For many years, award-winning novelist Susan Fleet worked as a trumpeter in the Boston area. While teaching at Brown University and Berklee College of Music she discovered her dark side and began writing crime fiction. In 2001 she moved to New Orleans, the setting for her Frank Renzi mystery series. The Premier Book Awards named her first novel, Absolution, Best Mystery/Suspense/Thriller of 2009
She blogs about true crime at DARK DEEDS: Serial killers, stalkers and domestic homicides. http://darkdeeds.susanfleet.com/dark_deeds_book.html#.UYvV_MqYFaI
Her other passion is promoting talented female musicians. While teaching at Berklee, she created a course about 20th Century women musicians, jazz and classical. Her e-book, Women Who Dared: Trailblazing 20th Century Musicians, spotlights violinist Maud Powell and trumpeter Edna White. http://susanfleet.com/women_who_dared-vol1.html
What inspires you to write?
My father was a print journalist and I get many of my ideas from newspapers. Real life can be crazier than fiction! My first novel, Absolution, was inspired by a serial killer terrorizing young women in Baton Rouge. I was living in New Orleans, so I created a serial killer who stalked and murdered young women in New Orleans. People loved my protagonist, NOPD detective Frank Renzi, so I also featured him in my second book, Diva, about a demented stalker. I’m never at a shortage of ideas, so the third book in the series quickly followed: Natalie’s Revenge.
Tell us about your writing process.
I doodle around with ideas, but once I figure out the basics, I do what I call a scene breakdown using an Excel spreadsheet. Each line is a scene: who’s the POV character, who else is in the scene and what happens. My breakdowns aren’t rigid, so sometimes the plot changes. Before I begin writing, I create a biography for my main characters, including a timeline for important events.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
Whoa! Do I listen to them? You bet! Lots of times when I’m swimming my laps in the pool, they talk to me, and believe me, when that happens, I pay attention. Creating great characters is the key. If your characters don’t grab the reader by the throat, nothing else matters.
What advice would you give other writers?
Learn as much as you can about plotting and creating characters. Write, re-write, and re-write some more. Once the rough draft is done, the really difficult part begins. Polish your writing until it shines. Have objective readers, not family, not friends, read your manuscript and give feedback. Writing is hard work. Between 1990 and 2000, I wrote 5 novels and threw 3 of them away. They weren’t ready for prime time. The other 2 may surface someday. Stay tuned!
How did you decide how to publish your books?
Three agents asked to read the complete mss of Absolution. All of them loved the plot and the characters and my writing, BUT all three rejected me with the same comment: “The mystery, suspense thriller market is overcrowded, so I’m going to pass.” But I believed in the book. So I polished it some more and published it myself in 2008, and it won a couple of awards and some good reviews. I wouldn’t presume to tell others what to do, but I will say that it is rare when an author publishes their FIRST book. Most published authors will tell you that their first published book was their third or fourth.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
If I knew what was going to happen with the publishing business, I’d be making a million dollars. No one knows, but I can tell you that ebooks are here to stay. And selling via the Internet is a fabulous opportunity to reach readers all over the world. Many of my readers live in the UK. Generally speaking, I’m very optimistic about the publishing business.
What do you use?
Professional Editor, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Mystery-suspense, true crime, and musician biography
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print
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