HANK ON TOUR: in Minneapolis today! Come join me and THE WRONG GIRL at Once Upon A Crime at 7pm! And now....our special guest!
HANK: So funny. I thought—what should I write to introduce the fabulous Agatha-winning and USA Today best-selling Susan Boyer? And here’s the voice that came to mind “Oh my GOSH, y’all, Susan Boyer is a force of NATURE.” Then I thought, waaaitaminit, I don’t have a southern accent.
Hmm. But that is just how infectious she is. She’s hilarious, intelligent and a terrific writer. Her debut, LOW COUNTRY BOIL won the Agatha, quite a triumph for her and her terrific publisher Henery Press. (Jungle Reds LOVE Henery, y’all. I mean, sigh, well, you know.)
So—imagine her voice answering…as we get the scoop on her brand new book! (And at the end--a question for YOU!)
HANK: Tell us what this book is about!
SUSAN BOYER: Lowcountry Bombshell is the story of my Southern Private Investigator, Liz Talbot’s, next case. Liz thinks she’s seen another ghost when she meets Calista McQueen. She’s the spitting image of Marilyn Monroe. Born precisely fifty years after the ill-fated star, Calista’s life has eerily mirrored the late starlet’s—and she fears the looming anniversary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers.
Before Liz can open a case file, Calista’s life coach is executed. Suspicious characters swarm around Calista like mosquitoes on a sultry lowcountry evening: her certifiable mother, a fake aunt, her control-freak psychoanalyst, a private yoga instructor, her peculiar housekeeper, and an obsessed ex-husband. Liz digs in to find a motive for murder, but she’s besieged with distractions. Her ex has marriage and babies on his mind. Her too-sexy partner engages in a campaign of repeat seduction. Mamma needs help with Daddy’s devotion to bad habits. And a gang of wild hogs is running loose on Stella Maris.
It’s just another day in paradise…
HANK: Wild hogs?
LOL! Yes, wild hogs. Actually, wild pigs have been around the lowcountry since the 1500s when the Spanish released them. In fact, wild pigs have been reported in all 46 counties in South Carolina. However, the Spanish pigs never reached Stella Maris as no one ever let them on the ferry. The Stella Maris hogs are a whole ’nother story. You see, in the aftermath of a hurricane back in the 1800’s, most of the livestock wandered the island until fences and barns were repaired or rebuilt. This particular gang of hogs was never apprehended. They are mostly harmless, but they like to snack on delicacies found in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens, which makes them unpopular with the human residents of the island.
There’s been a lot of discussion regarding what to do about the infestation, but no consensus has been reached. Several of the island’s matriarchs are too tenderhearted to hear tell of the hogs being exterminated, and the swine are wily enough to evade efforts at rounding them up.
HANK: What was the moment you got the first idea for the plot of this book? Or was your first idea about "plot" ? How did you know when you had a book?
The character of Calista McQueen came to me first. In fact, my initial idea was for a book where she was the main character. She may get her own series one day, if Liz will have that. She may want to keep me busy with her stories. But I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe and her story. When I was working on the family trees for my Stella Maris families—yes all the families on Stella Maris have a family tree. I can trace them all back to the Revolutionary War—I started wondering about the loose ends in Marilyn’s family tree. I started researching her. I knew I had a book when I realized my doppelganger was in danger and would need Liz to figure out where the danger was coming from.
I love revisiting Liz and her quirky family and friends on Stella Maris. But I also love the character of Calista McQueen. Like Marilyn, she’s so much smarter than people give her credit for. And I really love that Liz’s romantic life gets to play out a bit in this book.
HANK: Talk about "low country " What does that mean? How does that affect your story?
Ah, the lowcountry is the coastal area of South Carolina. Especially around Charleston, there’s just so much history, and it’s such a romantic place. It’s my chosen literary landscape because I have a lifelong love affair with the area. Huge live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, wrought iron garden gates that keep in the family secrets…my imagination runs wild. The setting really is a character in my story.
HANK: Have you always wanted to write mysteries? Why start now? Did you set out to write a series?
Oh, my, yes. I’ve wanted to write mysteries since I was a child reading Nancy Drew. Actually, for a long time I wanted to BE Nancy Drew. Then I settled on writing mysteries where the detective was a little older and got to know her boyfriend a little better. But my parents were more comfortable with a career goal that wouldn’t mean I’d be living in their house another ten years in the best case scenario, so I studied computer business systems and got a “real job.” But I continued to read every spare minute and dream about writing. Then a few years—okay—now it’s been nearly nine years ago—the company I worked for went out of business. Up until then I hadn’t had time to write. I know, you do it all, but you’re a super-hero. Yes, I started out knowing I wanted to write a series because those are my favorite books to read. I love revisiting characters I know. It’s like spending time with old friends.
HANK: What's it like for you, writing? Are you a happy smiling person at the keyboard? Or do you tear your hair out, worrying that this will be the time you never get it right?
I am at my happiest when I’m writing. I get completely lost in my alternate reality, and just pour it all out onto the page. The “Oh my gosh this is horrible and I’ll never get it right” phase comes later in the process for me—during editing. And again while my beta reader has the manuscript, and again while my agent is reading, and most of all once I hit send to turn it in to my editor. Until I know she likes it, I’m convinced it’s horrible, and I’ll never write another book worth reading. That’s when I start wondering if I’m qualified to be a barista.
HANK: Well, it’s terrific…and I (don’t hoot at me, Kaye Barley) had no idea what “low country” was until I met your books. Guess I should have gone to geography that day!
Susan of course, is hard at work on her next Low Country adventure…what “southern” thing do you think she should include? And a copy of LOW COUNTRY BOIL to a lucky commenter!