Interview: Susan Schreyer

Please welcome Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell Mystery series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I have several types of “perfect” days, to be honest (depending on my current mood), and they all begin with me getting up early! I am my most creative in the morning, so I would begin by getting up around 5 or 6 (depending on the time of year), making a pot of coffee, eating breakfast and then sitting down to write until lunchtime. Afternoon would have me riding my horse, and then back home to write some more (because I would get some great ideas while also getting out of the house and getting some exercise), while my husband cooked dinner (hey, it’s a fantasy, right?). After dinner is family time.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Oddly enough, I have a signature fragrance and it’s not “eu de saddle leather.” It’s Paloma Picasso. I’ve been wearing it for …. uh… a long time.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
All three of these people are authors and, although at very different times in my life and for very different reasons, have had a profound influence on me. Each nudged me toward the path I am now on.

  • Elizabeth Peters
  • Lisa Stowe
  • Walter Farley

Do you listen to music when you write?
No. I need silence when I write. I get distracted too easily.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be dark chocolate peanut clusters–dark themes with a bunch of nuts inside.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
My goal is always to entertain. BushWhacked, however, didn’t exactly begin with the intent of being humorous. It did begin with a body–all my story ideas start that way. This particular body was a bit of a puzzle for me. I knew the bones would be found buried under Thea’s rhododendron, but for the longest time I had no idea who it was. I tried other ideas, but this mystery refused to leave me alone. When I did some brain-storming with my critique partners, I knew the tale would lean heavily toward the light side. Humor was the key that kicked the whole plot into motion. Thea and friends have always had their moments that have made me smile, but this plot made me laugh outright. When it was done, I was honestly surprised to find out how very dark the themes were, but then humor is often that way.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
BushWhacked’s themes include relationships between people who love, and supposedly love, each other. Those are ties I have explored from the first book in the series, Death By A Dark Horse. Love, in all its manifestations, is complex and fascinating, whether it is between lovers, parents and children, friends, or even the attachment between a person and their animal companion. Also, anger, as a theme, is strong in this book. Each person’s background and their emotional makeup is going to influence the way it is expressed, as is their prior history with the person they’re feeling anger toward.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Thea Campbell is the eldest child in her family–by six years. That gave her time to experience the focused attention of her parents in the manner of an only child, and then get “turned loose”–so to speak–when her younger sibling came along. This caused her to be both self-reliant and, because she wanted the parental attention she’d lost, an overachiever. Because she truly does love her sister Juliet, and because Juliet lacks judgment and is impulsive, Thea feels responsible for her well-being. Without a doubt, if there is anyone you can rely on, it’s Thea. On the flip side, she often feels that she and she alone knows best and because she has been in a care-taker role in one sense or another for much of her life, she has trouble accepting help and being on the receiving end of care from others. This is a challenge for her in a love-relationship, and something she must learn if the relationship is to survive.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

  • Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody–independent, devoted to family, seemingly unaware of how others see her.
  • Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe–compassionate, principled.
  • Katharine Hepburn–her wit and verbal sparring with Spencer Tracy.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Okay, because it’s my dinner party and I plan on being entertained, here are my choices:

1. Joanne Fluke: I’ve heard her speak and she is intelligent, entertaining and wonderfully funny.
2. Rex Stout: his life experiences are varied and fascinating. I love his books and am a fan of P.G. Wodehouse as he was. It delights me no end that he ignored a subpoena from the House Un-American Activities Committee during the “height of the McCarthy era.”
3. Elizabeth Peters: I adore the humor in her books and admire her numerous accomplishments. If I could be her, I would.
4. Mark Twain: no explanation needed here. And I will argue that he wrote mysteries.
5. Alexander McCall Smith: an amazingly prolific writer, with a wry wit and an enviable ability to get into a character’s head.
6. Nancy Martin: a generous, intelligent individual, well informed and with a delightful sense of humor.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on the next Thea Campbell Mystery. At this point, it is considerably darker than BushWhacked, and I can tell you the villain is seriously making my hands sweat! In addition, I’ll be working on promoting my books. I, along with two author friends of mine, Jeanne Matthews and Joyce Yarrow, do panels and appearances at bookstores, art festivals and wherever else they’ll have us. We are billed as “Women Who Kill.” We talk about our books, debate writing processes, and cover other topics that touch even remotely on writing. There’s a good deal of banter and laughter. Fun for the audience and fun for us.

***

Susan Schreyer lives in the great state of Washington with her husband, two teenage children, an untrustworthy rabbit, two playful kittens and the ghost of a demanding old cat. Her horse lives within easy driving distance. Occasionally, she makes a diligent effort at updating her blogs, “Writing Horses” and “Things I Learned From My Horse,” and writes articles for worthy publications. Mostly, she works on stories about people in the next town being murdered. As a diversion from the plotting of nefarious deeds Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them, and when the weather gets to her she works in a veterinarians’ office. She serves on the steering committee of the Guppies Chapter of Sisters in Crime and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC. When she has a minute she cleans her house and does laundry.

Website: Susan Schreyer Mysteries http://www.susanschreyer.com
Blog: Writing Horses http://writinghorses.blogspot.com
Blog: Things I Learned From My Horse: http://thingsilearnedfrommyhorse.blogspot.com
Facebook: Susan Schreyer Mysteries: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Schreyer-Mysteries/161359303906634
Twitter: @susanschreyer
Email: susan@susanschreyer.com

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10 thoughts on “Interview: Susan Schreyer”

  1. Great interview, Susan! I recognize a bit of Elizabeth Peters’ influence in Levels of Deception 🙂 I love your travelling group “Women Who Kill”.

    Best of luck to you!

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  2. Great interview, Susan! You never cease to amaze me. Now that you mention it, I see an awful lot of K. Hepburn in Thea. Continued success to you. Peace, love, and keep on writing!

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  3. Susan, I credit you with pushing me over the edge on the road to self-publish. I mean that in a good way. I’d been following many writer blogs for a while and was leaning in that direction, but having “known” you from SinC and Guppies, it was your decision to test the waters that made the most impact. Thank you for that! I’m looking forward to reading BushWacked. Thea is a delight!

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  4. So many of us have been influenced by Elizabeth Peters! Your books have been in my TBR pile for a while, but after reading your protagonist mash-up above, they’ve just jumped the queue to the top 🙂

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    1. You’re so right, Gigi. I wonder if she knows how many writers she has inspired! Her books are among those I delight in rereading. I’m so glad Thea and her friends have moved up in your queue — a cherished compliment coming from a writer such as yourself!

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  5. Ah, Theresa! I see we are kindred spirits! Thanks so much for stopping by. You’re right — I’m busy and very happy 🙂

    Hi Daine! Thanks for having me. Our Women Who Kill traveling group is quite a lot of fun, and a wonderful way to reach out to readers. Elizabeth Peters has been a perpetual favorite of mine (in case you couldn’t tell!

    Lisa, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to stop and say hi. To be honest, the Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy similarity didn’t occur to me (despite being a fan — love the subconscious) until a reader pointed it out.

    Donna, I’m happy I’ve been able to help fellow authors. There are so many wonderful writers with wonderful books that I hope will find their way to readers. After all, readers are the most important people!

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    1. Thank you, Cynthia 🙂 I’m 100% positive you won’t find Mark Twain in the mystery section of Barnes & Noble, despite the degree of suspense you’ll find in Huckleberry Finn or the murder in Tom Sawyer, Detective. Mysteries are not just about crime. They’re about people who try and put wrongs to right. Humor and satire can be a large part of the story line, as well. Someone once said that every story is a mystery. Not sure I ever knew who said that originally (S.J. Rosen was one), but it makes quite a lot of sense to me!

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