When did you start writing?
Other than school assignments, my writing career began in high school, when I produced a comic strip based on a biology-loving superheroine who wore a plastic microscope cover on her head. I also produced a couple of dreadful short stories and some deliberately bad poetry (one line I recall is: A porkpie hat settles effortlessly to the ground). I am grateful that all of this drivel has been lost to time and to the cleaning efforts of one of my younger sisters who moved into my bedroom when I moved out. I started writing seriously, with the intent of completing a novel, about five years ago, after my son was old enough to not need me so much and preferred hanging out with his friends more than his parents.
Did you always want to write a novel?
Yes and no. Reading was always a huge part of my life, whether I was being read to by a favorite aunt or later when I learned to recognize words on a page. The dream of actually writing a novel of my own came later—because writing was something other people did. People with muses, and some innate desire and talent that mere mortals such as myself did not possess. But in my adult life, the deep-down want was always there. I just didn’t know how to make it happen. So I wrote in fits and starts (I have a virtual drawer full of the first chapters of manuscripts). Finally, I took stock of myself and realized that if I died without having written a complete novel, I would regret it. And so I joined a writing group at the local library, and found a friend who is still a bestie to this day, and we started the writing journey together. As much as writing is a solitary undertaking, I don’t know anyone who can do it alone. After I’d completed a manuscript, I joined a professional organization (RWA) that taught me the business side of writing and that made all the difference in helping me make the transition from writer to professional writer.
How did you find your agent?
I had been sitting on the manuscript that became FETA ATTRACTION for a while (like a couple of years!), continuing to trim unnecessary stuff and tweaking the beginning until it fit the cozy mystery genre. Finally, I realized I needed to let go of my perfectionism and push myself to try to sell it, so I gave myself a deadline—six months to find an agent or a digital-first publisher, or I would indie publish the novel. Either way, it was time to move on to something else. So I took a targeted approach. I went to the cozy mystery section in Barnes and Noble and looked at every book on the shelf, checking the acknowledgements to see if the author thanked her agent. This gave me a list of professionals I knew could sell my book, and I submitted to all of them, plus the major digital-first publishers. I got some rejections, and some requests for partials and fulls.
During this time I attended Crime Bake, the annual conference put on by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. A friend introduced me to her agent, and he requested that I submit to him, which I did after the conference. He loved the premise and the book, and offered me representation. Exciting, right? Except, I did some research on him and realized he’d never sold a cozy mystery. This isn’t to say he couldn’t do it, just that he never had. But this put me in a great position. I went back to all the top agents I had targeted previously and let them know that I had an offer from someone else. This moved me up in their queues, so to speak. John Talbot called me and when I spoke to him, I knew immediately he was the agent for me. We put together a proposal, and two weeks after I first spoke to John, we had a deal with Berkley. And I had two months left on my personal deadline, LOL!
Did you write your novel before submitting it to your agent? Or did you submit a proposal?
FETA ATTRACTION was finished when I submitted. I also had synopses done for the next two books in the series. This was a huge advantage when it came time to put the proposal together for the editor and that’s part of the reason I was able to sell it so fast.
What appealed to you about the cozy mystery genre?
I don’t just write cozies—I read them, and I love them! I love the small communities, and the recurring characters, and that the cozies are published in series, because it is so much fun to come back to all the characters who survived the curse of living in that small community, LOL! But the thing I love best is that justice is always served. There’s always a satisfying resolution, and the bad guy or girl always gets comeuppance. In a real world where horrible things happen every day and get plastered over the news media and rehashed and analyzed to excess, the ability to escape into a cozy mystery where justice is dispensed in the end is a real gift.
How did you develop the recipes for your book?
I’m not Greek, and neither is my heroine, so there was a bit of a learning curve, although Greek food is generally simple to make—yet very complex in its simplicity, LOL! I do lots of digging around on recipe sites and people’s personal blogs, and find tons of recipes that I can play with as a starting point. When I find one that looks promising, I try it out on my family, making a few tweaks to make it my own. Then I write out the ingredients and the instructions, let them sit for a day or two, then go back and double check them to make sure I didn’t write “baking powder” when I meant “baking soda,” as happened to me recently. Not surprisingly, working on the recipes is one of the most fun parts of writing my series!
What has been the most surprising thing about the publication process?
That I’m actually part of the publication process. I’m still pinching myself.
How did you come up with your pen name? And why are you using one?
I chose the name of my great-great-great grandmother, Susannah Pickard Hardy. I don’t know much of anything about her except that her father was a Revolutionary War veteran, entitling me to get into the DAR someday! And I liked her name. I took a pen name when I first started blogging and writing, because my maiden name is politically controversial (even though any possible relationship is very remote), and my married name has an unusual Germanic spelling that I thought would make it difficult for readers to find me.
Books 2 and 3 in the Greek to Me Mysteries are in the queue. And I’m developing a proposal for a new cozy mystery series that I’m really excited about. Fingers crossed this one sells, because it’s going to be a lot of fun and I love my heroine already.
Thanks for having me here today, Wickeds! It’s always fun to visit with you.
Susannah is a member of the New England Chapter of Sisters in Crime, the Romance Writers of America and the Connecticut Chapter of RWA. Susannah is originally from Northern New York State (Way north! Only a few miles from the Canadian border), graduated from St. Lawrence University, and now lives in Connecticut with her husband, teenaged son, and Elvira the Wonder Cat.
Readers: Susannah will be stopping in all day to answer questions.