Welcome my good friend Susan Bernhardt. Susan and I got to know each other because our first books were published by a small Canadian e-press, MuseItUp Publishing. We both joined the team about the same time and though I’m publishing my own books now, we keep up with and support each other.
Thanks to our sister Kathryn Jane for these great questions.
Hello, Susan, and welcome to the SOS Blog.
Thank you, Marsha. I appreciate being here today on the wonderful Sisters of Suspense blog. I have been following the SOS posts since you joined. You have a great group of authors.
What’s always within arm’s reach when you’re writing? (Post-it Notes? Pens? Coffee? The dog/cat?)
Notebooks. Lots and lots of notebooks. I keep one in my shower, on my bedside table, in my purse, etc. and so on writing days, I collect them and they are sitting on the coffee table in my living room for easy reference. I have a make-shift side table, a Red Wing Pottery crock, right next to me where I keep my coffee mug or teacup filled. And when I’m not watching my carbs, I often have a scone next to the mug or teacup slathered with lemon curd and clotted cream.
What time of day do you find the best for writing?
On writing days, I start in the morning around 9 o’clock after an hour of promoting on social media. I take a short break for lunch and will continue until around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Then I take my three mile daily walk.
How about editing, is that different?
Most of what I do is editing. After the first draft of the book is written, it’s all editing from then on. I consider editing and writing to be synonymous.
How much time do you put into marketing?
A lot of time. I am constantly thinking of ways to market no matter what I’m doing. It’s like second nature. I send at least two hours on social media each day, as I mentioned in the morning and then in the evening.
Where do your ideas come from?
All of my ideas come from real life experiences. For example, my idea for my first mystery, The Ginseng Conspiracy came to me when we were in Germany. I met a couple there who had a ginseng farm in Wisconsin a few hours from where we live. 95% of all cultivated American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. They mentioned about businessmen from China coming to look over their fields. Also we live three blocks from the university in our town. A professor walks past our home daily often talking into a recorder. In my mystery he became a professor of agriculture who was doing research and writing a book about the ginseng in the area. He came upon some misdoings on one farm and was the first victim of the book and a strange, almost Da Vinci Code like conspiracy.
Do you fall in love with your characters?
I come to like my characters very much. In the third mystery, one of the main characters married and left on her honeymoon. That was to be her last appearance in the book. I took it extremely hard and was quite upset, even cried…lol. She had been with me for years. I had to write her back into the story. I didn’t have a choice.
Why do you write cozy mysteries?
I write cozy mysteries because that’s what I read. While rereading my favorite cozy author’s first mystery, The Quiche of Death, I thought, I could write a mystery as good as this one. I took several writing classes while writing my first mystery, The Ginseng Conspiracy which took over three years. Even though all of my novels are mysteries that involve multiple murders and attempted murders, they are still bright and fun, contain a lot of humor, art, and music.
Do you always have a bad guy?
Definitely. Even though each mystery has between two to three murders, I usually try to give the murderer, the bad guy, some kind of redeeming value, even if they are the scum of the earth.
Where do you write, and why does that spot work for you?
I usually write sitting on my sofa in the living room with my laptop typing away. There’s a wall-sized window where I can look out over the neighborhood or watch the birds build their nests in our yew tree a couple of feet away. The room is bright and comfortable. If I want a change of scenery, I go into our sun-room which faces our backyard. We have flower gardens and many trees and beyond the fence, a woods.
Do you read reviews of your work?
Always. Every morning I look to see if I have any new reviews.
Do you believe in love at first sight?
I’ve never thought about it, but I believe I do. I met my husband at a party my first year of college. We didn’t say much to each other, in fact I talked with his friend who he arrived with much more, but I definitely noticed him. That year in college composition I wrote a story about Bill and me in San Francisco together. I remember a part about riding on a cable car with him and my long hair flying behind me. He moved to Boulder Colorado to go to graduate school for philosophy and said he often thought about me as well. We met up again a couple of years later at an outdoor concert at my college and the rest is history.
One final question, just for fun… Boots, tennis shoes, or flip flops?
I would choose tennis shoes because of walking each day. Otherwise I wear leather shoes or sandals, not flip flops.
Now for the Blurbs and her great book covers!
The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1)
On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.
With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa’s Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.
Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2)
While Kay attends a Christmas tea at Hawthorne Hills Retirement Home, a beloved caretaker dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts. When the official coroner’s report rules the cause of death to be accidental, a small group of residents suspect foul play and call upon Kay to investigate.
Kay uncovers sinister plots of fraud, revenge, and corruption at the Home. During this season of peace on earth, good will to men, additional murders occur. Despite multiple attempts on her life, and with the support once again of her best friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, Kay continues her quest for bringing justice for the victims. Kay’s first Christmas in Sudbury Falls is an unforgettable one, with equal amounts of celebration and danger. Tis the season to be sleuthing!
Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3)
Wedding bells are in the air, and so is murder.
Kay Driscoll’s son’s wedding reception for two hundred guests is in her backyard. As if that wasn’t enough, a precocious and troubled twelve-year-old is foisted on her two days before the wedding. When the happy day arrives, one of the guests disrupts the event and is asked to leave: a womanizing member of Kay’s book club.
A few days later, after a Fourth of July fireworks show, he is found dead on the beach. Kay and her ever-present friends, Elizabeth and Deirdre, investigate the death, which at first is declared a suicide. They believe this is a cover-up and go about to prove their theory, an arduous task because the potential suspects are many, and few (if any) will regret the victim’s death.
* * *
Susan’s town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her novels. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, Susan is a retired nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic.
An avid reader of mysteries, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc. and the Wisconsin Writers Association. Her published works include: The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1), Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2), Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3), “October 31st”, “Midsummer”, and “John and Madeline.”
When not writing, Susan loves to travel, bicycle, kayak, and create culinary magic in her kitchen. She works in stained-glass, daydreams in her organic garden, stays up late reading mysteries, and eats lots of chocolate.