Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Interview with Susanna Calkins

What is the title of your newest book? How many books have you published?
So far I have written five historical mysteries; the first four are in the Lucy Campion Mysteries, set in 17th century London. Murder Knocks Twice is the first in my new series, The Speakeasy Murders, set in 1920s Chicago.
Susanna Calkins
(photo credit Lisa Nield)

How did you develop your character and choose your location?
Gina Ricci is the main character of The Speakeasy Murders; the book begins with her first day of work as a cigarette seller at a Chicago speakeasy. I chose Chicago because I live in the area now, and the location was easy to research. I chose the Near West Side, because the neighborhood was completely disrupted in the 1960s when many existing buildings and businesses were torn down to make way for University of Illinois Chicago campus. Terrible for the neighborhood, but helpful for a writer. I had more freedom to put shops and buildings where I wanted.

What is a day in the life of an author like? Do you write a certain number of words, do you write in the morning or evening?
I always feel like an impostor saying this, but because I work full time and have two kids, my writing just happens anywhere and anyhow I can fit it. There are some benefits to writing this way, however, because: (1) I tend to be very focused when I do have 20 minutes here or 70 minutes there. I will usually write a scene—fast—and then I feel good about it. (2) Because I have basically two other jobs on top of writing, I don’t make myself feel guilty about not writing. I only feel good about getting anything on the page, whether its 4 pages or a paragraph. On average, I would say I usually get most of my novel writing done on the weekends, in between family and book events.

Do you belong to a writers group or are you in touch with other writers? How does that help your writing?
I’m not part of any critique group or anything like that, but I am a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, and am active in both groups. So I connect a lot with other writers in those organizations, and sometimes I might ask a writing friend to read over a draft.

Do you model your character after yourself or any one you know?
My characters are definitely not me, but I would say that both Lucy (of the Lucy Campion Mysteries) and Gina (of the Speakeasy Murders) both represent versions of women I might like to be. Lucy is a better person than I am, and Gina much tougher and more fun than me. They are both smarter and more self-sufficient than myself.

If your books were made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead character?
Maybe a younger version of Lyndsy Fonseca.

Who is your favorite author? 
Ah, so many to choose from! I’ll give you a handful: Jane Austen, Lloyd Alexander, Charles Todd, Patricia Cornwell.

How do you keep track of character details from book to book so they are consistent?
Basically I just imagine different actors and actresses as my characters, until I can figure out one or two (often an amalgamation of a few) who seem “right.” Than I just put pictures of them in a powerpoint presentation. Much easier to keep track of tricky character descriptions, particularly since I prefer for readers to fill in the details and I don’t like to overdraw them.

If you could not be an author, what would like to do as a career?
Hmmm....well I mentioned that I have a day job, right? So I teach at the college level, and I teach teachers how to teach. So I’m a teacher. However, if I couldn’t be a teacher or a writer, I’d have liked to be a cop or a detective (except that I’m afraid of creepy basements and I don’t like scary thing).

For a review of Death Along the River Fleet, click here.

1 comment:

Denise Kainrath said...

Very nice interview!