If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

July Interviews

7/1 Lena Gregory, Scone Cold Killer
7/8 Jessica Baker, Murder on the Flying Scotsman
7/15 TG Wolff, Driving Reign
7/22 Leslie Budewitz, The Solace of Bay Leaves
7/29 Cynthia Kuhn, The Study of Secrets

Saturday Guest Bloggers

7/11 Mark Dressler
7/18 James McCrone

WWK Bloggers:

7/4 Valerie Burns
7/25 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our two Silver Falchion Finalists Connie Berry and Debra Goldstein!

Paula Gail Benson's "Cosway's Confidence" placed second and Debra Goldstein's "Wabbit's Carat" received Honorable Mention in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable 2020 short story contest. Congratulations, Paula and Debra!

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

KM Rockwood's "Burning Desire," and Paula Gail Benson's "Living One's Own Truth," have been published in the anthology Heartbreaks & Half-truths. Congratulations to all of the WWK writers.

Please join Margaret S. Hamilton's Kings River Life podcast of her short story "Busted at the Book Sale" here. Congratulations, Margaret!

Look Margaret S. Hamilton's short stories in the new Mid-Century Murder by Darkhouse Books. Margaret's story is titled "4BR/3.5BA Contemporary."

Grace Topping's second novel in Laura Bishop staging series, Staging Wars, was released by Henery Press on April 28th. Look for the interview here from April 29th.

Annette Dashofy's 10th Zoe Chambers mystery, Til Death, will be released on June 16th. Look for the interview here on June 17.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Susan Van Kirk Interview by E. B. Davis

 Marry in Haste, is the story of two lives over a hundred years apart, both
Illustrating the resilience of women in the small town of Endurance.

Grace Kimball, retired teacher, is writing for the Endurance Register and dating its
editor, Jeff Maitlin. When he buys a huge Victorian house and borrows money
from the bank, he sets off a chain of events that puts Grace in danger.

Conrad Folger, the bank president, is murdered, and his wife, Emily, becomes
the prime suspect. Grace’s friend and Endurance police detective, TJ Sweeney,
investigates, and Grace also sets out to prove her former student innocent.

If Grace is right and Emily Folger is innocent, who else had a motive to kill the
bank president? A list of possible suspects emerges: spurned lovers, unhappy
bank clients, and even family members.

Grace and Jeff also find a diary from 1893 in Lockwood House, Jeff’s newly-bought
mansion. Written by a naïve 17-year-old who comes to Endurance from a small farm,
it tells Olivia Havelock’s bittersweet story. She marries a powerful judge, and what
begins as a joyous event quickly turns to terror.

As Grace reads the diary, she soon sees parallels to the life of Emily Folger. Can the
lessons from the past help Grace clear Emily’s name? And can she do it in time,
before a killer strikes again?

Susan Van Kirk’s first book in her Endurance mystery series, Three May Keep A Secret, captivated my interest. (Here’s a link to my first interview with Susan.) Her main character is likeable; the MC’s friends, particularly Detective TJ Sweeney, are smart, and the small-town atmosphere congenial. When it took two years for the release of the second book, Marry In Haste, I had to interview Susan again not only to find out why it took so long, but also because I wanted to read the next addition of the cozy series. Please welcome Susan Van Kirk back to WWK.                                                                                E. B. Davis

When I interviewed you in 2014, you provided readers with a short synopsis of Marry In Haste. Why the two-year wait?

My publisher, Five Star/Cengage, is responsible for the two-year wait between books. They had my manuscript for Marry in Haste when the first book came out in November 2014. Like many publishing companies, they are overwhelmed by people sending manuscripts. Unfortunately, if they have an author whose first book sells well, that author’s second book still goes into a queue with hundreds of other manuscripts. A long wait ensues. Now, Five Star is dropping their entire mystery line, so I will self-pub my last book in this series.

What draws you to the sayings of Benjamin Franklin (one of my heroes)?

I, too, am a Benjamin Franklin fan, and I love his aphorisms in Poor Richard’s Almanac. His sayings (often “borrowed”) tell so much about human nature. I searched for a saying to fit the title of each novel that would reflect the plot. After all, my main character, Grace Kimball, is a retired English teacher, and chances are she taught American Literature. Even the last book in my Endurance series, Death Takes No Bribes, is a Franklin saying. I never found a good way to use “Lie down with dogs and you’ll rise up with fleas,” or “He’s a fool who makes his doctor his heir,” or “The things which hurt, instruct.” Lots of possible titles in Franklin’s ideas.

In the beginning, Grace has returned to Endurance from visiting her children and grandchildren in Arizona. The contrast in weather makes her wonder about moving closer to her children in a more moderate climate. Is snowy, ice-covered Endurance a place to be endured? How did the town get its name?

“Endurance” acknowledges both the past and present of my town of 15,000. Hardy Presbyterian stock settled this town in west central Illinois, traveling through all kinds of difficult terrain to endure harsh winters and create a tenuous settlement on the edge of the wilderness. The present-day mayor always reminds us of their sacrifices whenever he has an opportunity to make a speech. “Endurance” also describes my main character, Grace Kimball, who survived some horrific experiences that only made her stronger. I put her in scary situations, and so far, she has survived and endured because of her wits, character, and loyal friendships.

Your theme is spousal abuse. Was there a specific reason for choosing this topic?

I wanted to know more about domestic abuse, but my book is less about physical violence and more about the psychology of abuse. How does a person become a victim? Why does abuse happen? Why do people stay in these relationships? How do abused spouses reflect symptoms of PTSD? Has any of this changed in the last hundred years? People I have known and loved have been in such relationships. That is why I wanted to understand it better. Now I do.

Grace first notices trouble at the bank. Looking at historical pictures in the bank president’s office of his ancestors, Grace observes an important detail, which may underlie the trouble. As a retired teacher, would Grace watch body language and facial expressions—is this something teachers do?

It is absolutely something teachers do. The photographs in the bank president’s office are a source of interest to Grace because she notices the body language of the couples. Several generations of the Folger family are associated with this bank. Later, she puts together symptoms of abuse that everyone knows—it is too often passed from one generation to another, and it appears across all economic levels of society. Grace, like her friend, Detective TJ Sweeney, notices body language in many situations: in the confident bearing of a young woman who returns to town; in a strange conversation outside a restaurant that Grace watches from a distance; or in the personality of the murder suspect’s sister-in-law, reflected by her body language. Teachers observe body language constantly in their classrooms. They watch for signs of disappointment or discouragement, signs of excitement when a student “gets it,” or signs of impending trouble. Yes, Grace would be an observer of body language.

When the bank president is murdered, his wife, Emily, a former student of Grace’s, is accused of the murder. Grace believes in her innocence. But Grace knew Emily years ago when she was a high school student. Don’t people change? Can’t anyone kill?

Of course, people can change, but you’d be surprised how often I’ve had conversations with kindergarten or first grade teachers about a student I have had in high school. We often see the same characteristics eleven years apart. When Grace sees former students in her small town, she is seldom surprised by their adult behavior. It isn’t much of a jump in logic to realize that Grace spent a great deal of time with accused murderess Emily Folger, Grace’s assistant director when they worked on high school theatrical productions. They spent many long hours together then. Grace’s naivete about the terrible changes in her former student is typical of her lack of understanding about how abusers take every bit of self-confidence away from their victims. Grace learns about the “techniques” of abuse just like the reader. Often I’ve read that anyone can kill given the right circumstances. However, I doubt that Grace Kimball would believe that.

Letty, Grace’s sister-in-law and cook, is resistant to change, but her mischief creates changes. Is Letty secretly a wild child? 

Lettie (Lettisha Kimball) is one of my favorite characters because she is, indeed, a 69-year-old wild child. She is the sister of Grace’s deceased husband, and she comes to Grace’s house and cooks every day. (Grace should weigh about 350 pounds by now just from pies.) Lettie has a jungle telegraph and knows everything going on in town, often before the police are aware of a crime. Highly opinionated, she believes crazy things she reads in grocery store tabloids. She begins World War III with a retired carpenter Grace hires to renovate her kitchen (which Lettie believes is “her” kitchen.)  She is the comic relief that balances Grace’s more serious nature. Lettie drives Grace crazy, but they also love each other. After all, they are family.

After reading the late 1800s diary of Olivia, Grace is reminded of the deeper meaning of the word “wedlock.” It chilled me. Would you explain Grace’s thinking in terms of spousal abuse?

Grace had a wonderful, albeit short, marriage. She and Roger respected and loved each other deeply, so she has little experience with spousal abuse. However, she begins to understand it when she reads Olivia Lockwood’s diary from 1893. The position of wives in that period was one of total dependence on their husbands. Laws did not protect them, and once they were “locked” in marriage, i.e., “wedlock,” they were totally without help if their husbands were abusive. Olivia writes about a friend’s engagement and wishes she could prevent that marriage because she knows firsthand how helpless women become in that institutionalized relationship. In fact, Grace discovers in her research that short engagements were advisable back then because a longer engagement might allow the betrothed couple to know each other better and lead to dissolving the engagement.

That understanding informs Grace’s actions toward accused murderer, Emily Folger. These marriages educate Grace and the reader about the psychological effects of abuse, but with a century intervening between these marriages, will Grace discover that community attitudes, laws and policing have changed in abuse situations?

Do you know when you start writing whodunit?

Absolutely I know “whodunit.” I’m an outliner, and structure is key to my writing, so I always know who will get the blame in the end.

What’s next for Grace and her gang?

My current book, Marry in Haste, has a cliffhanger ending that will be resolved one way or another in Death Takes No Bribes, the final book in the series (May 2017). Grace Kimball has been retired only eight months, and TJ Sweeney asks for her help with the latest murder victim in Endurance. The high school principal, John Hardy, has been murdered, and TJ wants Grace to sit in on the faculty meeting at the high school so Grace can watch the reactions of her former colleagues. Grace—of course, being Grace—cannot believe any of her fellow teachers could have poisoned the principal.

It is a nostalgic journey for Grace to go back to the school where she spent twenty-five years. But death stalks the halls, and before the book ends, TJ Sweeney will add more suspects to her list and another murder victim. Why? Everyone seems to have respected the murdered principal. To add to the bizarre situation, “Arsenic and Old Lace” is the high school play that is opening during the investigation.

Along with producing this book to end the Endurance series, I’m currently working with a partner on a historical fiction novel.


Margaret S. Hamilton said...

A winning concept. Looking forward to reading your new book.

Susan said...

Thank you, Margaret. Hope you enjoy!

Grace Topping said...

Congratulations, Susan, on the publication of the second book in your series. It sounds very interesting. I hope we'll see you at Malice this spring.

Warren Bull said...

I like the plot line. It makes for a fun read.

Susan said...

Grace, Right now my plans are to go to Malice so, yes, I'll see you there since you are home from your travels abroad. Thanks for the congrats.

Susan said...

Thanks, Warren. I am moving more and more toward adding history to my books. This one has been so interesting to research. Hope you like it.

Susan said...

And thank you so much, E.B. Davis, for doing this interview and reading my first two mysteries. You are the best!

Vicki Batman, sassy writer of funny fiction said...

A fascinating interview and great!!! cover. Congratulations on your book.

Susan said...

Thanks so much, Vicki. I'm glad you stopped in!

Jim Jackson said...

Best of luck with the second and third in the series. It's a shame you had to wait so long for the second to come out, but at least it's available now!

~ Jim

Kait said...

Oh Susan, what an intriguing scenario. This book is on my must read list.

Gloria Alden said...

Susan, it sounds like a great series. I'm putting both of them down to order since I always like to start with the first in a series.

Susan said...

Thanks, Jim, and I look forward to talking with you on your blog site soon.

Susan said...

Thanks, Kait. I should be down there with you in the warm breezes of Florida, but instead I'm in the Midwest where the leaves are falling and the weather is changing...not for the better, I think. Thanks for stopping by.

Susan said...

Thanks, Gloria. I hope you enjoy the series. Ben Franklin had so many good sayings that I could write an awful lot of books!

Susan said...

Thanks, Jim, and I look forward to talking with you on your blog site soon.