In November I had the pleasure of meeting Susannah Hardy / Sadie Hartwell (aka Jane). We were able to talk briefly and she was estatic about doing an Author Interview and Book Giveaway. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and get to know this amazing author.....
Why a Greek theme? I love the Greek theme, so what was the inspiration? Were you able to go to Greece for your research?
These are great questions. I’m not Greek. Nor is my heroine, Georgie, but she married into a Greek family. Like Georgie, during college I worked as a waitress in a Greek restaurant, so I got to observe certain family dynamics as well as the inner workings of a restaurant. After college, I backpacked through Europe with my bestie, and we spent quite a bit of time in Greece. We had the time of our lives! And I fell in love with the food, the breathtaking scenery, and the welcoming, beautiful (and I do mean beautiful—there is not an unattractive man, woman, or child in the entire country, I’m convinced) people. As a more practical matter, when it came time that I wanted to write a cozy mystery, I realized that there was no cozy out there about a Greek restaurant—which is a big part of the reason I sold it so easily.
How long does it take to write a book ?
My first draft usually takes me between three and four months, sometimes as much as six. I write fairly slowly, but by doing so I’ve never had to make any substantive changes to my first drafts. I take a break of a week or so, then go back in and clean up the prose (my favorite part—yes, I’m weird, LOL!). The finished product that you read is very close to what I initially wrote.
Why do you write under 2 different names? How do you balance them?
I took a pen name because my maiden name is, shall we say, politically controversial, even though I don’t believe I’m related at all to a couple of recent former presidents and a current presidential candidate—or if I am, the relationship is at least four hundred years back. My married name has an unusual spelling and pronunciation, and I wanted readers to be able to find me easily. So I looked into my genealogy and took a name I liked, that of my great-great-great grandmother, Susannah Hardy. When I sold the Tangled Web mysteries to a different publisher, I was required by the publisher to take a new name, so I chose one with the same initials and a similar sound. Readers are smart, so I knew they’d be able to make the association. As for how I’m handling it, I admit it’s tough, especially this month when I have a book releasing under each name. Anybody have any suggestions for keeping me sane, LOL?
Do you have a writing schedule?
It varies. My other job is freelance editing, mostly in the romance and young adult genres, so if I have one of those jobs on tap I try to get a few hours done on that project in the mornings, since just like I do, those writers have deadlines and they’re generally fairly tight. That leaves me the afternoons to work on my own writing, and I sometimes do another writing session after dinner. If I don’t have an editing job, I like to write in the mornings and get my word count in earlier, so I have a bit more free time.
What do you like to do when not writing?
I like to read (of course!); putter in my flower gardens in the nice weather (I admit I’m not the world’s best gardener, but I’m trying to learn!); take long walks (during which I either listen to an audio book or think about my own plot and characters); knit, crochet, or sew; cook; and I love to travel.
Do you read? If so, what kinds of books do you read? Favorite author?
Of course! I read all kinds of books, both fiction and nonfiction, though of course I love me some mysteries the best. It might surprise you to find that I read horror of the Stephen King variety. And I like to read romance too. Mystery writers can learn so much from reading other genres. The horror writers really understand pacing and suspense and delving into a character’s deepest fears; the romance writers really understand character development as shown through emotions. And these are all elements that make a mystery novel better. As for my favorite author, I would say that my favorite book of all time is Jane Eyre. But the author I most love is the late Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. I could read or listen to her books every day and never grow tired of them.
What book are you reading now? (at time of interview)
I’m reading a romance right now, Gail Chianese’s Boyfriend for Hire. Next on my list are Maddie Day’s Flipped for Murder, Julianne Holmes’s Just Killing Time, and Cleo Coyle’s Dead to the Last Drop.
What "technology" do you use for writing?
I am a very linear writer so I don’t use any of the writing programs out there, though some writers swear by them. I open a new document in MS Word on my four-year-old laptop, type “Chapter One,” and write through to the end. I also use an old-fashioned stenographer’s notebook, which I carry with me everywhere in case an idea hits, and plain old index cards (sometimes I go nuts and get the colored ones) to brainstorm my ideas for scenes. The only other things I use are a pen, any old pen, and a kitchen timer, which I use to keep myself from getting distracted when I’m supposed to be writing.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration pretty much everywhere I go, but I’d have to say spending time with my writer friends (and I’m blessed to have a LOT of them here in New England) is what really gets my writing motor revving.
Does your family read your books?
My husband and son don’t read my books. They prefer a little more action and a little less cozy, I think. And we all know that most—not all, but most—cozy readers are women. But my sisters, nieces, mom, and aunts all read my books, and are my biggest fans and cheerleaders.
When and why did you begin writing?
My fiction writing journey really began in high school, when I took AP English from a wonderful teacher (to whom I dedicated my first book, by the way). I wrote a couple of short stories and some bad poetry. Over the years, I had the vague desire to write a novel, but was never able to get past the first chapter. When I got to be a woman of a certain age, and my son was old enough not to need me so much, and my husband was busy starting a new business, I took stock and realized that I would regret it on my deathbed if I never finished a novel.
Note, I didn’t say published a novel. I only wanted to write the words “Chapter One” and “The End” and have a complete story in between. So I found a writers’ group, then another one that fit my needs better, and I finished the book that would become Feta Attraction. As for the why, it really was just a matter of self-respect.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider your mentor?
Are you really going to make me choose? Because I have several: Kristan Higgins, Jessica Andersen/Jesse Hayworth, Thea Devine, Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette, and my dear friend Laura Bradford/Elizabeth Lynn Casey have all been incredibly generous with their time, expertise, friendship, and advice. Ladies, if you’re reading this, I love you all!
Out of the two author names you write under do you have a favorite? If so, why?
Well, I like Suze, but Sadie’s growing on me. If I ever write in another genre, though, I plan to write under my own name, regardless of political controversy or unspellability, LOL!
What question do you wish someone would ask you about your books that nobody has?
This one’s easy. “Susannah/Sadie, what’s it going to take for you to allow my employer, the Hallmark Channel, to make both your series into a television movies?”
And some of the readers had a few questions as well....
Peggy Hyndman asked : When you start a new book, do you have all the characters in place and an ending planned or does it come to you as you write ?
For my first book, Feta Attraction, I only knew that I wanted my main character to be a non-Greek woman who had married into a Greek family. I let the characters grow and unfold as I wrote and I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out. Because I sold the next two books (Olive and Let Die and A Killer Kebab, coming out in November) on proposal, and because they were part of a series, I had to do some more prep work on the stories before I wrote them. Same with the knitting series I write as Sadie Hartwell (Yarned and Dangerous). The publisher needed to know what they were buying, so I had to have a general idea of what happens. I can tell you that what I initially plan is not always the way the story turns out. Quite often these characters have secrets that they only reveal to me as I go along, LOL! But I do have to be careful to keep certain details consistent from book to book.
Margaret Rushton asked : Do you have any special rituals you do when writing your books ?
Hmmm. No actual rituals, other than shooing the cat off my keyboard, but I’m thinking about getting some! I usually have a hot beverage (coffee in the morning, herbal tea in the afternoon) by my side, and I also keep an old-fashioned steno pad to the right of my mouse for jotting down notes as they come to me.
Mary Jane Hopper : What is the story about ? Do you make it up as you write ?
The Greek To Me Mysteries are set in a fictional tourist town in the Thousand Islands, which are located in the St. Lawrence River, which separates Canada from New York State. The Bonaparte House is a historic house that has been turned into a Greek restaurant, and my heroine, Georgie, manages the place for her soon-to-be-ex-mother-in-law and soon-to-be-ex-husband. The mysteries always involve some type of local legend—and at least in books 1 through 3, involve family relationships.
The Tangled Web Mysteries are set in a fictional village in Litchfield County, Connecticut. My heroine, Josie, returns home to care for her crotchety great-uncle and in the process takes over her deceased great-aunt’s yarn shop. These mysteries have more to do with the town of Dorset Falls itself rather than Josie’s personal relationships—for now, anyway!
And as for whether I make it up as I go along, yes and no! See my earlier answer.
Karen Kalebaugh asked : Do you write about subjects you are familiar with ?
I did work in a Greek restaurant in a Thousand Islands tourist town for several summers during college, so I know a bit about how a restaurant works from the inside. And I love to cook, so including recipes was a natural fit for the Greek to Me Mysteries. I also love yarn (I knit and crochet, and can also sew fairly well), so writing a knitting series with included patterns is a dream come true.
Dolly Perry wanted to know : What was your favorite yarn project ?
Funny you should ask. If you know anything about Yarn People, you know that we tend to have big stashes of yarn and projects that never got completed. Back in November I decided to attack the stash/projects, and I started a granny square afghan to use up my acrylic yarns. I just put the finishing touches on that, and I gave it to my 17-year-old son, who apparently loves it (he’s slept with it every night since I finished). This project is special to me because he loves it, but also because many of those acrylic yarns were initially used to make a particularly style of hat that my son (and all his friends) wanted when they were in elementary school and junior high—I made a few dozen of these hats in many different color combinations. So when I look at the afghan now, I also see my son as a younger boy, when his going off to college seemed so far in the future. And now you’ve made me cry!
Bio: Susannah Hardy/Sadie Hartwell grew up near the Canadian border in northern New York State, where it’s cold, dark, and snowy almost half the year—a perfect environment for nurturing a simultaneous love of mystery fiction, cooking, and needlework. She attended St. Lawrence University, graduating with a degree in history, and has worked as a waitress, handbag designer/manufacturer, and office drone, before turning to writing and freelance editing full time. Now she gets to play with recipes and yarn and make up stories whenever she wants, and wishes everyone had a job as much fun as hers.
Olive and Let Die: Between her soon-to-be ex-husband Spiro coming out of the closet and her budding romance with Captain Jack Conway, Georgie’s life is beginning to feel like a soap opera. And that’s before a surprise visit from her estranged mother Shirley, better known as soap star Melanie Ashley. But the dramatic family reunion takes a chilling turn when another long-lost relative turns up dead. Georgie begins to wonder if the dead-broke diva is capable of murder. She’d better find out before someone adds a new twist to the family plot.
Yarned and Dangerous: Josie Blair left Dorset Falls twelve years ago in hopes of making it big in New York City. But her great-uncle was injured in a car accident, and newly unemployed Josie is the only person available to take care of him. Uncle Eb’s wife didn’t survive the crash, so Josie is also tasked with selling the contents of her Aunt Cora’s yarn shop. But the needling ladies of the Charity Knitters Association pose a far bigger challenge than a shop full of scattered skeins. And when one of the town’s most persnickety knitters turns up dead in a pile of cashmere yarn, Josie realizes there’s something truly twisted lurking beneath the town’s decaying façade…
Twitter: https://goo.gl/8Y3qU5, @sadiehartwell
********** AND THE WINNER OF THE BOOK OLIVE AND LET DIE IS **********
*************** MARY JANE HOPPER ***************
( Mary Jane please send me your address so I can get Olive And Let Die in the mail to you !!!!! )