Thursday, September 15, 2022

Susan Richards

Susan Richards is the author of the Jessica Kallan mystery series and stand-alone novels of suspense. She strives in each story to create characters who are confronted by circumstances that push them to their limits, test their strength, and challenge their beliefs and integrity—people who would do almost anything to protect the people they love.

Richards’s new novel, Where Secrets Live, was a finalist in the Mystery/Suspense category of the 2018 Daphne du Maurier contest.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, she has lived throughout the Midwest and currently resides in Northern Minnesota. She also spent several years in the Pacific Northwest, moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. Every winter she wonders what the hell she was thinking.

My Q&A with Richards:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The title that my publisher and I landed on, Where Secrets Live, says everything about this book, telling the story of a highly dysfunctional family, buried in decades of secrets.

My original working title was something quite different—more ethereal—and I loved it. When my publisher asked for alternative titles, it was a sad letting-go for me. But after months of working with Where Secrets Live, I’m very happy with it. It gives readers a definite feel for the book.

What's in a name?

I have to be honest . . . I find naming characters one of the most difficult parts of writing a book. I know going in, who my characters are and the roles they will play—but finding a name is not that easy.

In Where Secrets Live, it was a little easier to name my people than in my previous books because most of the main characters were members of a wealthy, old-money family. I wanted the names to sound classy and for some reason, classy to me involves lots of syllables. Elizabeth. Meredith. Frederick. It worked.

But as difficult as the naming process is, once they’ve been given a name, that’s who they become. At some point, they seem to evolve into the name they’ve been assigned.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

Initially, she’d be incredibly surprised! Her first thought would probably be, “Holy crap! You actually did something with your life!”

But after that she’d realize that it was inevitable that I became an author—because writing has always been a passion—and becoming a mystery author was a given, because those are the books that she and I have always loved.

I know she’d be proud that I accomplished what I set out to do and there is no doubt in my mind that she would love the story I told with all the twists and turns and damaged people.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Hands down, beginnings are harder. I know where I want the story to go, but it’s crucial to get that perfect jumping off place—that one sentence that sets the mood for what is to come.

It can take me weeks to find that. In the meantime, I’m actively writing and creating, but I will go back to the beginning again and again. The first few paragraphs will go through probably more revisions than the entire book, until I get them where I need them to be. Once I do that, I’m happy. I feel better about the whole book then.

By the time I get to the end, I have a momentum going and usually know how I will wrap things up.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Outwardly, I don’t think there’s anything about my characters' lives or personalities that resemble my own. Inwardly, there are a lot of parallels with me and the protagonist, Liz. Our devotion to family is foremost and a driving force in both our lives. Liz is braver than I am, a trait I would love to cultivate.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Wow. Life, I guess. Being a part of relationships, both healthy and unhealthy ones can be the impetus to some great stories. Music and nature are also things that touch me deeply and can be the fuel for scenes or characters.
Visit S.C. Richards's website.

My Book, The Movie: Where Secrets Live.

The Page 69 Test: Where Secrets Live.

--Marshal Zeringue