Welcome Guest Susan C. Shea — Finding Inspiration

Congratulations Autumn Trapani — you won a copy of Dressed for Death in Burgundy. Watch for an email from Susan!

Welcome guest Susan C. Shea author of French Village Mystery series and the Dani O’Rourke mystery series! Susan is giving away a copy of Dressed for Death in Burgundy to someone who leaves a comment on the blog. Here’s a bit about Dressed for Death in Burgundy:

After finding herself mixed up in a murder investigation the previous Summer, Katherine Goff’s life simply has not been the same. Her husband has been in the US recording a new album, the Burgundy region locals are finally starting to see her as a real neighbor, and Katherine has even started helping out with “tourist” excursions. It seems she’s finally found her place in the small community of Reigny-sur-Canne.

But when Katherine stumbles across a body in the local museum during a tour, she finds herself caught up once again in a whirlwind of gossip and speculation. When the police zero in on her friend Pippa as a suspect, Pippa and Katherine team up to find the real killer and clear her name.

However, the more clues they discover, the more the real killer wants them off the trail. When Katherine and Pippa start receiving threats, they must decide what they are more afraid of—the police getting it wrong, or possibly becoming the killer’s next targets.

Many writers have the ability to snatch a whole story from a news item, or the history of international spies, or Civil War letters. That impresses me so much. But for me, it’s the push and pull, the troubles and triumphs close to home – family, friends, colleagues – that set off my creative sparks.

For a number of years, my day (and often evening and weekend) job was a mix of sensitive communications and high-value donor fundraising for non-profits. I spent time listening for clues as to what would move a millionaire or billionaire to support the organization I worked for. I also spent time working with leadership to get good news out to our constituents and get bad news out before anyone else did. There were always a lot of egos in the room and none of them could be mine. The work was arduous but, frankly, lots of fun most of the time.

My time off was spent with my Significant Other visiting museums, hanging out in his art studio, dropping into art openings in the city, visiting other places known for their visual arts. Many of our friends were artists, and some of them were off-the-charts individualists.

They were all – the artists, the millionaires, the corporate leaders – food for my creativity. The super rich have problems handling so much money and the labels put on them. Artists often have problems handling so little money! Put the two extremes together and my Dani O’Rourke series about a San Francisco fundraiser for an art museum was born. I drew on much that was accurate about these worlds, but invented characters who could show the extremes I needed for a murder mystery.

Follow an artist who, with her patient husband, pulled up stakes on a whim and moved to a tiny town in France, and the inspiration for my Burgundy mysteries was there in front of me. I have acknowledged in the French books that my fictional protagonist and her music-making husband were drawn from the lives of my friends, even though I did the same thing – stretched them into entirely different shapes to serve my fictional ends.

Readers tell me they enjoy learning a bit about what makes the secondary art market (artwork sold again after the artist sold it to its first owner) so wild and crazy and subject to criminal activity. Other people write to say they love reading about a part of France they don’t yet know because it feeds their desire for travel. For me it’s a validation that there’s plenty of worthy material to draw on from my own experiences, with a dash of humor from my own private observations, and real affection for people like some of Dani O’Rourke’s colleagues and Katherine’s rural neighbors.

Catriona McPherson (now, there’s a wonderful crime fiction author!) gave me a novel last year that I adore, Miss Buncle’s Book, by DE Stevenson, who wrote in the 1930s. Miss Buncle also looked close to home for her fiction, with hilarious results. I highly recommend it and the message it sends: Creativity lives everywhere, and we writers only need to look and listen to find inspiration for a thousand stories bubbling up all around us!

Readers: How do you express your creativity?

Bio: Susan C Shea is the author of two critically-acclaimed mystery series, the first set in San Francisco’s art world and the second in a small town in France. She is a past president of the Northern California chapter of Sisters in Crime, services as secretary of the national board of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and former member of its NorCal chapter board. She spent twenty-five years in the not-for-profit world before beginning to write full time. She lives in Marin County, CA.

37 Thoughts

  1. Welcome to the blog, Susan! I read a few of your SF series and loved them, and now intend to pick up this Burgundy series.

    Of course, I express my creativity through the keyboard, as do you, but also in cooking and occasionally in a quilt.

  2. I am not particularly creative but love to do needlework – mostly cross stitch. I love the series – just finished Dressed for Death ad can’t wait to read more!

  3. Welcome to the Wicked Cozies, Susan. Your series sounds fabulous. I spent many years among angel investors and venture capitalists, or rich-white-guys-who-once-did-one-thing-right-so-now-they-think-they-know-everything, as I used to call them.

  4. I do crocheting and counted cross stitch. There are several projects, patterns, and kits calling to me from the shelves of our spare room. Also, I do a bit of sewing. Thanks for the great post and the giveaway!

  5. I’m not a particularly creative person, but I love photography, especially the DIY darkroom techniques of old. I love working with the chemicals and seeing what will emerge in the developer tray.

    I love reading books set in other countries and learning about their geography and cultural. I would be delighted to win your latest book!

    1. Ah, so you still develop film? It’s becoming a lost art with the advent of digital these days and even the good phone cameras. One of my sons still loves to shoot film and develop it and he’s teaching the skill to his teenage daughter too, although I really doubt there will be film left soon.

  6. I want to be a writer when I grow up, so definitely writing! I love to loosely write about things and events I’ve had, so I’m always looking for adventures. I also love photography! Can’t wait to read your book, Susan!

  7. These books sound very interesting. I enjoy learning about new professions in books plus a mystery good times. Hope I win a new book.Thanks for the chance.

  8. I use colored charts & graphs in presentations. It makes numbers & data less boring & easier to understand.

  9. I am not a very creative person. Besides reading, I knit and do some beading once in awhile. You are a new author to me. I really enjoyed the synopsis of the book and it sounds like a great read.

  10. My creativity must have missed a couple generations! I like to crochet but only once in a while. I really don’t have the patience for much except reading. I could get lost for hours just getting involved with a great cozy mystery! Susan, you are a new-to-me author both series look and sound very interesting to me so you will be part of my TBR list of authors!

  11. Great post and I will have to check out Ms. Buncle! I garden as weather permits, still stamp out cards and color them in!

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