Please welcome Suzanne Adair, author of the Michael Stoddard American Revolution mysteries!
What made you interested in writing this particular story? Tell us a bit about your new book. What inspired you to write it?
Killer Debt is the fourth book of the Michael Stoddard American Revolution mysteries, with a projected six books total in the series. The setting is North Carolina, in the year 1781. Redcoats successfully occupied the town of Wilmington, North Carolina from January through November 1781. 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. Hence the Michael Stoddard American Revolution mysteries.
In addition, a number of historical events in North Carolina prior to and during the war had captured my attention while I was researching, and I wanted to write about them, too. One such event was a visit made to Crown-occupied Wilmington in July 1781 by William Hooper, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Surely Hooper must have been on King George III’s “most wanted” list. Why did he go into that lion’s den? More importantly, why did the British let him leave? And how could I weave this stellar bit of history into a subplot in a murder mystery?
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 Killer Debt, I decided to explore desperation and greed—and what happens to a man’s self-respect and sense of honor when he realizes that sometimes justice cannot be delivered unless you break the rules.
How did you get started writing? How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was in second grade. I’d been through the eye of a hurricane at home with my family. A few weeks later, I caught the mumps and was quarantined at home while I was contagious. Since I didn’t feel bad, I was really bored. I zipped through a stack of library books. Then my mother gave me paper and a pencil and told me to write something. And after that genie was out of the bottle, I didn’t stop writing.
What do you think makes a good story? How do you incorporate that into your books?
A good story must have solid conflict and at least one relatable character.
Seems like I’m reading more and more fiction lately that has little or no conflict, as if writers are afraid of causing their characters pain. But a story doesn’t get rolling until conflict arises. A character (most often the protagonist) wants something bad enough to go get it. Then that protagonist must stand up to whatever comes her way from other characters and story elements such as weather and wild animals—anything that prevents the protagonist from easily getting what s/he wants.
Conflict in the Michael Stoddard American Revolution mystery series comes from several angles. A warn-torn setting like Revolutionary North Carolina provides exterior conflict in the form of opponent armies clashing, not to mention individual miscreants who leap in and take advantage of wartime chaos. Captain Michael Stoddard also finds plenty of interpersonal conflict from other characters while he’s investigating murders, chief among them Fairfax, a psychopathic fellow officer. Even supporting characters who aren’t enemies often provide conflict; they have their own goals, and no two people will always agree. And Michael finds plenty of conflict within himself.
Protagonists don’t have to be squeaky clean and likeable, but they must possess a few qualities that encourage readers to care what happens to them next in the story and follow along with all the conflicts. A good example of this kind of protagonist is the titular character in Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. Ripley is a con-artist and a killer. He’s also clever, creative, and focused. As his own scheming ensnares him deeper and deeper, the reader commits to the story, invested in seeing how Ripley will extricate himself from each mess he’s made. If a reader doesn’t care what happens next, the writer hasn’t created a good story. And there’s a lot of fiction published today with zero relatable characters.
About the marketing thing—love it, hate it?
I love scheduling author events, getting out and meeting readers, giving presentations, and teaching workshops. I spend so much time by myself with just my imagination for company that I’m grateful for opportunities to interact with other people.
I love editing, too. When it’s time to edit, the difficult work—getting to The End of a first draft—is done. Editing lets me shape the story better, elevate it from mediocre to great. How exciting to watch it come together with each editing pass! And yes, I’ll kill my darlings if it makes a story better.
What I hate is the publishing tasks: selecting someone to do cover design and interior design, then following up with them to make sure they haven’t screwed up. On several books, I wound up with amateurs who’d touted themselves as professionals and cost me huge amounts of time and extra money. Very frustrating. Why make so much effort? It reflects negatively on my professionalism if I sell a shoddy looking product to someone.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Michael Stoddard is a mashup of 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.
Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in North Carolina. Her mysteries transport readers to the Southern theater of the American Revolution, 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, and hiking. Killer Debt, book #4 of her Michael Stoddard American Revolution Mystery series, will be released 9 May 2018 after a crowdfunding campaign during March 2018. Check her [http://www.SuzanneAdair.net/]home page for the latest information.
Web site http://www.SuzanneAdair.net/
A slain loyalist financier, a patriot synagogue, a desperate debtor. And Michael Stoddard, who was determined to see justice done.
July 1781. The American Revolution rages in North Carolina. Redcoat investigator Captain Michael Stoddard is given the high-profile, demanding job of guarding a signer of the Declaration of Independence on a diplomatic mission to Crown-occupied Wilmington. When a psychopathic fellow officer with his own agenda is assigned to investigate a financier’s murder, Michael is furious. The officer’s threats to impose fines on the owner of a tavern and link her brother to the financier’s murder draw Michael into the case—to his own peril and that of innocent civilians. For neither killer nor victim are what they first seem.
Buy links for the Michael Stoddard series
Regulated for Murder
A Hostage to Heritage