Interview: Susan Van Kirk

Welcome Susan Van Kirk, author of Marry in Haste.

 What’s your idea of a perfect day?

I’m not an experienced traveler, but I’ve been to England twice. My perfect day would be a drive through the Lake District. I think if God lived on earth, that’s where He would choose to live. It is so lovely, and the flowers, the gardens, and the centuries-old villages are amazing.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or mean?

My favorite color is turquoise. It’s the color of much of my wardrobe, the color of the sweater in my latest author picture and the color of my website theme. For my recent birthday, two of my friends gave me jewelry—turquoise. I have a blue sapphire ring of a similar color that I wear every day. It was given to me by my parents when I turned sixteen—just a brief fifty-four years ago.

What books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

Mystery authors that have influenced me include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Michael Connelly, Robert Parker, Laurie King, Louise Penny and Julia Spencer-Fleming. Beyond that, I love many of the classic American books I used to teach, and they’ve certainly influenced my thinking: The Scarlet Letter, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, and anything by Twain.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I sometimes listen to classical music. I’m a 60s and 70s rocker, so if I listen to music I love, I’ll start singing the lyrics and they will end up in the middle of a sentence. No lyrics while I’m writing.

marryinhastefrontIf your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

It would be a Whitman valentine sampler. My latest mystery, Marry in Haste, is about two marriages in 1893 and 2012. At least they began well, and the chocolate would have shown up during the courtships. After that, they are dark stories. As my younger son once said, “Once you sign your name on the dotted line, everything changes.”

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

Marry in Haste is about domestic violence. While I don’t describe graphic physical violence, I wanted to explore the PTSD aspects of domestic abuse. People I have known and loved have found themselves in abusive relationships. I never understood why they stayed. Now that I’ve researched the subject, I do. I also wanted to know if police and community attitudes had changed toward this subject over a hundred-year span. I created two stories in one novel to explore those sides of the issue.

I also wanted to research an 1893 Victorian house I lived in at one time and see who built it, who owned it and who changed it over the years. That house plays a key role in my story, and I just wrote two newspaper articles about the actual history of the house.

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

My Endurance mysteries are about the fortitude of women whose bonds support and strengthen each other. I admire the loyalty and determination of two of my characters who began as mentor/student, but now they are friends: my main character, Grace Kimball, retired teacher, and my police detective, TJ Sweeney. The past is a huge theme in my writing. Some characters overcome it, and some are demolished by it. Often present crimes go back to past events. My detective, TJ Sweeney, is biracial, and I used a hate crime in the past to explore aspects of her life in a largely Caucasian small town. Those themes are contained in an e-book novella called The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney. The ties of family, love, friendship, and respect resonate in my mysteries. However, you can find evil in my novels too.

Tell us about your main character.

Grace Kimball has just retired from teaching high school English in Three May Keep a Secret. In fact, the reader often hears hilarious memories about former students as Grace sees them in her small town of Endurance. She takes a part-time job at the Endurance Register, a job offered to her by the new editor in town. Grace has a secret in her past: she survived a terrible fire in college that killed her two roommates. Coming to terms with that past has been very difficult. After college, Grace married and had three children, but her husband died young of a heart attack, and she began teaching in the small town, partly to help her with her grief, and partly to feel useful. She has an insatiable need to solve problems, her own and everyone else’s. This often gets her into trouble, as does her lack of patience. Grace is kind, often naïve, and looks for the best in people. She has a circle of friends that brings out the best in her, and she has started dating the editor who hired her at the newspaper. He doesn’t know her other secret: she is a terrible cook.

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

She has the curiosity of Miss Marple, the naivete of Nick Carraway, and the decency of Chief Inspector Gamache.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

I would invite Robert Parker, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herman Wouk, Dorothy Sayers, and Louise Penny.

What’s next for you?

My third and final novel in the series, Death Takes No Bribes, will be out next May. I’m currently writing a historical fiction novel with another writer, and I’m starting to think about another mystery, perhaps a stand-alone traditional mystery.


About the Author
Susan Van Kirk was educated at Knox College and the University of Illinois. She taught high school English for thirty-four years in the small town of Monmouth, Illinois [pop. 10,000], and then an additional ten years at Monmouth College. Three May Keep a Secret, her first mystery novel about the small town of Endurance, was published in 2014 by Five Star Publishing/Cengage. The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, is an e-book novella available on Amazon. Marry in Haste will be available on November 16 from Five Star.

Website and blog:
Amazon Author Page:
Twitter Handle: @susan_vankirk


17 thoughts on “Interview: Susan Van Kirk”

  1. Hi, Liz. Obviously, we have great color taste, and perhaps you are as sentimental as I am about that ring. Thanks for stopping by to hear about my series.


  2. Welcome, Susan! My mother bought a topaz for my 21st birthday when she was in Rome. When I was 35, she decided I was responsible enough to have it. Meanwhile she wore it for me. I saw your title go by me on FB and thought, “That’s really creepy.” and “Don’t I know it.” Going on the TBR list.


  3. Ha ha. My book gives a new meaning to the word, “wedlock.” I write a cross between cozy snd traditional mysteries. My little town of Endurance is a wonderful place to visit…as long as you don’t mind a murder or two.

    Regarding your ring, I’m smiling. Your mom sounds like mine!


  4. Thanks for stopping in and commenting, Sue. You can check out my books on my website or Amazon. I appreciate your interest. I find my mysteries going more and more into history, my first love.


    1. In YOUR case it’s because you live in beautiful Florida where turquoise is in the climate. In my case it is just my penchant for cool colors: blue, green, plum. Of all my books, this one is my sentimental favorite. You’ll see why. Thanks for dropping in.


  5. Wonderful interview, Susan! I love stories that peel back the layers and complexities of marriage so Marry in Haste sounds right up my alley. Thanks for visiting!


  6. Thanks for the wonderful interview. I am a reader, not a writer, so I al always interested to learn about new authors and their books. I’ve put you on my “to read next” list.


  7. Thanks, Kate, for your kind comment. This is indeed a story that peels back layers, some of them not so nice or it wouldn’t be a mystery. But it’s an interesting contrast to read two separate stories over a hundred-year span.


  8. Thank you 3 no 7. Readers are my favorite people in the world. Without them, I wouldn’t be writing. So, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy “Marry in Haste.”


  9. Thank you so much, Mary, for making all the arrangements to host me on your website. It’s been a great day…not in England…but still a great day.


  10. Thank you so much. I did a lot of research on the laws and how they changed, and I also wanted to know about police response. So both of those areas ended up in the book. I have three books and a novella written in the series. This is the second book, and I think it is interesting to go back in time and see how our lives–as women–might have looked in 1893. Very, very different.


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