjoys Civil War reenacting to find you some loaner clothing, then make a day of it in the Civil War. That's how I managed my first Revolutionary War event. Reenactors usually have spare clothing that they loan to folks with a sincere interest. You'll get a lot more out of the experience if you do it yourself. Reenactors respond to someone in period clothing differently than someone who is in 21st-clothing.

Liz V. said...

Too funny about Fairfax. Choosing names for evil characters is probably worth a blog post all its own.

Best wishes for success of A Hostage To Heritage.

Suzanne said...

Liz V, nice to see you here! Yeah, I suppose I could have looked a little closer at the prevalence of the name "Fairfax," but it resonated.

Another name that resonated was "Adair" when it came time to pick the surname for my pen name. I have since met many Adairs who each expressed wishes that they were my kin (and vice versa). In fact, a nice lady named Susan Adair introduced herself to me a few years ago when I was doing a booksigning at Colonial Williamsburg. She became a Facebook friend.

Patricia Winton said...

I've read and enjoyed the other books in the series, and I'm looking forward to this one. I think Michael is an intriguing character, and I can't wait to see what happens to him the new book.

TG said...

Michael Stoddard is one of those characters who, the moment you meet him, you know is here to stay. I look forward to the second in this series..and then the third! Suzanne, I think your grasp of the era is excellent, and rings true. What more can we ask unless we actually have a time machine -- (which, I guess, you sort of have in your other series re the 24th century!) Thanks for the pleasure, and keep writing...

Maggie Toussaint said...

What a great interview, Suzanne and Beth! I enjoyed this window into Suzanne's world. No wonder her stories ring with authenticity. I totally love that you are a Revolutionary War reenactor. That's awesome.

Suzanne said...

Hi Patricia! Without leaving any spoilers, I'll say that in A Hostage to Heritage, Michael shows you that he doesn't think in absolutes, and he's capable of looking the other way. So you're left wondering what the outcome will be for him and his friends.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the kudos, TG. At this point, I think there will be about five titles in the Michael Stoddard series.

And I do have a time machine. It's called Revolutionary War reenacting. :-D On Monday 29 April, I talk a little more about that time machine in my guest post on Suite T (http://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com). I hope you'll mark your calendar and stop by.

Suzanne said...

Thanks for your praise, Maggie. If I had the money and time, I'd go to a reenactment event just about every weekend. There's so much I learn in that environment, and the folks are so helpful and friendly.

Sheila Webster Boneham said...

Hi Suzanne! (waving from Wilmington!) I'm looking forward to reading your new book - sounds terrific, especially since I live here. Let me know if you'll be in the area for any signings. And thanks for this fascinating post (and thanks, Beth, for hosting).

cic said...

Hi, Suzanne! Enjoyed your interview very much. Like some of your other commentators, I much prefer learning about history by reading historical fiction. Being British, I don't know a lot about the wee skirmish you had over there some time ago, but it seems to have had some far-reaching effects. Maybe it's time I familiarised myself with what happened. Sounds like your books would be a great place to do it. :-)

ANNETTE said...

History is such a wonderful background and atmosphere. Thanks for all the information.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi everyone,
Thanks so much for your comments for Suzanne! Keep them coming, and check back tomorrow evening to see who won in her contest.

Suzanne said...

Sheila, hi! Thanks for dropping by. Yes, I write about the Wilmington you never knew. :-) I even use some landmarks you might recognize, like William Hooper's house -- except that the house isn't there anymore, and it's just a historic marker.

I'll be sure to let you know when I come to Wilmington again. Give that sweet pup of yours a hug for me.

Suzanne said...

cic, you've hit upon a fact that I keep trying to impress upon Americans. The War of Independence in America was just one front in a world war. It wasn't even the most troublesome front for Britain. So your assessment of "wee skirmish" isn't too far off the mark.

British soldiers painted the world scarlet for more than a century and were one of the mightiest military forces in human history. I'll have more to say about this in an essay next week, also part of my blog tour for A Hostage to Heritage. Everyone here is welcome to continue following my guest blog stops. Here's the schedule.

Suzanne said...

Annette, atmosphere in any work of fiction is all about how well the author does the world-building, isn't it? Thanks for commenting!

Suzanne said...

Beth, thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog. It's been fun!

And folks, I gotta crow. A Hostage to Heritage has just received its fourth five-star review on Amazon. "Ms. Adair truly deserves to be called the 'Mistress of American Revolution historical fiction,'" says the reviewer. Oh, my. I’ll take that tiara. Thank you!

Norma Huss said...

Congratulations, Suzanne (as I see from the post just ahead of this about another five-star review). Love that cover. (And I'll love to read another of your books - all five star to me).

Suzanne said...

Many thanks, Norma. I appreciate your reviews.

Rosalee Richland said...

Great interview and very interesting...

Kaye Killgore said...

It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out.

Suzanne said...

We have a winner! Maggie Toussaint has won the copy of A Hostage to Heritage. Congratulations, Maggie! Please email me at your convenience.

Thanks to everyone who visited Beth's blog and commented on my interview. I'll give away at least one more copy of the book on my blog tour before 7 May. Check the schedule of stops, and join me again.

Shannon Baker said...

thanks for your post.this is assume.

non fiction marketing