Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Interview with Susan Rogers Cooper

Susan Rogers Cooper authors two mystery series. I fell in love with one of her main characters, Milt Kovak, Sheriff of Prophesy County, Oklahoma, years ago. I discovered Susan’s E.J. Pugh series later, and although I like this series, Milt won my heart. New books from both series have been published this year. Fans will enjoy the latest adventures in Milt and E.J.’s lives.

Welcome Susan to WWK and feel free to ask her any question that I missed.                                                                            E. B. Davis

To familiarize our readers with each series, would you give a short synopsis both series?

Milt is a small town sheriff in Oklahoma who manages to solve the murders in his town not with wit, particularly, but in a sort of clumsy determination. He’s the salt of the earth, honest to a fault, knows practically everybody in his county – and a lot of their family histories. He’s been a family man now for several books, married to a psychiatrist, the mother of his son, Johnny Mac. And yes, the poor boy’s name rhymes: Johnny Mac Kovak. Bless his heart.

            E.J. Pugh is a reluctant mother, wife, and romance writer. The series started when her children were small – Graham, 6, and Megan, 4. She gained another daughter, Bessie, also 4, at the beginning, and later another, Alicia, the same age as her other two girls. Graham is just now going off to college and the three girls are juniors in high school. Husband Willis has his own engineering firm, and his mother, Vera, is very much a part of their lives. Lately, though, Willis has been having second thoughts about his wife’s foray into crime solving and this has led to some problems in the marriage. Love might conquer all, but dead bodies are definitely a nuisance.

You’ve created a wonderful character in Milt. He’s smart, insightful, tries to be diplomatic, but he also can be a bonehead. How did you create the character, and does he talk to you? If so, does he have a regional accent?
            Of course he doesn’t have an accent! He sounds quite normal – you’re the one who probably has an accent! But being from Oklahoma, he probably sounds a lot like me – although I’ll admit to being a Texan. Milt actually came about because I wanted a man to play off the character of Laura Johnson in THE MAN IN THE GREEN CHEVY. This wasn’t supposed to be a story about him, but about her. He took over pretty quick though and, yes, he talks to me. A lot. Often when I’m working on an E.J. Yes, he can be a bonehead – especially when he gets jealous.

We’ve followed Milt in stages of his life from—ex-husband to single, dating man to new husband and father, Deputy Sheriff to Sheriff, and friend and competitor to boss. Did you plan Milt’s character arc, or does his life progress naturally with each book?

           Arc? What’s that? I have no idea what’s coming next at any point with Milt. He definitely has a life of his own. I’m afraid if I ever tried to plan it, Milt would laugh me out of my office.

Milt’s falling for psychiatrist Dr. Jean McDonnell surprised me. Did Jean also surprise Milt?

            Definitely – and me, too. A friend had a dream about a lady in braces holding a little girl at the top of an escalator. When he told me this dream, I found it very evocative, and Jean’s character was born – as was the story of CHASING AWAY THE DEVIL. It wasn’t necessarily in my mind at the beginning that she would become the love of his life, but she surely did.

Switching to E.J., a housewife/romance novelist, you’ve created a series based on a powerful first-in-series. How did that plot of One, Two, What Did Daddy Do? come about? Was it based on true crime?

No – actually the characters and first scenes were created by my late husband who, unfortunately, couldn’t write, and asked me to write it for him. I was supposed to be doing that when I started sneaking off with Milt. After about three or four Milts, I started thinking more and more about the E.J. character Don had created. What I couldn’t handle was his plot – which involved being chased through the woods by religious zealots. This book was basically a family collaboration as my then teenaged daughter came up with the “McGuffin” after the three of us spent some quality time sitting on the king-sized bed going over it. This started something that has been the soul of the E.J. Pugh series: that is, what happens to E.J. and her family had its start in something that happened in my family.

In both series, there is an element of events out of the main characters’ control, which complicate your plots. These complications happen to your excellent secondary characters that your main characters love. Is that the reason you write in third person POV?           

I started out writing in first person with both series, but as the characters (and I) matured, there was the need for more involvement with the secondary characters. My main characters, E.J. and Milt, still tell their stories in first person, and in one E.J. (HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN, nominated for an Edgar) the story is told from E.J.’s first person point of view as well as Willis’s first person point of view.
There are years when you haven’t had a new book published creating reader gaps. Is there a reason for that?

            Mostly just publishing snafus.

You also wrote two books of a stand-up comic mystery series. Have you ever performed as a stand-up comic?

            No, but I have an old friend who is a stand-up. She gave me a lot of background on that world.

Which of your secondary characters is your favorite and why?

            In the Milt books, I’d have to say his wife Jean. She’s in many ways the exact opposite of Milt – sophisticated, educated, raised in a big city – but the bond between them is extremely strong – maybe more so because of the differences.

            In the E.J. books, it has to be Vera, her mother-in-law. I love playing with Vera – she’s cranky, opinionated, bossy, and very loving.

After researching for this interview, I’ve found that you have a Facebook account, don’t have a website and recently started a Twitter account and perhaps a blog. Is PR the hard part of being an author?

            Absolutely. I am currently working on a website that should be up by the end of the month.

If you had your choice, would you go to the beach or the mountains?

            I love the water, but I’d prefer a lake in the mountains.

Susan’s books are available at all the major distributors—but—look for them at your local indie bookstore first! Here’s mine. Thanks for the interview, Susan! 


Linda Rodriguez said...

Great questions, EB! And terrific answers, Susan! This is a fascinating interview, and I find myself putting Susan's books right on the top of my TBR list.

Incidentally, I'm on my way to the Brooklyn Book Festival, and so may not be commenting much in the coming week.

Gloria Alden said...

Great interview, E.B. and Susan, I'm adding the first in both series to my to be ordered list. I can tell I'll enjoy both of the series.

E. B. Davis said...

I ran into the Milt Series at my library and fell in love with Milt. I hope you both do too. I knew he'd be a great husband and father. What happens in small towns still surprises me even though I grew up in one and should know better.

Kara Cerise said...

Great interview!

Susan, it must have been fun to collaborate with your family on one of your books. I thought it was very smart of your then teenaged daughter to come up with the McGuffin. Do you have plans to partner with her on a future book?

Best wishes for continued success with both series.

Sarah Henning said...

Welcome to WWK, Susan! Your books sound great. And fabulous interview, E.B.!

Shari Randall said...

Thanks for stopping by, Susan. Your characters sound so real (real enough for E. B. to have a crush on Milt!) I look forward to checking out both series.

E. B. Davis said...

Susan has attempted to get to the blog, but I see she hasn't made it yet. I do hope the security phrases haven't kept her from the site. Thanks everyone, and Susan, if you can't get in--be glad this is Google and not Yahoo!

Susan Rogers Cooper said...

Thanks, E.B., for the great questions. And thanks all you soon to be Milt and E.J. readers! Kara, my daughter is now a grown-up and has her own writing gig -- she does a "mommy" blog entitled "Food Good/Laundry Bad," and it's very funny, if a little foul-mouthed. Who'd have thought: a bad housekeeper w/a foul mouth -- can't image she's my daughter! That was sarcasm! She's a chip off the old block. Her blog is very funny and very true. Check her out sometime and you'll even get to see my beautiful grandchildren!