Monday, December 3, 2012

Interview with Susan Oleksiw

Interview with Susan Oleksiw


Pam: Susan, tell us what genres you write and how many books you have penned?

I write two series, both of them in the traditional mystery series. At present I'm writing the Anita Ray series, set in South India and featuring Indian American Anita Ray, who lives in her aunt's tourist hotel in Kerala, South India. Two books in that series have come out. The Wrath of Shiva appeared in June 2012. The second series, which I began in 1993, features Chief of Police Joe Silva and is set in the small New England town of Mellingham. I also write reviews and short stories, some of them without dead bodies. My first book in the mystery field was A Reader's Guide to the Classic British Mystery, so I have a fondness for the nonfiction works in this genre. In total, I have published (with Scribner and Five Star) 7 novels and (with GK Hall/Macmillan) 1 reference book alone and a second one with Rosemary Herbert (The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Fiction). Compared to many mystery writers, I'm very slow.

Pam: Do you have a favorite major and minor character?


I saw this question right away when I opened your email, and I've been pondering it. I don't think I have a favorite major or minor character but in every book there is usually one character who emerges on his or her own, beyond what I had planned for them. I find this type of character fascinating, because the behavior is unexpected, but overall I like all my characters. They're interesting and challenging, and I want to learn more about their lives.

Pam: When do you write and for how long?


Once I start a book I write every day. When I finish a book, I take a month or so off to let go of it and start thinking about the next one. I know I'm at the end of a book when I start getting a sense of the characters in the next one, but I push all that aside till I finish. I keep a log of what I accomplish every day, partly as a way to push myself forward and partly as a way to keep track of what I've done (or not done, as is sometimes the case). Because I have a day job I write in the late afternoon or evening. I'm very strict about this, and my husband has been very accommodating and helpful with planning dinner, etc.

Pam: Describe your office or writing space to us?


I have a wonderful office. I began writing at the kitchen table in a small apartment years ago, and now I have a room I call a library all to myself. I have floor to ceiling bookshelves, a nice rug, and a desk I inherited from my father--with drawers! I used to work on a trestle table I dragged into my library, but now I have a real desk. I have two chairs for "guests," but one is always stacked with books and the other one is where I drop my purse and notebooks when I come home from work.

Pam: What writing advice do you have for anyone who wants to be an author?


Take your time and write and write and write. Read as much as you can--all sorts of books including those you might not want to read at first glance. I have never met a successful writer who wasn't also a voracious reader.

Pam: Now for a fun question. What is your favorite movie, dessert, meal and if you can narrow it down your favorite book?


My favorite movie is "The Lives of Others." My favorite meal is a very good South Indian thali, the traditional festival meal served on a banana leaf and featuring several vegetables and other dishes. I don't think I have a favorite dessert, but I'm sure I'll think of something after I send this in to you.

Pam: What would you like to say to your readers?


I have learned a lot from thoughtful reviews by readers, and I hope I write thoughtful reviews of books by other writers. I like to hear what other readers think, and I've picked up books that I wouldn't normally read because someone who read one of my books liked my book and liked this other one. I feel very fortunate to be part of the community of mystery writers and readers--it's one of the most welcoming and stimulating groups.

Pam: It's the holiday season so this leads to reflecting over the past year. This year what are you most thankful for and in your writing life what are you looking forward to in 2013?


I am always thankful for my health. I run a small social service agency for people with HIV and HCV, and I see every day how much poor health takes from a life. I admire our clients' courage in dealing with their health issues, and I'm grateful I don't have those problems. I'm also always grateful for something else that I think about often. I'm grateful for the beauty that surrounds us--when i take a walk or visit a new place. Perhaps I think of this because I'm also a photographer, but I try to encourage more people to look around them at the beauty of the world they live in.


I have just self-published a new novel in the Joe Silva series, as an ebook, and I'm looking forward to discovering what this new epublishing world is like. I have writer friends who have been amazingly successful, and I'm hoping to learn more from them.

Pam: Lastly in closing is there something coming up that you would like to share with your readers? Perhaps a book signing or an event you will attend?


I will be at the New England Mobile Book Fair on December 6. I have other events scheduled for March, April and May of 2013, but that may be too far away to list here.



Thank you so much for volunteering to do an interview. I hope it was painless.


It was definitely painless, and I enjoyed the questions. Thank you for asking me.


Pamela James



  1. Susan - I like that you occassionally do stories without a murder. Sometimes I think we forget a good mystery doesnt REQUIRE one.


  2. You're absolutely right, Terri. Lots of good mysteries don't include a murder. I often think every good story begins with a question, something the reader just has to figure out. I like to write all the time about all sorts of things--stories with and without crimes, reviews, articles and essays. I wish I could do more of all of them. Every time I begin writing something I have a question in my head--the mystery--that I want to explore. I'm never sure where I'll end up.


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