Thursday, September 12, 2013

Love the Low Country!

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 BOYERLowcountry 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!


  1. Typically southern? Besides NASCAR and football? Hhmm . . . perhaps Liz could take Rhett and investigate some ghostly goings-on at the stadium or the race track . . . .

  2. I'm in the middle of Low Country Boil right now and LOVING it. Nice job, Susan! Bombshell sounds like an equally great read. I've never been to the low country (except in your book) but it sounds enchanting.

  3. Susan - Good Morning!!!! How lovely to see you here this morning. As you know, I am a huge fan of your LOW COUNTRY BOIL and cannot wait to read LOW COUNTRY BOMBSHELL.

    We need to take our Hank on a Low Country tour - I do believe Charleston and Savannah would be kneeling at her perfectly shod feet before she left, don't you?

    AND - I will see you in Birmingham in February, sweetie!

  4. Nice to see you over here at JRW's Susan.

    As you know, I loved both books in the series and can't wait to find out what happens in Liz's love-life in book 3.

    I'm going to tag along with you, Kaye, Edith and Hank on this Low Country tour. Seems like such a special place.

  5. As the mother of a (female) Citadel grad, I have spent quite a bit of time in that part of the country. It's so mysterious, especially in the lowcountry area.

    Susan, your post reminds me that I have one of your books in Mount TBR somewhere. Thanks for the nudge; I'll bring it up to the top of the stack. Can't wait.

  6. Welcome Susan, this book sounds like so much fun! I love the lowcountry too.

    Question, how much Southern food makes it into your series??

  7. Hilton Head Island has been a vacation spot for us the last few years, and most of the restaurants have a "low country" offering of some kind. If I win Susan's new book, I'll take it with me.

  8. Hank, thank you so much for having me here today! You know I'm a big Jungle Reds fan (and a BIG Hank fan). I'm so thrilled to have the chance to hang out here with y'all today!

    Joan, what great ideas--thank you. I will ponder those a bit. Perhaps football...

    Edith, thank you so much! I'm SO HAPPY you're enjoying the read! Mwah!

  9. Kaye! Good Morning!! And thank you so much. You are the sweetest thing! I cannot wait to see you in Birmingham!

    I LOVE the idea of taking Hank on a Lowcountry tour! You're absolutely right. I mean, really, who wouldn't love Hank? It would be so much fun to tag along and show her around. :) Let's work on that. :)

  10. Kristopher! *waves wildly* It's lovely to "see" you this morning! Thank you so much--you are so, so sweet. I am deeply appreciative of your very kind review of Lowcountry Bombshell.

    Yes--you must come along on the Lowcountry tour! Kaye--we need to get to planning this! :)

  11. Karen, congrtulations to your daughter! I totally agree. I just love everythig about the lowcountry. Thank you so much for bringing one of the books to the top of Mount TBR! (Love that--I have one as well.) I so hope you enjoy the read! :)

  12. Hey, Roberta aka Lucy!! You must come on this tour we're planning. I think Kaye is in charge...

    There is quite a bit of Southern food in my books. Everything from the fried steak and gravy or fried chicken Liz's mamma puts on the table (or her wonderful pimento cheese) to the lowcountry seafood at the Pirates' Den to the country ham with red eye gravy at the Cracked Pot (the diner) to the nouveau Southern cuisine at some of Charleston's wonderful restaurants.

  13. Hi Jack! I love Hilton Head--we've been there on vacation as well. I love riding bikes on the paths all around the island. And the restaurants--oh my!

  14. Oh, please let me tag along on the tour! That sounds like a lot of fun. I can research Low Country local food production...

  15. I just love "hearing" that southern drawl! And a Marilyn Monroe tie-in? I'm hooked!

  16. Hi, Susan - welcome to Jungle Red! Your book sounds like great fun.

    This will surprise no one but when I hear "lowcountry" I think FOOD. Fabulous southern food, and I think there is no more culinary city (except perhaps New Orleans) in the US than Charleston. Grits and just about anything. Gumbo. Red beans and rice. Comfort food, writ large!

    I'm probably the only one reading this blog today and thinking hmm, wild hogs -- wonder if they taste anything like what Italians call cinghuiale.

    Scary to run across one when you're hiking, she said from experience

  17. Edith, of course, you must come! I'm liking this better all the time! :) It sounds like a big party. I love parties...

  18. Anon, thank you! I so hope you enjoy the read!

    Hallie--thank you so much for the welcome! I love being here on Jungle Reds! You mailed the food thing! My mouth is now watering and I have a craving for shrimp and grits. :)

    I must hear your hog story sometime. That sounds terrifying!

  19. Hi Susan! I haven't read LOW COUNTRY BOIL yet, but I've heard so much about it, from everywhere it seems. How exciting is it for you as a debut author to know you've got "buzz"? Must be thrilling!

    Southern things, southern things...I've only been to Atlanta, and then only once. I'm such a west coaster. I was amazed by the variety of fried foods. Fried pickles, you name it. How about a specialty, unusual, maybe kind gross fried-something recipe? What would Marilyn eat fried...? Hmm...:-)

    Love Henery. Gigi is a pal.

  20. Biscuits and gravy and fried chicken, of course! For years I asked for my mother to make fried chicken for my birthday dinner. It wasn't until later as an adult that I realized what I REALLY wanted was biscuits with gravy make with the pan drippings from the chicken!

  21. Lisa, thank you! Yes, it is thrilling. :)

    Yes--in the South we will fry anything. One restaurant I know of serves a dessert centered around a fried Krispy Kreme doughnut, with ice cream and sauces and fruit. It's so, so good. :)

    I love fried chicken, of course, but another personal favorite is fried okra. I'll have to give some thought to something strange I might have a character fry up. Thanks for the idea! :)

  22. Oh, Libby! How I love fried chicken with biscuits and gravy made from the pan dripings--with mashed potatoes or rice so you have something else to smother with gravy. My mother makes THE BEST EVER, so of course, so does Liz's mamma. :) You've made my mouth water!

  23. Susan, it was fantastic seeing you a Mystery Lovers this week and "seeing" you again here. I started BOMBSHELL last night, and so far so good!

    I think your inclusion of food is one of my favorite things about Liz. I get so tired of these female characters who are afraid to put more than a lettuce leaf in their mouths. The descriptions make me want to pull up a big plate of friend chicken and some cobbler for dessert!

  24. Mary, it was so lovely to see you in person! Thanks so much for being there and for reading Bombshell! I so hope you enjoy the read. :)

    I'm so glad you like the food in the books. I enjoy writing it--right now it's making me hungry thinking about it. :)

  25. So how about renting a bunch of buses to take all the JRW writers and fans around the low country? I'd be willing to sign on!

    Susan, I've read both of your low country books and the only thing wrong with them is the wait for the next one to come out! A belated congratulations on your award for the first one, and I do believe you deserve another one for Low Country Bombshell! I stayed up way too late reading it; fortunately, I was on vacation at the time!

    By the way, I vacationed in the south with members of my extended family. My 21 year old nephew and I fought over hush puppies when we were at our favorite restaurant. (I regret to say that I "accidentally" knocked over his drink while passing the bread basket to him. Joe, it really was an accident! Your aunt wouldn't lie to you!) I tried to make them at home a few years back but did a horrible job. I do miss them between vacations!

  26. Deb, you are brilliant! I love the bus tour idea. :)

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm so, so happy you enjoyed the books! You've put a big smile on my face.

    I LOVE the hush puppie story!! I may have to use your strategy in the future...ah... I mean, I am also prone to such accidents. :)

  27. Wow great interview.
    Susan now you know how it feels to be interviewed by a pro :) LOL
    and can't ya'll just hear Hank now drawling out her words can't imagine what that sophisticated Boston accent would sound like Southern Fried :)
    but Hank's right Susan I loved the humor in our interview which makes me more anxious to read you novels. Good Luck

  28. Howdy, Susan. :) As soon as I hit ATL for a connecting flight last week, I had to run over to a place where I could get good sweet tea.

    Wild boar meat is tasty. I've had it in the deli in Cabela's.

  29. I love love love our Deb's bus tour idea. LordAMercy, how much fun would that be?!

  30. Hey Rhonda! Sadly, I myself have had to switch to tea with Splenda or Stevia. I drink so much of it--about a half gallon a day--I can't afford the calories in all the sugar. *sigh* Oh, the humanity...


  31. Debbie, thank you so much--and thank you for the fabulous interview you did as well! So much fun! And you ask really good questions. :)

    Awww...Thank you for everything!

  32. Kaye, I know it! You're making all the arrangements, right? :)

  33. FInally got here!
    ANd so happy you are all chatting so nicely.

    When I l lived inAtlanta, you know, I did a pretty good accent..and I do love it!

    NOt so hot on sweet tea, however..although..hmm...maybe you can teach me on the tour! (I'll sip the boar, though.)

    I do remember cinghale in Italy--a great delicacy! And remember the wild pigs in Thomas Harris's HAnnibal?

    ANyone in Minneapolis??/ will I see you tonight?

  34. Susan, when the people who know me find themselves spilling something they either exclaim "I 'pulled a Deb'!" or they say "Deb did it!"

    I promise not to spill tea on anyone on our tour:-)

    Oh, and you southerners can plan the tour and be the guides!

  35. Hank, I would love to hear your drawl! I wish I were in Minnesota. I'm afraid I'm headed in the other direction. But can't wait to see you in Albany!

    I'm a big fan of prosciutto myself.

    Sip the boar? Something just went over my blonde head... :)

    Thank you so much again for having me on JR today!

  36. Deb, I'm bad to spill things, too. I'll be very careful on the tour, but y'all should keep your eyes on your hush puppies--fair warning. :)

  37. Understood. :) Most of my iced tea consumption is with Truvia or Splenda, too, Susan. I had to turn real sweet tea into an occasional on-the-road treat.

  38. Rhonda, so many things in my life have turned into occasional treats... :)

  39. Susan, you're adorable! It never once crosses my mind your books will be horrible, and I say that as both your editor and a fan. But perhaps it's because you put so much heart and thought and concern into each story that they read so beautifully. Even though you're only two days into this launch, I cannot wait to read the next one!! Big huge chicken hugs to you and Liz and Calista!

  40. Kendel Flaum, you just made me tear up. :) Heartfelt thank yous and big HUGE chicken hugs right back to you--from all of us inside my head.

    Y'all, this is one of the many reasons I love my editor--and everyone at Henery Press. They are just the nicest people in the world. :)

  41. Pimento cheese, shrimp, and boiled peanuts! That's what I remember from a gathering I attended once in Atlanta hosted by some folks from South Carolina. Now it's all I can think of when I hear "Low Country Boil." And now I'm hungry!

    I loved visiting Charleston and Savannah. And Beaufort,SC. Beautiful, magical places. I'd love to join the JR tour.

    Your books have been on my TBR list and I KNOW I will read them soon. I have the ebook of BOIL sitting on my Kindle. No excuses not to start it.

    Thanks for sharing with us.

  42. Marianne, I love all those places, too! As a matter of fact, I'm heading to Beaufort tomorrow for an event at McIntosh Bookstore on Saturday afternoon. :)

    I'm so happy to be in your TBR pile! I so hope you enjoy the read!!

    All this talk of food has me STARVING. I'm craving shrimp and grits...and pimento cheese for an appetizer...

  43. How about all that fabulous architecture - the amazing old houses?

  44. Susan, I love just walking around looking at houses--and the wrought iron garden gates. GORGEOUS! It really takes you back in time.

  45. Hi Susan! Sorry to be late to the party today. Your books on my to-read list. I visited Charleston last spring for the first time--just two very quick days--but I LOVED it! And those wrought iron gates really do set off the imagination, don't they?

    I'll pass on the sweet tea, though:-) Texans seem to be divided on the sweet tea issue, and of course the Brits think it's bizarre to even contemplate tea on ice!

  46. Hey Deb! I always wonder what's going on behind those wrought iron gates. :) So happy to hear I'm in your TBR list! Fingers crossed you enjoy the read.

    I'm that way with coffee--I think it's bizarre on ice. But I only want hot tea when it's cold outside or I'm sick.

  47. Susan, I love the title and the setting—romantic and mysterious!

    I love hush puppies. I'm not sure if I'm making them right, because I'm the only one I know who has ever made them—except for a former aunt. She never made them for us, but she talked about them a lot. Long after she'd packed up and headed home from Salem, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama, perhaps in my longing for her gentle touch in my life, I decided I would make hush puppies. I haven't seen her since I was 13, but each time I make my hush puppies I feel her presence. I would like to tell her that I miss her, because I never had the chance to say goodbye.

  48. Reine, thank you so much!

    I love hush puppies, too. And I'm sure you can't make them wrong. If they taste good, they're right--perhaps a variation on the orignal recipe, but trust me, there are a great many of those around, some in fine restaurants.

    What a touching story. Thank you for sharing that.

  49. Me, too, Susan. Many goodies have become "occasional treats," if I can have them at all. ::sigh:: #ThoseWereTheDays :)

  50. Rhonda, sharing your sigh... Why can't I develop a bone-deep craving for broccoli?

  51. Oh my stars! I wish just reading back through the post and all the comments--thank you so much everyone for chatting with me today--when I realized I had completley neglected to thank Hank for the BEST INTRODUCTION EVER!

    Thank you, Hank! You are so fabulous and so sweet, and I really appreciate all the nice things you said so much! No one has ever called me a force of nature before--I'm so flattered. I may have that put on a t-shirt.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!



  52. Aww...we loved having you here, dear Susan! And yes, Minneapolis was fabulous!..on to Seattle!

    And congratulations on the book! xoo