Thursday, May 14, 2015 | By: The Write Way Cafe

An Interview with Susanne Matthews

The Write Way Café welcomes author Susanne Matthews. A writer at heart since she was 12, she shares how putting perseverance behind a dream can bring it to life.

Thank you so much for having me here.

When did you first have the thought you'd like to write a book? Was that first thought related to writing romance?
     I received a manual typewriter for my 13th birthday. Each day, after school I sat and plugged away at my novel. Since I didn’t know how to type, believe me, it took a long time. Was it romance? No. I remember clearly that it was along the lines of a Nancy Drew book. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to those pages or what the story was about, but wanting to be an author was something that stayed with me, a yearning that sat on the back burner of my life.
     Back then, I focused my efforts on my school work and writing blank verse poetry and haiku for friends. My favorite classes were those that involved creative writing.  I got married, had children, and went into teaching.  About twenty years ago, I started writing short stories for children for the local paper, a feature that lasted until the big conglomerates bought it out.
     The author bug had bitten me, and from there, I moved on to writing Sunday school lessons and a couple of lessons for Ed Helper an online site that offers printable for teachers. It wasn’t much, but I was being paid to write. The last few years before I retired, I did curriculum writing for the Ministry of Education. When I finally retired from teaching, I decided dreaming about doing something wasn’t enough. It took me fifty years from the day I got that typewriter to actually write and publish my first romance suspense novel, Fire Angel. I still can’t type properly, but I’m darn good at hunt and peck!

Where did the idea for your story come from? 
     The idea for The White Carnation and the other books in The Harvester Series, came from a lot of different places. Primarily, I wanted to write a book with my best friends as the hero and heroine, but I wanted the book to be memorable. Most of the seeds for my suspense stories come from the news and bits and pieces of events around me. I don’t remember why exactly, but Charles Manson had been in the news the week before I decided to write the story, so cults were on my mind. As well, I’d seen an episode of Law and Order SVU dealing with a serial rapist impregnating his victims. For another book, I’d done research on so-called date rape drugs including scopolamine. Finally, the debasing and abuse of woman by fanatic terrorists got me thinking that those men were treating their women worse than they did their animals. Basically, I pulled all those threads together to create the story.

Why did you pick the setting you did?
     The White Carnation is set primarily in Boston, Massachusetts and Lake Placid, New York. I live in a city with a Canada-United States border crossing into New York State. I visit Lake Placid, which is about two hours away, at least once a year. I’ve been there in all seasons and the place is beautiful. I’ve often thought I’d love to have a cabin in the mountains like the one I created in my story. As for Boston, my husband and I went there on vacation just before I started to write the novel, so it seemed logical to set it somewhere I’d been. I enjoy reading books or watching movies set in places where I’ve walked the streets. I love the “Hey, I’ve been there” feeling I get from them. Slocum, the imaginary town in the novel, is based on a few of the small towns we drove through in rural Massachusetts. The road trip Faye and Rob take recreates the drive we did when we went to Boston.

Are your main characters completely imaginary or do they have some basis in real people? Do they reflect aspects of yourself?
     I think every character an author creates contains something of the author in them. The values we give them, the way they react to situations are all based on our own reactions, otherwise they wouldn’t seem real. While Rob and Faye have some of my personality in them, they’re primarily based on my best friends. Rob and I met when I was ten. We’ve been friends ever since. Faye and I met in high school and we just clicked. I actually introduced the two of them and they’ve been married 43 years this August, so I guess I did a good thing. The real Faye is a strong woman with a definite sense of self, and as much as I love her, she can be stubborn at times. She also holds a grudge, and it’s very hard to get her to accept she might be wrong about something. Rob is more easy going. He’s nobody’s fool, doesn’t let people walk all over him, and can be downright pigheaded when he gets his back up, but he’d do anything for Faye. Those were the qualities I wanted to show in my characters. Readers will have to tell me how well I did.

What did you learn? For instance, what did you learn about yourself, your process, the writing world; about reporters, detectives, and second chances at love?
     What did I learn about myself? That I can handle controversial subjects and do it in such a way as to actually sell the book.
     About my process? I’m a linear writer. I had lots of ideas about things I wanted to cover, but couldn’t get myself to skip to them until I got there in the plot itself.
     About the Writing World? It’s a complicated place, and extremely hard to anticipate what will be acceptable and what won’t. Dealing with controversial topics is always risky, especially in this day and age when people get offended easily. I’ve learned to tread carefully.
     About reporters? They can be incredibly single minded, especially when they’re on a story. I spoke with a friend who does some writing for a local newspaper. She said that getting people to open up and tell the truth about uncomfortable things is the hardest aspect of reporting a story. She bristles at the way the police can be so uncooperative and refuse to give information. She worked on a drug-involved murder investigation and couldn’t believe how hard it was to get to the facts to write an unbiased story.
     About second chances at love? People are too quick to throw away love. They get angry, have a fight, and bam! It’s over. I like to think that once cooler heads prevail, they can pick up the pieces and look at what they had. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I know it isn’t realistic, and some things can never be forgiven, but in my world, love conquers all.

Tell us about your writing space and how or why it works for you.
     I have a home office at the back of the house. It isn’t a large room, but it’s my sanctuary. I use a screen reader when I write, so I don’t have any music on or any other distractions. After over 35 years of teaching, I value peace and quiet. When I’m in my office, I step into the world of my imagination. I’ve tried writing outdoors but nothing works as well for me.

What are you working on now?
     I’m finishing up book 2 of the Harvester series, The White Lily, and then I’m writing a shorter romance suspense novel, tentatively entitled Secrets and Lies, set in a Midwestern town in the United States as part of a series, The Hearts of Braden, being released in October. I’ll write book 3 of the Harvester series, The White Iris, later this summer.

Would you like to try your hand at writing a different genre?  Which one and why?
     I started my writing career with non-fiction writing, and I really have no desire to return to that. I still write poetry at times when I create my own verse for a greeting card, and I’ve written a song for a retirement dinner. I’ve written and given speeches and presentations, but I get the most enjoyment out of writing fiction. I’ve written a short story, There’s Always Tomorrow, which I hope to turn into a novel one day. I co-write as Misty Matthews with another Canadian author—a partnership that has produced a sports novella, Grand Slam, and a novel, Coming Home.
     I’ve experimented with subgenres of romance. Most of my books are suspense romance: Fire Angel, In Plain Sight, On His Watch, and the Harvester series—The White Carnation, The White Lily, and The White Iris. I’ve written two historical romances, The Captain’s Promise and The Price of Honor, and hope to complete another one, The Price of Courage later this year or early in 2016.  I’ve also written a number of contemporary romances: Holiday Magic, The Perfect Choice and Just for the Weekend.  I added paranormal elements using ghosts and past life experiences another suspense romance, Echoes of the Past. I’ve also produced a suspense romance novel for the Christian market—All for Love is available for pre-order and due to be released in May.
     If I were to try another genre, I think it would be YA since my grandchildren would like me to write a book they can read. They’re 14, 6, 8, 7, and almost 6. So I think the next book I’ll tackle might be that Nancy Drew style I started on fifty years ago.  As well, my husband is a sci-fi fan, so maybe I could try my hand at one of those.

If you were not a writer, what would your dream job be?
     I was a high school English teacher for most of my teaching career, but if I had to pick another job, I’d want to be a travel journalist, going around the world, visiting all the places I’d love to see, taking pictures and writing about them. My brother-in-law and his wife were fortunate enough to visit Nepal about twenty-five years ago. So many of the wonderful things they saw have been destroyed in this year’s devastating earthquake. It would be nice to be able to write about the rest of the world’s wonders before they too are destroyed by people, pollution or natural disasters.

What aspect of writing gives you the most trouble?
     Over-editing. I’m a classic over-thinker. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist, so it’s hard for me to decide the book is good enough to be sent in. I tend to read, reread, edit, change, until I have to force myself to let it go, and even then, the doubts crowd in until I get the letter from the publisher. Once the edits come in, that can be difficult too, especially if I’ve grown attached to a scene the editor wants cut.

The White Carnation
     The last person disgraced reporter Faye Lewis wants back in her life is Detective Rob Halliday, the man she blames for ruining her career and breaking her heart. But when she finds an old friend murdered, he’s the one she calls.
     For the past year, Rob and his team have been hunting the Harvester, a serial killer who ritualistically murders new mothers and vanishes with their infants. What Rob doesn’t need is another case, especially one involving his ex-fiancée.
     Then Faye is assaulted, and Rob realizes the cases are connected. She may hold the answers he needs to find the elusive killer. But the more they investigate, the more complex the situation becomes. Can they set the past aside and work together, or will the Harvester and his followers reap another prize?

Buy links can be found on my website.

About the author:  Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s always been an avid reader of all types of books, but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travelled to foreign lands, past and present, and soared into the future. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, and the complex journey it takes to get from the first word to the last period of a novel. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fears and agonies on the road to self-discovery and love.

Follow Susanne on her:  Website    Blog    Facebook page    Twitter @jandsmatt

Amazon author page    and    Goodreads author page


Susanne Matthews said...

Thank you so much for having me.

Susanne Matthews said...

Thank you so much for having me.

HiDee said...

I love learning so much about our visiting authors. :) Thank you for being with us today!

Lynn said...

Interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing.

Joanna Lloyd said...

Great post, Susanne. I love hearing about the background to novels as so much of the writer is in each book. The series sounds fabulous.