Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An Interview with Susan Fleet

MM: Susan, how many books have you written? Where is your favorite place to write?
Six novels in the Frank Renzi crime thriller series and three ebooks. Two are collections of posts from my true crime blog. Dark Deeds, Vol 1 and Vol Dark Deeds
Women Who Dared profiles two fabulous female musicians, violinist Maud Powell and trumpeter Edna White. Women Who Dared
For actual writing, I use my computer at home, but I always take a few chapters wherever I go, because I'm always revising and thinking.  

MM: Tell us about how you set your books up such as plot, setting, characters, secondary characters and much more?

Plot. Most of my novels are inspired by news articles about crimes, but I change things: What if this happened in New Orleans? What if my killer was a priest? (Absolution)
What it my killer was a woman? (Natalie's Revenge)
I need to know how the book ends before I begin writing. Then I do a rough outline divided into four sections. It's a symphony in four movements! The first part is the setup. Parts two and three are the complications. Part four is the resolution.
My characters fall into three categories. My series protagonist, NOPD Homicide Detective Frank Renzi and his colleagues. The bad guys. And the victims. My challenge with Frank is to make him grow and reveal his complexities in each novel. I love my villains! My bad guys, or gals as the case may be, must be as powerful as Frank or there would be no suspense. I want my readers to worry! Who will win? Frank or the villain? The victims are just as important. If readers can't empathize with the victims, they won't care what happens to them.  Unfortunately, some of them must die. Some of my readers complain about this!

My primary settings are New Orleans and Boston, with glimpses of a few European cities that I've visited.

MM: Give us an example of a good writing day?

I write six days a week. On a good day I write a chapter, about 3,000 words. The best days are when I get a brilliant idea about how to solve a plot problem or make a character more quirky.
Missing is FREE through May 7
Missing -- Link to Amazon

MM: What would your protagonist want us to know about you?

Frank would tell you how clever I was to have him start out as a detective in Boston and then move to New Orleans, like I did. Well, I was a musician, not a detective, but this lets me set my books in two wonderful cities that readers already know, or want to know about.  

MM: It takes a village to write a book. Who is in your village? What would you like to say to your readers?

I am fortunate to have Beta readers who are writers. They give me feedback on the rough draft. I depend on my copy editor/proofreader to catch errors in the manuscript. He also knows a lot about guns, indispensable for a crime writer. I do a lot of research, but I consult my law enforcement       connections in New Orleans and Boston for specific information. They have been very generous with their time, answering my many questions, and I am so grateful to them. I am also grateful to my faithful readers! Where would I be without you?  

MM: Suspend your disbelief and answer these questions. Dead or alive if you were going to have five authors over for a meal. Which meal would it be? Who would it be and what would you ask them? What would you want them to know about you and your writing?

What a great question! I would cook swordfish Teriyaki and invite them for dinner individually so I could concentrate on each one. Wouldn't want to have five crime novelists killing each other in my house! Who would they be? Elmore Leonard, the master of characters, their interior thoughts and crackling dialogue. John Sandford, for his masterful “Prey” series and protagonist Lucas Davenport. Lisa Gardner, for her ability to put her characters' emotions on the page. Don DeLillo, who never ceases to amaze me with his imaginative novels. E. L. Doctorow, for his ability to immerse readers in any historical time period. I would tell each of them how much they have inspired me and ask their advice on how to improve my writing.

MM: What is your favorite historical decade?

1900 to 1920. I know that's two decades, but the changes that took place in the U.S. during those twenty years were amazing. Innovations in technology (camera, film, recordings, airplanes, telephone). Waves of immigration and westward migration from east to west. Enormous creativity in the arts: music, painting, sculpture, dance.

MM: Do you binge watch show, movies and binge read books? If so which ones?

I don't binge watch, but I'm addicted to House of Cards, Bosch, and The Americans. Movies with Daniel Craig, Javier Bardim and Helen Miren. Books: Michael Connolly, John Sandford's Prey series, Elmore Leonard, Lisa Gardner, Patricia Cornwell, Lee Child.

MM: If you could be anywhere in the world today. Where would you be and what would you like to see?

That's a tough one. I adore Paris, but I've never been to Spain. I would love to go there and visit the art museums in Madrid, Balboa, and the magnificent Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona. And enjoy the food and wine, of course!

MM: What makes you laugh?

Watching kids play. They are so spontaneous!

MM: What life lesson has writing taught you?

When you least expect it, expect it!

MM: Be our tour guide and tell us about where you live?

For nine years I lived in a suburb of New Orleans and loved it. I made so many friends there. The French Quarter is unique with its brilliant architecture and narrow cobblestone streets. You can't beat the music clubs, the food and the ambiance. I still go there twice a year. Now I live north of Boston on the coast. I don't miss the hurricane evacuations in New Orleans, but ice and snow can be equally challenging here. That said, I love living here. Rain or shine, the ocean is endlessly fascinating, and Boston has so much to offer: classical music, two great jazz clubs, art museums and film fests. The seafood isn't bad either!

MM: in 2016 and 2017 what are you looking forward to both personally and professionally?

 Personally, I'm looking forward to swimming my mile twice a week, walking beside the ocean and getting together with friends and family. Professionally, I hope to publish Book 7 in the Frank Renzi series, and another ebook collection of crime cases.

MM: Leave us with an author quote, character quote and a writing quote?

Author quote: The first chapter sells the book; the last chapter sells the next book. Mickey Spillane. Character quote: You don't have to be nice to people on the way up if you never plan on coming down. Daddy Warbucks in Annie, a musical I played many times. Writing quote: This gun is not a gun. Single and Single, by John Le Carre


  1. Both Boston & NOLA are wonderful cities with so much to do (and eat)!

    1. Indeed they are, Terri. Classical music, some great jazz clubs, tons of museums and a very active film series scene. Something going on all the time. Notice I didn't mention the food? Very good, but dangerous to the waistline!

  2. I want to thank Terri and Pam for inviting me to be interviewed. Some of their questions were quirky ... always a good thing! Others gave me the chance to talk about what inspires me ... to kill people. Fictionally, of course.

  3. Susan,
    I loved interviewing you. This is on of my favorite interviews.

  4. Sorry should have read "This is one of my favorite interviews. I think it will go on my home wall of fame."

    1. Ah, the dreaded typo! But I loved the sentiment. For several decades I was an entertainer ... not only with my trumpet but also in the classroom. First rule: Ya gotta keep 'em awake! So some of my answers are similar to comments I make when I appear on author panels at libraries. In this respect I do feel that authors who are comfortable speaking in public have an advantage.


Review: Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers and Felonies by Donna Andrews and Shari Randall

Each story in this collection features an animal as an important part of the story. Some of my favorite stories were "As the Crow F...