INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR Susan Schreyer
Today I’m interviewing Susan Schreyer. Her book, An Error In Judgment, a mystery with romance and suspense, is her third book and set in the real life town of Snohomish, Washington.
Please tell my readers a little bit about your book.
Sarah, thank you so much for inviting me here to talk about the latest in my mystery series, An Error In Judgment. This is the third Thea Campbell adventure. The story opens as Thea and boyfriend Paul Hudson attend an awards banquet for the Puget Sound Dressage Society (for your readers who don't know, dressage is a difficult and demanding equestrian sport that Thea participates in with her horse Blackie). Thea's long-time friend Andrea has recently married a judge for the sport -- a wealthy man with a reputation for arrogance -- and Thea has lost contact with her. Assuming the fault is hers, Thea intends to mend the rift between them. However, Andrea's husband collapses and dies during the ceremonies, leaving a mysterious last request of Paul that no one, particularly Paul, understands. Andrea turns to Thea and Paul for support and unwittingly plunges them into a murder investigation. When Andrea is arrested for her husband's murder and an old nemesis of Paul and Thea's turns up the stakes raise and the price becomes a run for their lives.
Describe the genre of this particular title, and is the only genre you write in?
You'll find all my books under the "mystery" label, but there is a good deal of romance mixed in, and An Error In Judgment has been described by readers as a "romantic thriller." I also like to include humor in my stories, when the opportunity arises. None of my books are purely one genre, as each encompasses elements that wouldn't be found in, say, a cozy mystery and break the rules for other genres like romantic suspense. Nevertheless, it's where my heart is and for now is the only genre I write in.
When did you start writing toward publication?
Now, that is a difficult question to answer! When I started writing my first book my intention was to simply see if I could do it. Once it became clear that I was going to accomplish that goal, I decided to learn as much as I possibly could from the people who had already "been there and done that." Somewhere along the way I realized I wanted to share my stories with others who enjoy the same kinds of stories I do. In short, I "grew" into my publishing goal.
Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself?
I had finished (essentially) three manuscripts by the time I published the first. I shopped only my first book, Death By A Dark Horse, since it was the first in the series to both agents and publishers. When I became aware of how much the industry was changing and how those changes were affecting my goals I made a decision to take my career into my own hands and forge my own path.
Why have you become a published author?
Wow. Good question. I think I'd have to say that I've become a published author to make a career out of something I love to do. There's no question that it's work -- in a way that writing isn't before you have deadlines and a business to manage. Nevertheless, being able to earn a living doing something you love has definite appeal.
Do you have any rejection stories to share?
Oh, my goodness, yes! There isn't a writer who puts her or his work on the line who doesn't. I think it's required to have your ego crushed and battered, isn't it? Once you've got your first 50 rejections under your belt you join that group of battled scared warriors who can smile and pat the newbie on the back, hand them a box of Kleenex and tell them that you know, from personal experience, that it isn't the end of the world.
What is your writing routine like?
I work part time in a veterinarian's office and also teach dressage to a few students. My husband and son require a lot of my time, too, so I have to schedule in my writing time and make it as productive as possible. I do my best work in the morning so, if I can, I write then. I like quiet, to concentrate, so I tend to get up a bit early. I'm one of those writers who plan, too. I write an outline and synopsis for the story, and before I begin the novel I write the victim's story and the villain's story. Of course by the time I'm done I've probably diverged from the initial path, but I need the guidance of structure to be efficient with my time.
What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help?
Promotion and Marketing (note the caps!) are akin to scaling a sheer cliff for me. I'm really really good at NOT being the life of the party, NOT tooting my own horn and I excel at shining the spotlight on someone else. That said, I've developed a routine with my two blogs, Facebook and to a small degree Twitter. More recently I've gotten together with other authors to bring some entertainment (and some awareness that we've written books!) to the reading public. I volunteer to do author panels at events, and last year created the Northwest Mystery Author Group, where we go to different venues -- libraries, book clubs, book stores, retirement centers, etc. -- to talk on the subject of writing, books and publishing. I'm also part of another author group -- The Story River. We do essentially the same thing, but are not exclusively the mystery genre. The panels are fun to do. I enjoy meeting people who love a good story as much as I do. The major emphasis is to become known, then the people who will enjoy what I write will know where to find my books.
Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?
There are so many, and there IS a difference in one's outlook and perspective once you publish. Before I crossed into "published author land" my focus was on the industry professionals -- agents, editors, publishers. They were a "goal" for me. Now, I have come to realize that it's really about the readers and how I connect with them. I love the people I've had the opportunity to meet; they are smart, articulate and fascinating. The readers are the Big Reward.
Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped?
Yes! Writing is a solitary endeavor, and as such I think it's important to connect with like-minded people -- people who understand what it takes to work at your craft and can give you support, assistance, and advice when you need it. I belong to Sisters in Crime, am on the steering committee for the Guppy Chapter (the internet chapter of SinC), and am co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC. I also belong to a local writers' group (O-Pen) where we meet in person once a month, Northwest Mystery Writers Group, and The Story River. I cherish my writer friends. They are amazing and generous people.
Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?
The world of publishing is changing rapidly and daily. What it will be five years or five months from now is anybody's guess. Have a heart-to-heart with yourself and decide what your OWN personal goals and priorities are. Then decide how you will go about getting them. Remain open to changing your mind -- remember, these days, more than at any time in the past, you are aiming at a moving target. Stay on top of what is going on in the industry so you don't get blindsided by unanticipated changes.
What’s next for you?
I'm just finishing up the fourth Thea Campbell Mystery. It is yet untitled, but I'm hoping to change that soon with a contest! In this adventure Thea and Paul discover human bones buried in their backyard. The disappearance of the skeleton only feeds the local rumor mill. Talk of ghosts and the Lost Treasure of Snohomish pull the two of them into a mystery that is still very much alive!
An Error In Judgment, is the third Thea Campbell Mystery. During the awards ceremony at the Puget Sound Dressage Society's annual banquet dressage judge Sig Paalmann collapses and dies. The wealthy man leaves his bride of two months -- Thea's estranged friend, Andrea -- and enigmatic last words.
Thea's initial plan to reestablish her friendship with Andrea, despite the arrogant man she married, grows into resolve to support her through the crisis. But Andrea needs more than support when her husband's death is deemed murder and she is arrested.
With boyfriend Paul Hudson's help, Thea's digs in to investigate only to discover complications far worse than either had anticipated. Andrea is pregnant and in fragile health, warring business partners jockey for control, slighted family members turn ruthless, and Thea and Paul become pawns in a desperate struggle for money and power. But, the situation, already critical, takes an even more personal twist with the arrival of an old nemesis -- a man capable of orchestrating not only Sig's death but the grave danger stalking Andrea, Thea and Paul.
A little bit about the author.
I live in the great state of Washington with my husband, two children (although one is at college), and a variety of animals or various species. The horse lives within easy driving distance. When not writing stories about people in the next town being murdered, articles for worthy publications, or blogging, I train horses and teach people how to ride them.
I pinned my attention on the big screen while photographs reeled in rapid succession and the lively, theatrical music played in preparation for the announcement of Fourth Level Horse of the Year. In moments, the flow of images slowed.
"For Fourth Level Horse of the Year …." Sig's voice trailed off as the display of pictures stopped on a familiar dark bay gelding.
My jaw dropped.
It was Blackie.
I cringed and slid lower in my seat, shielding my eyes with my hands, as if I could hide behind them. What else could possibly go wrong tonight? Someone had selected the wrong picture. I never checked the "qualifying" box on the show entries I submitted. Humiliated, I waited for someone to point out the error.
Sig's voice came over the speaker. "The Black Queen's Bishop ridden by Thea Campbell."
I turned, in confusion, to Paul. He was beaming and applauding. Was this why he'd been in a happy mood all day and been concerned about me dragging my feet? Was this the reason he practically wrestled with me to keep me in my chair?
I looked to Uncle Henry for an explanation. He winked at me as he clapped. "I adjusted your entries before I sent them in."
Unable to process what was going on, I remained rooted to my chair.
Juliet dove across Paul, and he jerked back as she narrowly missed clocking him in the jaw with her head. She grabbed my arm and shook me. "Go, go! That's you! Get up! Get up!"
Stunned to the point of accepting orders from my sister, I did what she said and hurried to the stage. Paalmann fixed a friendly, if tipsy, gaze on me. But as I approached his smile quavered then vanished, his lips pressed into a white line. Shocked, I hesitated, but he thrust the ribbon at me. It slipped through his fingers. I lunged and caught it as he mumbled a "sorry." Then he picked up the silver bowl from the trophy table with both hands and passed it to me. I murmured a "thank you," my smile shaky, and (surprised he offered) shook his damp, icy hand. Within the brief moment we made eye contact perspiration popped on his brow and his complexion turned waxy.
"Congrat --" He swayed, tugging at his collar with both hands.
As if by a collective decision the room turned utterly silent. Only the cheerful Broadway music played on.
With a jerk, he went rigid. His eyes made a frantic search of the audience before rolling upward. He toppled like one of his toys.
The silver bowl and ribbon fell from my hands, crashing to the floor at the same moment as Sig. The room erupted in a cacophony of shouts and gasps. I leaped forward, dropped to my knees, and with two efficient flicks, undid his tie. Footsteps pounded across the stage behind me. Sig's eyes fluttered open.
"Lay still. You'll be okay." As I fumbled with his collar buttons, his hands shot up, capturing both my wrists in a crushing grip. I yelped and tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let go. His eyes focused on mine, desperate, commanding.
"Hudson … Paul Hudson … tell him …." His voice was raw with pleading. Even as it failed him, his eyes continued to beg.
A woman, kneeling on the other side of Sig, undid his shirt button. "Try to stay calm, Mr. Paalmann. I'm a doctor. An ambulance is on the way."
I tugged against his grip, but his rigid fingers would not release me.
"Tell him," he repeated.
"Tell him what?" I glanced at the doctor, who met my gaze and shook her head.
With enormous effort Sig tried again. "Tell Hudson … Andrea … must understand … my name. It must have my name."
How can my readers buy your book?
My three books are:
Death By A Dark Horse - the first Thea Campbell Mystery
Levels Of Deception - the second Thea Campbell Mystery
An Error in Judgment - the third Thea Campbell Mystery
All my books are available on:
Amazon in e-book format as well as trade paperback.
The tiny URL for Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/7egcszl
Barnes & Noble in e-book format and trade paperback
Smashwords in e-book format
And most e-book retailers and bookstores.
I love to hear from readers and can be found on :
Facebook at Susan Schreyer Mysteries https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Schreyer-Mysteries/161359303906634
Blog: Writing Horses http://writinghorses.blogspot.com
Blog: Things I Learned From My Horse http://thingsilearnedfrommyhorse.com
***NOTE Susan will be giving away one ebook copy of her book to one lucky winner, You must leave a comment. Check back tomorrow to see who the winner is.***