Exclusive Interview with Susan Lynn Solomon

Today, we're doing something a little different. This is our 16th guest author interview on the Marie Lavender's Books! blog, and fellow author Susan Lynn Solomon is visiting us. 






Hi. Thank you for letting me visit.


Of course! It’s such a pleasure to have you here. :)

Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out and where can we get it?


I tell people The Magic of Murder is a mystery with a sense of humor. How else can I explain a story in which the narrator, Emlyn Goode, has just learned she’s a direct descendant of Sarah Goode, who in 1692 was hanged as a witch in Salem? How else can I describe the hefty (Elvira has a snit if someone calls her fat) albino cat that pushes Emlyn into a situation she might not survive?

The story is set in Niagara Falls, the place which after years of wandering has become my home. Emlyn’s neighbor, Roger Frey, is a police detective who would like to be more than her friend—very much more. Another of Emlyn’s friends, Rebecca Nurse, whose ancestor took a “short drop” next to Sarah Goode on Gallows Hill, thinks she should forget her past, and let him. Apparently, so does the cat. When Roger’s partner is murdered, Rebecca sees a chance to bring them together. She encourages Emlyn to use spells found in Sarah Goodes' 'Book of Shadows'—a diary of a sort in which the old woman had also written her secret desires—to unmask the killer. But, as Emlyn says, she’s new to this witch stuff. Still, much to Roger’s chagrin, aided by Rebecca—who isn’t much better at it—and prodded by Elvira, Emlyn tries. Of course, neither Emlyn, Rebecca, nor the cat takes into account the unintended and unexpected side-effects of these spells.

With this as a base, you can imagine what I’ve put these poor people through. I still laugh when I think of it.

Oh, yes. I nearly forgot. The Magic of Murder was released just before last Halloween (of course), and it can be found in both a Kindle and a paperback edition at Amazon.

How exciting! I love a good witch story. :)

So, is there anything that prompted your book? Something that inspired you?

What led to The Magic of Murder—promise not to laugh. It started with a dare.

I’m a member of the Just Buffalo Literary Center Writer’s Critique Group. This is a great group of authors, led by Gary Earl Ross, an Edgar Award-winning writer of mysteries. One evening Gary and I were discussing a short story I’d written. After a few moments he asked why I hadn’t tried my hand at a mystery. I explained that though I’ve loved the mystery genre since my mother handed her 11-year-old child Agatha Christie’s Peril at End House, I’d never been able to plot one. Gary stared at me in a way, I must admit, made me a bit nervous. Then he dared me to try. Damn! I’ve never been smart enough to turn down a dare.

But that’s not the whole of it. You see, my sister loves the genre as much as I do. When I told her of the dare, she poked and prodded as only a younger sister can, until I surrendered. Having given my solemn promise I’d write two chapters a week and read them to her each Sunday afternoon, I set to work. In two months the first draft was finished. Of course, I refused to read her the last chapter—the place in which who did it and why is revealed. I told her she could wait until the book was published… What? It’s a big sister’s job to drive her sibling to the brink. Isn’t it?

Well, it certainly seems to be! I'm the youngest sibling, so I can certainly attest to that. 
And that's quite the origin story for your book.

So, tell us...

When did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours?

I’ve always written. As a young child, I kept a notebook in which I put down the strangest fantasies I could dream up (I have no idea what happened to that notebook—I suspect my parents found and read it, and decided to burn it before I actually tried something I wrote). When I got to high school, my interest in prose waned a bit. I learned to play the guitar, and began to write songs. Through high school, I performed with rock bands, and continued to do this through college. I still write a song now and then. After college I traveled with my band, performing all over the United States. After a while I realized I wouldn’t become the superstar of my childhood fantasy, so I gave up the band, and entered law school. Then my writing took a different turn: contracts, business letters, proposals…yawn!

This continued for more than twenty years, until I was in a bad car accident. Two years of recovery—going back to practicing law was more than I could bear. I gave up law, and found work writing feature articles (and anything else they asked of me) for the quarterly magazine, Sunstorm Fine Art. Now my passion for writing was rekindled. Besides the articles, I wrote a number of short stories, and I haven’t stopped telling those lies.

Don’t look at me that way, isn’t a writer of fiction just a professional liar? 

LOL. Well, you could say that.  ;)

So...do you have any favorite authors?

After what I said at the beginning, could it be anyone but Agatha Christie? I’ve read everything Dame Agatha wrote. Hercule Poirot. Miss Marple. I’ve read their tales over and over, and never get tired of them. I’ve also gotten the complete set of Poirot and Marple DVDs that aired on the BBC. And tonight, hmm…now that I’m thinking of it, a bowl of popcorn and I’ll snuggle under my blanket to again watch the cases of the famous Belgian detective (don’t call him French, Hercule doesn’t like that). Maybe I’ll even learn a creative new way to murder people.

And for paranormal, I’ve grabbed everything written by Anne Rice. She has a way of making even the most unbelievable circumstance ring true.

And I have a few new writers whose works I’m enjoying: Frederick Crook, Maighread MacKay, AB Funkhauser, and for a bit of romance with a twist, you, Marie Lavender. 

Wow! I am so honored that you mentioned me! 
All right. Just to let you know, we're curious. 

Do you write in a specific place? Or time of day?

Actually, I write any place I happen to be. I carry my writer’s journal with me, and write character sketches about people I see; I describe the places I’m at; and, oh, yes, I jot down pieces of overheard conversations. Sometimes that last thing has gotten me into a tad of trouble. Apparently, people object to having a stranger listen to their private conversations—and restaurants don’t approve of someone upsetting other customers. Go figure. Guess my father was right when he’d say I was always “up to no good”. Yet I continue to do it. You see, this is how I learn the way people speak, their mannerisms when they talk, their accents, and the flow of their words.

But turning these notes into stories, I do at my computer in a corner of my bedroom. This is my private 'thinking' place. I write any time of day, every spare moment. You see, writing is more than my greatest pleasure, it’s become a need, a passion. Mornings, evenings, days off from work, this is where you’ll find me.

 That's great! And I totally get the 'observation thing'. More than once, I've received those strange looks. Now I just try not to draw attention to it.

Susan, are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers? Any advice?

The best advice I can give fellow writers is to read voraciously. Read everything. See how others ply our craft. Learn from them. This is the way we continue to grow as writers. Then find a group of talented writers to share your work with. Comments from the writers in my group have lifted my prose and helped my see what my stories are really about.

That's great advice!  Thank you for your words of wisdom.

And thank you so much for stopping by! It was such a pleasure to have you here.  :) 
Readers, here is the blurb for The Magic of Murder.
When his partner is discovered in a frozen alley with eight bullets in his chest, Niagara Falls Police Detective Roger Frey swears vengeance. But Detective Chief Woodward has forbidden him or anyone else on the detective squad to work the case. Emlyn Goode knows Roger will disobey his boss, which will cost him his job and his freedom. Because she cares for him more than she’ll admit, she needs to stop him. Desperate, she can think of but one way.

Emlyn recently learned she’s a direct descendant of a woman hanged as a witch in 1692. She has a book filled with arcane recipes and chants passed down through her family. Possessed of, or perhaps by a vivid imagination, she intends to use these to solve Jimmy’s murder before Roger takes revenge on the killer. But she’s new to this “witch thing,” and needs help from her friend Rebecca Nurse, whose ancestor also took a short drop from a Salem tree. Rebecca’s not much better at deciphering the ancient directions, and while the women stumble over spell after spell, the number of possible killers grows. When Chief Woodward’s wife is shot and a bottle bomb bursts through Emlyn’s window, it becomes clear she’s next on the killer’s list.

Here is an excerpt from the novel. 

March brought a worse storm than the one we were hit with in December. It seems that’s how we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day around here. When it ended after four days, a reserve unit from the Niagara Falls Air Base declared war on the snow. With military precision, the reservists piled the stuff into dump trucks and carted it to Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the Canal. They might have hauled it to the top of the mountains if their trucks’ tires could get enough traction. Since they couldn’t, it appeared as though they shoved what was left to the shoulder of River Road and into my driveway. When I gazed through the kitchen window at gray heaps so high my mailbox was buried, I was certain the dunes would still be there in July. They weren’t, of course. In two days the streets had been plowed and salted, and cars crawled past. Thanks to my neighbor, Roger Frey, even my driveway had been cleared. In Western New York, we know how to deal with the white stuff.

My preferred way of dealing with it is to turn up the thermostat and remain inside, comfy and warm. At least until the sun pokes through the clouds. This is why, still in my robe and flannel pajamas with thermal socks pulled up to my knees, I was snuggled on the sofa under my grandmother’s grey wool afghan. I still wondered about the runes Grandma had sewn into the afghan. Maybe one day Rebecca Nurse would find a book to help me interpret them.
From a corner of what had become her wingback chair, the hefty albino cat—Elvira detested it when I referred to her as fat—glared at me. She seemed annoyed I was wasting the morning on a made for TV movie.
“What?” I said to her.
She rolled her eyes—well, that’s what it looked like to me.
“Give me a break, will you?” I said. “I was up half the night writing.”
She snorted.
“What do you mean I didn’t write anything that mattered?”
She tilted her head.
I shifted on the sofa and bent toward her. “I’m not bullshitting you!” My voice went up an octave. “You were there. You saw what I was—”
At the very moment I realized the cat had again drawn me into an argument, I heard a knock on my front door. My face hot—from anger at Elvira or embarrassment at letting her get the better of the argument?—I jumped from the sofa and yanked the door open.
“What?” I demanded with a sharp edge to my voice.
On my door stoop stood a black quilted jacket, green rubber boots laced over baggy jeans, a flannel scarf wound around the little I could see of a face, and a knit cap pulled so low on a head the figure looked like a cartoon character with no ears. The man on the stoop might have been a predator who intended to break into my home, ravish my body, and make off with my treasures. Okay, I’ve already admitted I have an active imagination. There are no treasures in my home, and my body—well, let’s just say it’s been a long time since anyone would risk jail for ravishing me. Besides, I knew who this was. Earlier, while I poured my coffee, through the window I’d watched my neighbor ride his snowplow like it was the mechanical bull at Flannery’s Bar. 
On the frigid side of the storm door, Roger Frey swiveled his head from side-to-side, as if searching for who I hollered at.
At times, I’ve stood before a mirror, arguing with myself, and seen what I look like when I blush. My neck gets as red as my hair, then the color dashes uphill past my face to my forehead. So, I knew what Roger saw when he looked at me.
“Sorry,” I mumbled to what I could see of his face. “Cranky. I was up half the night.”
His voice muted by the scarf covering his mouth, he said, “No need to apologize.” He knew the hours I kept when the muse plopped down next to me.
The glass door misted when he leaned close to peer past my shoulder.
I looked behind me. Elvira had followed me to the door. She stared at us, head slightly tilted. The pale pink of her eyes darkened as if she’d decided something.
Roger nodded at her. “At least you’re not alone anymore.”
“Me or the cat?” I said.
“Both, I suppose.” When Roger pulled down the scarf, his grin showed the small gap between his front teeth.
“I prefer being alone,” I said. “If you want company, feel free to take the cat.”
My friend and neighbor had been alone since his wife took off for a warmer place three years ago.
Elvira sniffed once. Then she turned abruptly, wiggled her large derriere at me, and curled up on the floor at my feet.
Roger laughed out loud.
As if loosened by the laughter that exploded from deep inside him, a sheet of snow skidded off the roof. He must have heard the rumble, because he took a quick step backwards. He wasn’t fast enough, though. While half the snow thudded to the ground, the rest flattened his wool cap and spilled down his face. His hazel eyes rounded in surprise.
Now I laughed. With snow all over his body, it looked as though Frosty the Snowman was on my stoop. I opened the storm door and brushed the snow from his cheek. “Come in here,” I said. “Let me dry you off.”
He stamped his feet on the mat to rid himself of most of the snow.
As I stepped aside to make room for him to pass, I stumbled over the cat.
Roger moved faster than he had to avoid the snow drift from my roof. His arm shot out. “Careful!” he said, and grabbed me around the waist just as I began to flop like a rag doll to floor. 
The man is certainly strong. In a single motion, he lifted me from my feet then set me down. His arms still surrounded me.
“You okay?”
I nodded, but couldn’t speak, not even to say yes. I’m sure it was because I was a little bit in shock.
At last he released me, and bent to stroke the cat. “That wasn’t nice, Elvira,” he said. “You could’ve hurt Emlyn.”
I also leaned down to stroke her. “This beast probably intended to do it.”
When I glanced at Roger, his face was precariously close to mine. The look in his eyes told me he might not mind being nearer still.
“Uh, yeah,” I mumbled, and pulled back to put a safe distance between us. “She probably did it on purpose…” My words drifted into a crimson haze.
His cheeks also a bit red—I told myself this was probably from the near-zero temperature outside—he straightened up, and unwound his scarf. His chin and upper lip were dark. The morning stubble enhanced rather than detracted from his chiseled cheekbones and slightly cleft chin. This was a handsome man by anybody’s reckoning. More than that, he was kind. He looked after his neighbors, and made sure we were safe. I’d often wondered why Judy, his ex-wife, would leave such a man.
“I, uh, stopped by to, um…” he said.
I looked down. I had nothing on but my pajamas and robe, and the robe had fallen loose when I nearly fell. Trying not to be obvious about it, I tied my robe closed.
Roger took a deep breath. “Yes, uh, the UPS guy brought this.”
He pulled off his gloves, unzipped his jacket, and took a cardboard box from a large inside pocket. Holding it out, he said, “It came yesterday afternoon. All the snow, the UPS guy couldn’t get to your door, so he left it with me.”
The box was about nine inches wide, a foot long, and maybe two inches thick. I turned it over in my hands, examined the label. The return address said the package came from Naples, Florida.
“It’s from my mother,” I said.
“What is it?” Roger asked.
I shrugged. “I’d have to open the box to find out.”
“So, open it.”
Glancing sideways at him, I smiled. “Later.”
“Come on,” he said, and reached for the package. “I hauled it all the way over here. Plowed out your driveway while I was at it. You gotta show me what’s in there.”
“All the way over, huh?” I laughed. “You live next door.”
“Yeah, well.” He took off his jacket, and draped it over the back of a kitchen chair. His black hooded sweatshirt barely made it to his hips. “I had to wade through three feet of snow to get here. That’s gotta be worth something.”
I laid the package on the kitchen counter. “How about some coffee?”
I yanked the wet knit cap from his head, and tossed it into the sink. Snow clinging to the fibers sprinkled onto his dark brown hair, and melted into the gray that had begun to invade his temples. While I brushed the wet beads from his curls, I said, “A gentleman takes off his hat when he comes inside.”
He picked the box up and handed it to me. “Don’t try to change the subject. I know you, Emlyn Goode. You’re dying to look inside.”
I was. But it was just so much fun to tease him. A girl’s got to do that now and then, just to stay in practice. I turned my back, and refilled my mug then poured coffee into a second mug.
He pushed the box in front of me.
“You’re a big snoop, you know that?” I said.
He let out the laugh that never failed to disarm me. “Of course I am. I’m a cop. Snooping is what I do.”
“Yup, and I’m your good buddy. Like in novels, it’s the sidekick’s job to give the cop a hard time. That’s in my job description.” I pointed at the package. “And see, it’s written right here.”
Another deep, resonant laugh burst from him.  “You’re definitely a piece of work,” he said.
Elvira seemed to grow impatient with my stalling. She leaped onto the counter and pawed at the package. How the devil did she manage to move her large body so lithely?
“Okay, okay,” I said. “I can’t fight both of you.”
I took the box to my dinette table, and sat, glancing around.
“What now?” Roger asked.
“I need something to slice the tape with.”
He tilted sideways in his chair and pulled a Swiss army knife from his pants pocket. As he flicked open the smaller blade, he said, “I was a boy scout, I’m always prepared.”
Settled on Roger’s lap, the cat smacked his hand with her paw. Then she glared at me. C’mon, knock off the flirting and get to it, she seemed to say—well, that’s what her growl sounded like.
I slit the tape and raised the cardboard flaps. Inside was what appeared to be a very old book. Without removing it from the box, I carefully lifted the leather cover. The words on the first page were faded. Still I was able to make some of them out.
“What is it?” Roger asked.
“Seems to be someone’s diary.” I suspect I sounded puzzled. Why would my mother send me something like this?
Between the next two pages was an envelope addressed to me. Inside was a note. I’ve been holding onto this, Mom wrote, hoping the line that’s led from Sarah Goode would end with me. Apparently it hasn’t, so I’m sending you this. Please, Emlyn, try to make better use of this than some of our ancestors have.
Elvira sniffed the book and purred.
Quickly, I refolded the letter.
Roger leaned over, peered into my eyes. “What is it?” he said.
“It’s…um, it’s…” I stammered as I searched for a lie he might believe. I didn’t want to tell him my mother had sent me Sarah Goode’s Book of Shadows. A guy like Roger—his life was built on the belief every mystery could be logically explained, and magic is nothing but sleight-of-hand. He’d remarked about that the night we saw David Copperfield perform at the Seneca Niagara Casino. The fastest way to end our friendship was to tell him I’m the latest in a 350-year line of witches. If I said that, he would stare at me as though I’d winked at him from a third eye in the center of my forehead. Then he’d leave and not come back. Oh, he’d be polite about it—Roger’s always polite. But our friendship would be over. I mean, if it ever got out Detective Roger Frey of the Niagara Falls Police Department had a witch for a friend, he’d die of embarrassment. Or maybe he’d have to resign his position or even move to Rochester or something. If he did, who would plow my driveway then knock on my door to share my morning coffee and help me with the Sunday crossword puzzle?
What? I already said I have a vivid imagination.
As if Sarah Goode’s book was catnip, Elvira dropped her head on it, mewed, and rubbed her paw across her face. Roger shoved her aside, and leaned over to see, I supposed, what caused my concern.
Before he could remove the book from the box, I closed the flaps.
“It’s, uh…um, just an old family diary,” I said. It wasn’t much of a lie. A Book of Shadows is a diary of a sort. Witches record their herbal mixtures in it, and the words they chant to work their magic. My friend, Rebecca Nurse, had explained that when she showed me hers.
What people are saying about The Magic of Murder:

"This book pulled me right in. I think it must have been the fact that Susan Lynn Solomon puts her characters first. The story revolves around the murder of a Niagara Falls Police officer… The adventure that ensues is absolutely entertaining and well-written. It is funny, exciting, and fast-paced. Every character has depth and is…believable. The Magic of Murder is one fun read and is definitely worthy of all 5 stars."

—Frederick Crook, author, Of Knight & Devil

"Suspense, humor, compelling characters, a dash of the supernatural dating back to Salem, a powerful sense of place, and Emlyn Goode, a passionate and determined woman new to witchcraft and murder. Susan Lynn Solomon captures both the city of Niagara Falls and its quirkiest resident, an unusual sleuth. The magic of Murder is a winner and, we hope, only the first appearance of Emlyn Goode."
—Gary Earl Ross, author of Blackbird Rising and the Edgar Award-winning Matter of Intent
Sounds great! Readers, don't forget to check out this book!

Purchase Links:

Author Bio

Formerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney, and then a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, where she is in charge of legal and financial affairs for a management consulting firm.
After moving to Niagara Falls, she became a member of Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group, and since 2009 a number of her short stories have appeared in literary journals, including, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writer’s Journal short romance competition), Witches Gumbo, Ginger Man, The Memory Tree, Elvira, Second Hand, Sabbath (nominated for 2013 Best of the Net by the editor of Prick of the Spindle), and Kaddish.
Her latest short stories are Going Home, which appeared in the October 19th issue of Flash Fiction Press, Captive Soul, which is included in Solstice Publishing’s Halloween anthology, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Volume 1, and Yesterday’s Wings, about a woman searching for the courage of her past, appears in the October 2015 edition of, Imitation Fruit.
Susan Lynn Solomon’s new Solstice Publishing novel, The Magic of Murder, is available at Amazon.com.

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Amazon Author Page:  amzn.to/1mVKpl5

Susan's Books: