The Lit Ladies are so excited to welcome USA Today best-selling author Susan McBride to discuss her latest projects, Very Bad Things (a YA mystery) and the collection of Debutante Dropout Mysteries, and to talk about writing in general!
Susan and I (Camille Faye/Spirit Lady) officially met when I was a shepherd for her during the Missouri Writers’ Guild conference in 2012 and we both remember that time fondly because we were both pregnant with baby girls. We even sandwiched Claire Cook (author of Must Love Dogs) between our two bellies for a photo op.
LL: Welcome to the Lit Ladies blog, Susan. We are so honored to have you! You are a true lit lady, following your writing passion and not giving up on your dream of writing books. So, what do you love about being a writer?
Susan: I love telling stories. My brain is always full of them, talking to me and aching to get out. Creating new settings and characters whose lives I put in the strangest circumstances never gets boring! I feel like the luckiest person in the world, having my passion as my career.
LL: Tell us about Very Bad Things and the Debutante Dropout Mysteries.
Susan: Well, both involve mysteries, but the projects are very, very different. Very Bad Things is my first young adult mystery, although I have written non-mystery YA before with Random House. I had an idea for a grown-up thriller about a suspicious package that arrives on someone’s doorstep. It’s leaky and contains, yes, a body part. I had read an article in the newspaper years ago about FedEx discovering just such a package (leading to an investigation into illegally sold body parts—I still would love to know how one gets that gig in the first place!). That was the seed for Very Bad Things, which turned into the story of Katie, a prep school student dating the star hockey player, Mark, a relationship which her best friend, Tessa, does not approve. When Mark is seemingly caught cheating on Katie with a girl named Rose—and a photo goes viral—Katie not only has to deal with the horror of her boyfriend betraying her, but wondering if he’s a killer, too. Yes, Rose turns up dead, and Mark is the prime suspect. But there is so much more to it and by shifting perspectives from Katie to Mark and to Tessa, the truth of the night Rose disappears slowly unravels. And it’s a doozy!
As for the collection of Debutante Dropout Mysteries coming out December 2 from HarperCollins, that was just a wonderfully evil plot by the marketing gurus there to expose more readers to the series, which initially debuted in 2004 with Blue Blood. When HC released the first three Debutante Dropout Mysteries with redesigned covers in December of 2014, Blue Blood hit the USA Today Bestsellers List, which was awesome. All the books sold well again, and it felt like a rebirth for my bumbling amateur sleuth team of Cissy and Andy Kendricks (mother and daughter, total opposites, and pretty much like Laurel and Hardy when they get together). HarperCollins decided they wanted me to write a sixth book, and so I recently finished Say Yes to the Death which is coming out next year. This resurgence of my humorous mystery series also led to the publication of my River Road Mysteries this past summer. In rapid succession, HarperCollins’ Witness Impulse imprint released To Helen Back, Mad as Helen, and Not a Chance in Helen, which feature a senior sleuth who’s a cross between Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher (and named after my own grandmother, Helen!). It’s so amazing to have been away from the mystery world for years (since 2008) and suddenly return with a vengeance. This was supposed to be my year off to spend with my two-year-old daughter, and it turned into the Year of Books with four new mysteries released and another written.
LL: Whew! It blows me away that you’re able to produce so much and still be a good mom. You go girl! Our motto is “Six women writing their truths into fiction.” Did anything in your own life inspire these books (or any of your other stories)?
Susan: Little bits of real-life always work their way into my stories, things as simple as familiar places used as settings, quirks of a friend that turn into character quirks, deeply emotional experiences I’ve gone through that become my characters’ journeys. Folks who know me well and read my books always find little crumbs of real-life tossed about and they get a kick out of telling me when they’ve found them.
LL: Could you walk us through a day in your writing life? How do you write a new novel, market the latest one, and raise a toddler?
Susan: My writing life has changed immensely since the birth of Emily (which I’m sure you understand!). I used to have the luxury of writing full-time, which meant I could work on a book and do book business off and on throughout the day. With Emily to care for, fitting in my writing became a real challenge. I had to get up a few hours earlier every day and stay up a few hours later (very hard to do when sleep is so precious for a new mom!). I had to use nap-times or any times the grandmothers babysat to work. And when you’ve trying to take care of a house, cats, a husband, groceries, meals, laundry, book business, etc., that leaves no room for “me” time. Showers are a luxury. Forget about pedicures or working out! But I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. Emily is such an amazing kid. She is truly my heart. So every sacrifice is worth it.
LL: I hear you about the challenges of being a mom–and about showers being a luxury! Thanks so much for sharing your writing insights and inspirations, Susan. Anything you would like to add?
Susan: Thank you for having me as a guest! It’s so nice to visit with other writers. Should anyone want to check out more about my books, I’d love to have you drop by http://SusanMcBride.com or stop by my Facebook page (http://facebook.com/susanmcbridebooks).
Camille Faye | Author of Voodoo Butterfly
Experience love, purpose, and the paranormal in New Orleans.