Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Susan M. Boyer

As promised yesterday, fellow mystery author Susan M. Boyer is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for her September 18th release, Lowcountry Boil, which begins her new series with Private Investigator Liz Talbot. Private Investigator Liz Talbot is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer. She’s fit to be tied when her police-chief brother shuts her out of the investigation, so she opens her own. Then her long-dead best friend pops in and things really get complicated. When more folks start turning up dead in this small seaside town, Liz must use more than just her wits and charm to keep her family safe, chase down clues from the hereafter, and catch a psychopath before he catches her.

Below are Susan's answers to my interview questions. Please leave a comment for her, and if you have a question of your own for her, ask it!

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

First of all, thank you so much, Beth, for having me today. I love your RM Outdoor Adventure series, and I’m thrilled to be a guest on your blog!

I’ve had a life-long love affair with books. I loved reading them so much, I think I’ve always wanted to write my own. I’ve fiddled with writing off and on forever. But, there were children to raise and bills to pay. I started seriously writing in 2004, when the company I had worked for went out of business.

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

I do a character sketch, then start asking them questions. They typically answer. I used to cut out pictures from magazines and tape them to poster board. I now use online tools for visuals.

3. How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I start with a very basic outline, then begin writing. Sometimes I end up changing the outline as I go along. I’m a hybrid model—a plotter with pantser tendencies.

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?

I know this sounds like a wimpy cop-out, but I think both are equally important. Strong characters reacting to an interesting situation gives you a strong plot. It’s almost like a chicken and egg thing to me. I’m not sure you can have one without the other.

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

I have a tendency go off on tangents—to say yes to things that, while important, beneficial, and fun, ultimately steal my writing time. Like the two years I was conference chairperson for the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop conference. That was an awesome experience, but I didn’t get much writing done during those two years. What keeps me motivated? I love what I do.

6. What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Most days I’ve had breakfast and am at the computer with my second cup of coffee by 9:00 AM. I check email, because I seem to be incapable of just saying no. If I don’t, I worry while I try to write that there’s something in my inbox I need to address. After email, I pop into and quickly out of Facebook and Twitter. Then it’s words on the page. Some days I forget to stop and eat lunch, but if I do, I pay for it with a headache. When I stop for lunch, I plug back in to social networking, but don’t stay long. If I’m at home alone, some nights I’ll work until my stomach growls at 8 PM because I haven’t had dinner. I try to make myself quit at 5 PM and go to Jazzercise class. If I’m not at home (which is more often than not), I stop working when my husband gets back to the hotel and we exercise and then have dinner. I typically take the weekends off.

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

Oh, wow. I don’t think I’m qualified to offer advice. I’m still figuring all of this out myself.  I guess if I had one thing to offer, and it’s not original by any means, it would be write on a schedule. 

8. 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.
One of my favorite TV shows is Rizzoli and Isles. I love the banter between Jane and Maura. 

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

Right now I’m working on the next book in the Liz Talbot series. When I have a few more of her books out, I have another series in mind. But I think I’ll always be writing series characters, because I love to read them.

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

I love to hear from readers! Please come visit me when you can on my website, or shoot me an email at susan@susanmboyerbooks.com .  I hang out at the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Thanks, Susan! Now, who has a comment or question for her?


Larissa Reinhart said...

Great interview. Glad to hear you're working on Liz Talbot's book #2! Can't wait to read it.

Unknown said...

Love the schedule, Susan! I need to take a page from your book and get back to sticking to my own schedule.

Can't wait for the next Liz books. I'm curious though . . . about that new series . . . Do you ever find those characters talking to and clamoring for attention or are you able to shush them up and tell them to wait their turn?

Susan M. Boyer said...

Larissa--thank you so much! Liz and I are both very excited about Cherry's forthcoming new adventure!

Anise, some days it's easier to stick to than others, but I try, really hard. Ha! Yes--the main character in the next series will absolutely NOT leave me alone. She's quite a distraction some days. She wants to break in line. Liz will have none of that, though.

Thank you both so much for coming by Beth's blog today!

Donnell Ann Bell said...

Susan, we now now the truth! You're a hybrid :) Great blog, Beth, Keep up the good work, both of you!

Robena Grant said...

Great interview and good to know we will have another Liz adventure soon. Happy writing!

Tammy Baumann said...

Great interview, Susan!

Now that your book has been out for a few weeks, are you still finding time to write or is promotion stealing your attention from Liz’s next adventure?

Susan M. Boyer said...

Donnell, yes, I'm a hybrid--I run on coffee and chocolate. :)

Tammy, yes, promotion is taking center stage right now, but I expect that will slow down soon and I can get back to my routine--and my pjs. :)

Thank you all so much for coming by Beth's blog to chat with us today!

Kay Hudson said...

I loved Lowcountry Boil, Susan, and I'm looking forward to Liz's next case--will Colleen be hanging around to help?

Susan M. Boyer said...

Hi Kay--thank you so much! Yes, Colleen will be a recurring character. I love that little ghost. :)

Anonymous said...

Hello again! Of course I couldn't wait to open the book until I was, you know, done with reading the current book. I love the concept of a talking ghost. Is that a Southern thing? It seems to me that if you don't tie it to "reality" in some way, you risk leaving your character sounding like a nutcase (you do it well, by the way). How did that come to you?

Susan M. Boyer said...

Hi Mary! Thank you so much! I think it may be a Southern thing, but it's hard for me to say, becuase Southern is the lense through which I see the world. :)

Colleen popped into my head just like all of my other characters, fully formed, and telling me straight up what she was all about. :) Thank you so much for reading!! :)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Nothing wrong with being a hybrid. It gives you a leg up in both worlds. Best wishes with LoCountry Boil, Susan!

Susan M. Boyer said...

Thanks, Maggie! :)

B.K. Stevens said...

I enjoyed your interview. You describe the tug-of-war between writing and e-mail well. I try to just scan e-mail in the morning and then get back to it later in the day, but it's a struggle. Best wishes with all your projects.

Linda Lovely said...

Susan, good interview! Nice to know someone else runs on the same bio fuels--chocolate and coffee. Hope to see you at the local RWA or Sisters in Crime chapters soon.

LynDee Walker said...

Great interview, Susan and Beth, and once again, Susan, such a great book! I can't wait to see what happens next!

I agree -- setting aside time to write is a must, or life will get in the way. I'm at the stage of life where my writing schedule coincides with the baby's nap schedule, plus evenings and weekends when hubby is home. And I try to do my online stuff at other times so I can devote writing time to writing (or editing, as the case may be).

Unknown said...

Lovely post, Susan! And greetings from just north (Wilmington). LCB is on my "to read" pile and almost to the top - looking forward to it even more now! Thanks for being here - hope to run into you somewhere here in the Carolinas. (BTW, the SCWC is one of the best conferences around IMO.)

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for your comments, and thanks for visiting, Susan! Please check in a couple of times today for comments, for those who get their yahoogroups on daily digest. And readers, please feel free to leave a comment/question for Susan today! Let's get the comment total over 20. :)

Dru said...

Great interview. I can't wait to read more stories with Liz Talbot.

Gloria Alden said...

Nice interview, Susan and Beth. I was happy to meet you, Susan, at the Guppy luncheon at Bouchercon and to get your book signed. I haven't had a chance to start it yet, but I'm looking forward to it especially after reading this interview.