Interview: Suzanne Adair

Please welcome Suzanne Adair, author of the Michael Stoddard American Revolution thriller series (and a forthcoming science fiction series)!

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
I havregulatedformurdere the house to myself to write. A personal chef cooks my gluten-free, dairy-free meals. After a brief Skype meeting with my publicist, who discusses promotional plans for my books, I dive into my work-in-progress. I’m exceptionally productive and exceed my quota for the day by late morning. My personal masseur arrives to knead out the muscle kinks. During the afternoon, I conduct historical research, uncovering exciting and controversial information for the next book in my series. That evening, I attend a performance of the symphony or ballet.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Although my favorite color is green, I seem to have an excess of red in my closet. One of my favorite outfits is a cute, red cocktail dress that I wear to special occasions, like the “Death by Chocolate” party in 2009, hosted by the Kiss of DeathMastalerAdairHackettLawson chapter of the RWA, where my thriller, Camp Follower, was a finalist for the Daphne du Maurier award. Here I am in the dress at the party, with Tracy Mastaler, Anna Hackett, and Margie Lawson.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
An English teacher named Betty Owen, and my two oldest friends, Brenda Walters and Barbara Berchielli.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Not when I’m actually writing, but while I’m settling my mind to write, I sometimes listen to instrumental soundtracks for movies or Broadway productions.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
It would be deep, dark chocolate, the kind that’s rich and almost black. My books delve into the dark side of human experience. You know how there’s a touch of bitterness to 81% chocolate, and it can almost bite back? That’s what my books are like. They aren’t about the wimpy version of American history that you learned in high school.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Early during my historical research for Regulated for Murder‘s predecessor (Camp Follower), I learned that in 1781, redcoats successfully occupied the town of Wilmington, North Carolina from January through November. Nowhere in my American history classes was this victory for the Crown forces mentioned. Neither did North Carolina receive much attention when it came to the Revolutionary War–yet the occupation of Wilmington enabled the British to commandeer much of North Carolina and stall the war for almost a year. I wanted to explore this fascinating fact in fiction, in a series.

In addition, a number of historical events in North Carolina prior to and during the war had captured my attention, and I wanted to write about them, too. One such event was the Regulator Rebellion in 1771, ten years before the Wilmington occupation. I wondered, what if an unscrupulous person committed murder while leaders of the Regulator Rebellion were being executed by the Royal Governor, then concealed evidence of the crime in the chaos that followed? What would it take to bring this crime to light and deliver justice ten years later?

I’m always curious how people more than two hundred years in the past dealt with the kinds of issues that have clung to humanity all along. You know, the same old desires for money, power, and sex that fuel modern crimes we read about every day in the news. In Regulated for Murder, I decided to explore narcissism. I also look at how townsfolk might have responded to someone with a physical handicap.

And it was time to let Michael Stoddard have his own series. Michael, a young redcoat officer who’s competent at criminal investigation, appears as a minor character in my first three books. I’ve developed him to show this world conflict from a point of view not commonly taken and to challenge some of the misconceptions Americans have of redcoats during the War of Independence.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

  • David vs. Goliath
  • Ordinary Joe/Jane thrust in extraordinary circumstances
  • Awakening

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Michael Stoddard was born in 1754, the son of a poor stonemason in Yorkshire, England. When he was eleven years old, his blacksmith uncle arranged for him to tend falcons for a neighboring nobleman, Lord Crump. Three years later, Michael discovered that Crump’s gamekeeper and steward were stealing from him.

The two men weren’t poor, and their families had plenty to eat. When they stole from Crump, it was to feed their own greed, and they played Crump for an old fool. Michael brought his observations to his employer. The nobleman and his butler devised a way to track the criminals’ thefts and entrap them. In short order, the gamekeeper and steward were dismissed from his service, none the wiser who had revealed their activities.

Two years later, Michael’s uncle and father approached Lord Crump about assisting in the purchase of an ensign’s commission. Crump had no son of his own. He recognized Michael’s inquisitive nature and logical mind, and he saw the value of Michael making something of himself in the Army as an officer. He responded by helping to fund Michael’s ensign commission. Later, the nobleman and Michael’s uncle also purchased his lieutenant’s commission.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe (but more polished) + Martin Freedman’s Dr. Watson + Daniel Boone. And perhaps a pinch of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, without the magic.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Enheduanna, Vātsyāyana, Hildegard of Bingen, William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, and Stephen Hawking — oh, wait, you wanted mystery authors.

Okay.

Ellis Peters, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Daphne du Maurier, Tony Hillerman, and Charlotte Bronte.

What’s next for you?
Publishing A Hostage to Heritage, the next novel in the Michael Stoddard American Revolution thriller series. It’s scheduled for release April 2013. Then publishing Child of Two Mothers, the first novel of a new science fiction series.

***

Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont, named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her suspense and thrillers transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. When she’s not writing, she enjoys cooking, dancing, hiking, and spending time with her family.

Blog: http://www.SuzanneAdair.typepad.com
Quarterly electronic newsletter: http://tinyletter.com/Suzanne-Adair-News
Web site: http://www.SuzanneAdair.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Suzanne.Adair.Author
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Suzanne_Adair

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29 thoughts on “Interview: Suzanne Adair”

  1. Great interview–thanks for visiting!

    What prompted you to make the transition from writing historical mystery to sci-fi? And were there any differences in your writing process as a result? *Intrigued.*

  2. Very interesting. I’d love to have that publicist and massage therapist also.

    North Carolina! Are you a tarheel? I was born in NC and my family goes all the way back to 1727. I definitely want to read this. Did you read Steve Berry’s The Jefferson Key? NC pirate families, now respectable of course. You might find it interesting. A historical thriller.

  3. So good to learn more about Suzanne! I love the personal chef idea. And the David/Goliath theme is one of my favorites to read about…

  4. Hi Angi! Thanks for your comments. “Awakening,” as in someone who searches within themselves to learn and take ownership of their unique gift to the world. Also “awakening” to life or love. Does that clarify it?

  5. Cynthia, I’d been writing science fiction for awhile before I tried my hand at crime fiction. Back in the mid-1990s, Child of Two Mothers was agented, and it came very close to being published by Warner. I switched to crime fiction at that point because I’d gotten SO close to being published + I was just too ornery to give up + the market for crime fiction was larger than that for science fiction. I figured that if I could get published in crime fiction, I’d circle back around and offer my science fiction. So here I am. 🙂

  6. Theresa, I’m actually a native of South Florida. I got run out of Dodge in the late 1980s by all the concrete and crime down there. Where did your family settle in North Carolina in 1727? One branch of my family goes back to the 1600s in Virginia. But I love North Carolina and its variety of terrains, cultures, and seasons.

    Thanks for recommending Steve Berry’s book. Sounds like it’s right up my alley!

  7. Jenny, how nice of you to drop by! If I had a personal chef, he/she would being doing all my grocery shopping, too. Many times when I’m in the grocery store, I think, “Gee, I could be writing instead of pushing this cart.” 🙂

  8. Hi Suzanne, this sounds like such an interesting story, so well-thought out and complex. It’s definitely going in my TBR pile! ps. I think I may need to sneak into your dinner party…

  9. Hi Kendel! In Regulated for Murder, my historical detective (Michael Stoddard) solves a ten-year-old mystery. I guess you could call this a double-historical. Book 2 in the series, A Hostage to Heritage, is just as twisty.

    Which dinner party did you want to sneak into? My personal chef is tearing his hair out trying to meet the culinary expectations of both sets of guests.

  10. Cynthia, I grew up with the original “Star Trek” showing prime time on my family’s TV and the contrails of each Apollo mission’s Saturn Five booster visible from the roof of my house. My Bachelor’s degree was in Microbiology. So you betcha science fiction was my first genre-crush.

  11. Thanks, John. What was Dan’l Boone up to during the Regulator Rebellion? Was he in North Carolina? That guy sure got around.

    People are often quick to assume that the Regulator Rebellion represented an early battle in the American War, simply because it was civilians against a Royal Governor. But when you look at who supported Governor Tryon in the conflict, you see a number of “patriots” like William Hooper, one of NC’s signers of the Declaration of Independence. Exposure in school to accounts of incidents like the Regulator Rebellion would broaden kids’ understanding of the scope of our “Revolutionary” War.

  12. Theresa, a personal chef would be wonnnnderful.

    Winston-Salem, eh? Were they Moravians?

    When that branch of my family stepped off the boat in the 1600s, they settled in the Chesterfield County area of VA.

  13. Great interview! I’m pleased to discover a new historical mystery series. I greatly admire writers who do all that research to bring history alive. I’m firmly stuck in the here and now with my own writing because I deal with a lot of environmental issues, but I love to take fictional trips “back then” to be reminded of how our civilization developed. And no matter the time period, people always have the same motivations for their deeds, good and bad, don’t they? We don’t seem to have evolved much as a species…

  14. Good luck with that Moravian mystery, Theresa. In what time period is it set?

    There were a few religious groups like the Moravians and Quakers who tried hard to be neutral during the Revolutionary War (or to remain physically distant from the thick of war). I have a lot of respect for them. My research indicates that neutrals, who comprised a third to a half of the population, were the recipients of aggression from both sides of the conflict.

  15. Hi Pamela! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy my series. And boy, you’ve hit the nail on the head about our evolution. Power, money, and sex appear to be the big three motivators for humans throughout history. Maybe that’s why writers of crime fiction spend so much time there.

    As a species, we don’t appear to learn very well from our mistakes. Ah, but those who pay attention to history are often rewarded. Last night, I saw a presentation on Hannibal and Scipio. Darned if I didn’t recognize in their military strategies some of the tactics used by generals in the Revolutionary War! And Napoleon was supposedly successful at copying some of Hannibal’s moves.

  16. Hi Suzanne, My Moravian mystery imagines that a period in our history in the 1740s survived secretly into the present day. It threads through much of Moravian history, especially interesting connections with the Rosicrucians and one Moravian architect of the Capitol Building in D.C.
    The Moravians were pacifists, but finally took sides in the 1900s (if I’m remembering right).
    I’ll definitely check out your books.

  17. Thanks, Donna! You’ll definitely want to read A Hostage to Heritage. Helen Chiswell and a few others from Camp Follower have their own sub-plot going in that book. Recall that I ended Camp Follower with Helen and company prepared to travel back to Wilmington. I couldn’t leave their fate hanging, could I? 🙂

  18. I have thanked Suzanne on her blog for introducing me to a new-to-me blog, just as she has introduced so many interesting new-to-me authors. Enjoyed this post and explored so older ones with pleasure.

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