Welcome Back — Susan Van Kirk #giveaway

Laini is the winner of Susan’s book! Watch for an email from Susan.

It is my pleasure welcoming Susan Van Kirk to celebrate her latest release–Death in a Bygone Hue. Susan and I are from the same general area of the Midwest. She’s generous with her time along with a prolific author.

Here’s a bit about the book:

When Jill Madison returns to her hometown to become executive director of a new art center, she never dreams unexpected secrets from the past will put her life in danger. Her parent’s old friend and Jill’s mentor, Judge Ron Spivey, is murdered. He leaves behind more than a few secrets from the past. His baffling will makes Jill a rich woman if she survives the will’s six-month probate period.

She finds a target on her back when the judge’s estranged children return. They form an unholy alliance with a local muckraking journalist who specializes in making up the news. According to the judge’s will, if Jill dies, the family inherits.

Jill and her best friend, Angie Emerson, launch their own investigation determined to find the judge’s killer. In the meantime, Jill must run her first national juried exhibit, launch a new seniors group, and move the weavers guild into the art center. Easy peasy, right?

The Motivation of My Latest Character by Susan Van Kirk

Recently, writer E.B. Davis wrote this statement about my second Art Center Mystery, Death in a Bygone Hue, which came out June 6 from Level Best Books.

“It isn’t often that a second book in a series compels my reading more than the first in the series. But I could identify with the internal struggles that main character Jill Madison endures in Death in a Bygone Hue…The murder victim was someone we came to know in the first book, and who championed the main character. This intimate knowledge of the victim made Jill’s quest for justice meaningful. Too frequently, that element is missing in mysteries—mainly cozy mysteries—because no one wants the victim to be mourned too much. And yet it is this element that makes the story compelling and memorable.”

Her kind thoughts about my recently launched mystery prompted some memories about a value that underpins my latest book. Despite the serious tone of this post, my book is also filled with humor. It’s a cozy that leans into traditional.

Through forty-four years of high school and college teaching, I taught from the core of my values and beliefs. This idea guided my unconscious thinking as I wrote Death in a Bygone Hue. I realized that loyalty is a value that has guided my life and my thoughts about the folks with whom I have worked. It’s important to me.

When I taught at the high school level, I experienced a bitter book challenge that divided our small town and questioned the thinking of faculty, parents, and students alike. Through a tough eight-week period, my principal and superintendent always had my back. I’ve never forgotten their unwavering loyalty and faith in my judgement. I was correct in refusing to ban a book, and I will forever feel gratitude for their belief in me. Loyalty.

When I moved to the college level, I discovered a different business model. Politics permeated the surface of every college decision. It’s a business, unlike a public high school. But a department chairman had my back, and his faith in my teaching and his loyalty kept me going. He’s another colleague I’ll never forget.

The idea of loyalty pervades my writing, but never more so than in my newest book, Death in a Bygone Hue. Jill Madison, my protagonist and executive director of the local art center, has a friend for life in Angie Emerson. They’ve been BFFs since early grade school, and although their lives went in different directions, they still have each other’s backs, even in the face of murder.

A second loyalty in the newest art center book hangs on the murder of someone who had Jill’s back in extremely demanding situations at the art center. The victim had given Jill a second chance when she ran afoul of the art center board of directors. Ron Spivey is a retired judge who is the treasurer of her art center board, and Jill is the Executive Director. He believed in her, he guided her, and he championed her. He was someone with whom she could share the memories of her deceased parents. Now, he is a murder victim, and Jill will not stop until his killer is brought to justice.

After she stumbles on her mentor’s body, Jill says, “I took a huge gulp of air as a more sobering thought hit me. Now the judge was gone too, like his wife and my parents. All gone. This was so wrong. I still had too much to ask him, too much to share. He was supposed to be like my dad. My chest heaved again, the sobs coming in waves. I sat on the porch swing, my fingers finding tissues in my bag, and wept because he’d always been kind to me. He’d understood second chances and had given me mine.”

Loyalty. It’s an important value to me, and it’s fitting that if I write from what I believe, loyalty should take center stage in my latest book, Death in a Bygone Hue.

Readers, do your favorite characters follow a path where they stay true to a strong value or code of conduct throughout their story? Susan will give away a copy of Death in a Bygone Hue (US only) to someone who leaves a comment!


Susan Van Kirk is the president of the Guppy Chapter, the online chapter of Sisters in Crime, and a writer of cozy mysteries. She lives at the center of the universe—the Midwest—and writes during the ridiculously cold and icy winters. Why leave the house and break something? Van Kirk taught forty-four years in high school and college and raised three children. Now that the children are launched, she writes.

Her Endurance mysteries include Three May Keep a Secret, Marry in Haste, The Locket: From the Casebook of TJ Sweeney, Death Takes No Bribes, and The Witch’s Child. She also wrote A Death at Tippitt Pond. Her latest Art Center Mysteries include Death in a Pale Hue and Death in a Bygone Hue from Level Best Books. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Website:  www.susanvankirk.com

FB  http://www.facebook.com/SusanVanKirkAuthor/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/susanivankirk/

Goodreads  www.goodreads.com/author/show/586.Susan_Vankirk

54 Thoughts

  1. Congratulations on your new book release. I’m reading it right now and enjoying it.

  2. Welcome back, Susan, and congratulations! How wonderful you had an advocate at the college level – I experienced those kind of politics when I went through my PhD program and it ain’t pretty. I can’t wait to to read the new book.

  3. Congratulations on your new book! The plot sounds very interesting!

  4. I do prefer characters who share my core values, and luckily cozies always seem to fulfill that need! Lead characters and also side ones who are very honest and trustworthy, with deep family values and integrity, are characteristics of those I want to read about. And I do like the idea that in your book the murder victim is someone readers already care about because I’ve noticed most cozies have the murder victim be a not-so-nice townsperson.

    1. Thanks so much, Kathy. I’ve found with a series that it’s a good idea to move some characters into the limelight who have not been there in the past. And often I take a main character from the past and pull him back. I’m a moving company, I guess.

  5. I do enjoy reading about a favorite character or characters who share my values. Your book sounds great! Thanks for the chance!

  6. First off, I have to say I love finding new to me author. Then to find one with such an amazing sounding book is a double bonus. Thank you Wickeds for introducing me to Susan Van Kirk who I’ve already liked on Facebook and Goodreads in order to follow her works.

    For me to follow a character through several books, they definitely have to have good value or code of conduct. It’s what makes them enduring and lasting. Without them they won’t be the type of person I would wish to be associated with much less follow. The more a character follows our way of thinking the more we can relate to them I think. To show emotion, to stumble or even to fail are human components, but if your core values aren’t there, you can’t be the person you try to portray. Loyalty is a main one for me. Having gone through some rough times, I found that “friends” that lacked that quality faded into the woodwork. While it might have been hard at the time, it taught me to value those that were loyal to our friendship all the more. Another one is honesty. As my Granny use to say, it’s easier to be honest than to lie and then have to keep up with what you lied about.

    Thank you for the chance to win a copy of “Death in a Bygone Hue”. I would love nothing more than the opportunity to read and review it as I get to know more about Jill and get to know a new to me author even better through her writing.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Excellent comments, Kay. I’d agree with your Granny. I think authors need to give readers more than a mystery. They need to say something, and I try to do that with my themes. Thanks for stopping in.

  7. Great to see another book in this series! This one sounds fabulous.

  8. Congratulations, Susan! Yes, my favorite characters have a code they live and make decisions by. I try to write the same into my the protagonists in my books.

  9. Congratulations, Susan! Please don’t enter me in the drawing. I was a fortunate early reader and highly recommend the book.

    Characters who honor their personal code of ethics always attract me in reading, writing, and in real life.

  10. My favorite characters do always stay true to their values or value system. That is why they are likable to me!

  11. Congratulations on your new release, Susan! I always hope my characters will make good choices. I’d like to think that most of they agree to do so. LOL

  12. Congratulations on your release! I definitely prefer my characters to share my principles and values. This is an important ingredient in books and my life too.

  13. Welcome to the Wickeds, Susan. I do love a protagonist who has a code and abides by it. Loyalty is a particularly attractive one for me.

  14. Congrats on the new release. Loyalty is one of the most important attributes as far as I’m concerned. People who are loyal tend to also have a lot of admirable qualities. Like everyone else here, I want the protagonist to be a good person I can relate to.

    1. I agree with you, Ginny. There’s nothing like a book where I begin reading and don’t like anyone. I generally put it down pretty fast. I, too, like protagonists I can relate to.

  15. congratulations on the book. it sounds like a great series.
    I like indiviudals who stay true to themselves both in books as well as life.

    fruitcrmble AT comcast DOT net

  16. My favorite characters do seem to have the same values that I do. I guess that’s why I read cozies. I’ve read a few of your other books and enjoyed them. Looking forward to reading your new release.

  17. Thanks so much for reading my books, Dianne. I like the atmosphere of cozies because I see so much violence everywhere else in our world. It gives me a warm feeling to put the world back to rights again in my books.

  18. Yes. I can think of two characters, Hannah Swensen from Joanne Fluke’s books, and Addie Clayborne from Lauren Elliott’s Beyond the Page Mysteries. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

  19. I love characters with good character and morals. I have always tried to live my life in a good way. Loyalty is something that is not always part of our world anymore. Too many people are just out for themselves. I taught for 38 1/2 years and besides the subject matter, I had to teach morals, values and ethics to my students as they weren’t being taught at home. When I was growing up and you went to the bank or other places, you knew everyone, and they knew you because they stayed working there forever. That was loyalty. I love cozies because I do not like blood and gore and nasty characters anymore. There is so much friendship shown in these mysteries. And the books with dogs or cats show more loyalty and good character. I feel that it is hard to kill off a good character that you have come to like, but it is part of life unfortunately that not just the bad guys get theirs. I still grieve the killing of Chief Rawlins in the Books by the Bay mysteries by Ellery Adams and then the series just having Olivia go off to grieve with Captain Haviland her poodle and never be heard of again. You get attached but sometimes that makes you invested in the story more. Your book sounds like it is right up my alley. I would love to win it. Thank you.

  20. I do like a character who has a strong moral sense and sticks to the rules. I have read a few where they are breaking and entering to find clues. I cannot wait to read your books . Thank you

  21. Congratulations on your new release! I do enjoy characters with a strong sense of character. I enjoy reading about readers who share some of my values such as loyalty and responsibility.

  22. Loyalty isn’t around every corner today as it use to be. It’s a rare commodity today. I believe in it. I believe that you should be there for those who have been there for you. I believe those people deserve your best. It’s refreshing to see it in a story where it never strays off course. Its satisfying and it makes me wish that I knew more people like the two in your book who have each other’s backs no matter what. Just like your first set of books, these characters are going to stay with me. Thanks Susan for staying true to yourself.

    1. Perfect comment from a loyal reader. I’m with you on this quality. My other heroine, Grace Kimball, from my Endurance mysteries, has a strong sense of character and a code she lives by too. Thanks so much for reading my mysteries!

    1. Me too. That’s why I write them in both of my mystery series. And sometimes you think–even in life–that you’re so tired and you can’t go on any longer, but you somehow find the strength to do it. We’ve all been there. Thanks for stopping by.

  23. Loyalty is huge for me. It means a lot when a character stays true to their goals.

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