We are so excited to have Leah Nash back on our bookshelves this month! In Dangerous Waters, Leah finds herself dealing with a murder that’s much more complicated than it looks. How did you come up with this mystery?
Susan: I’ve had the idea for the story for a long time, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it come together, so I always put it on the backburner. Then one day while I was chasing dust bunnies, it hit me. I stopped what I was doing—it doesn’t take much for me to stop cleaning house—and sketched it out.
Leah is loyal, smart, and a touch impatient. We’re curious, do you see yourself in Leah?
Susan: Leah isn’t a fictional version of me. However, I’m told that, like Leah, I can be a bit bossy—though I don’t see it myself. We also share the same sense of humor and a tendency toward procrastination when the writing isn’t going well.
For those of us invested in Leah’s love life, when are Leah and Coop going to get together!?
Susan: That’s the most frequent question I get from readers. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to nudge her along, one way or the other, but she doesn’t take direction very well. However, she does make an important decision about her future in Dangerous Waters.
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Susan: It’s a fairly complicated plot and keeping track of everyone was a challenge. The wall I face when I’m writing became filled with sticky notes reminding me of who was doing what, when, why, and with whom. When I finished writing, I used them to make a checklist of key plot points and clues to compare to the manuscript to make sure I didn’t leave any threads hanging.
What’s next for Leah?
Susan: In Dangerous Deception, the book I’m working on now, Leah tries to save a woman who doesn’t want to be saved. As she starts tugging at a few loose threads, she finds that the murder victim is at the center of a tangled web of deception, delusion, and obsession. When the identity of the killer becomes clear, Leah once again is faced with the knowledge that finding the truth isn’t always the same as finding the answer.
You worked at a small daily paper, then at a university in publications. What made you decide to leave steady employment behind and try your hand at writing mysteries full time?
Susan: I thought about writing a mystery for years, but I always put it off to that distant “someday.” Then I lost both my parents and my oldest friend in a very short time. There’s nothing like three sudden, devastating losses to make you realize that someday might never come. I started work on my first book, Dangerous Habits, partly to manage the grief I felt, and partly to beat the clock on someday.
What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
Susan: Right now, I’m halfway through The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, which is a really fun read. My book club chose The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, last month, and that was a good one, too.
What’s your favorite word?
Susan: Warmth. There’s almost no way to say it out loud without having your voice produce a low, soft, soothing tone that matches what the word connotes—kindness, compassion, empathy. Warmth is what makes life livable.
Dangerous Waters launches October 19. Pre-order your copy today.
SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Damaging Secrets, and what can you tell us about the plot?
Carolyn: Rachel’s been sitting on my shoulder for a few years now. I knew who she was, what she’d been through, and where that would ultimately lead her. I just didn’t know what she’d do when she got there. For that, I worked with an excellent editor who helped me with the plot. I submitted several ideas and we molded them together into something I think turned out well.
SRP: You’re a bestselling cozy mystery author, what made you want to dive into writing grittier thrillers?
Carolyn: Writing is like everything else in life. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never discover what you can do. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I love my cozy characters, but writing someone with a lot of strength and even more emotional baggage was a stretch for me, and I wanted to explore Rachel’s psyche.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
Carolyn: Self doubt and insecurity ad nauseum. I carry those emotions around with me with every book I write, but this new genre was a big step, and I’ve had to stuff a sock in my inner critic’s mouth and glue it shut. Once I got through the first few chapters, I felt that familiar groove set in, and it came a lot easier, but those first few chapters were brutal. My husband will tell you I didn’t think it got easier at the time, and he would be right. Hindsight is truly 20/20.
SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Rachel Ryder? Do you see any of yourself in her?
Carolyn: Rachel doesn’t have a filter. I love that about her. We share that trait to a certain degree. The only difference is she knows how to use it to her advantage. I’m usually trying to get my foot out of my mouth after spouting off something I never should have said in the first place. I envy her ability to stand up for what she believes, to fight for it, and not shed a tear because her principles are so rock solid. Everyone has baggage, but Rachel, as hard as she tries, struggles to move on from hers. She’s tied up in guilt and grief, and she uses those as crutches to stay emotionally disconnected. Thankfully, we don’t share that, but I will say, she’s working hard to detach herself from those negative characteristics.
SRP: What’s next for Rachel Ryder?
Carolyn: I can’t go into too many details because I don’t want to spoil the first book, but let’s just say her past comes back to haunt her, and like it or not, she’s got to deal with it!
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
Carolyn: I have just re-read all of the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, and the last Sue Grafton book. Parker is my favorite author, and Grafton is a close second. I’m waiting for the next Robert Crais book to publish and when it does, I’ll be glued to that until I finish.
SRP: What’s your number one piece of writing advice for someone just starting out?
Carolyn: Most people think too much and struggle with every word. Don’t. Just write. The goal is to get the words on the page, even if they’re garbage. And honestly, that’s the easy part. Once you finish that first draft, that’s when the hard work starts. Get them on the page and let it flow. It will get easier as time goes by.
Damaging Secrets is out now. Buy your copy here.
Damaging Secrets, the first book of her newest crime thriller series, is an engaging story of corruption and cover-up that you won’t soon forget.
New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?
Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.
Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.
Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.
SRP: How did you come up with Kate Fox, the main character in your new release, Stripped Bare?
Shannon: I lived in the Nebraska Sandhills for 20 years. To be honest, I didn’t love it when I arrived there as a young bride. But I was determined to make it my home, and the landscapes and people grew on me until I was hooked. I always wanted to write about the Sandhills because it’s unique and so quirky. But I ended up leaving because my husband had an affair. (Long story but ends happy.)
It took me a while to get my sense of humor back and when I did, Kate Fox popped into my head. She got here all at once and demanded I tell her stories. Kate’s nothing like me, except she shares my sense of humor and she’s got a cheating spouse (where do I get my ideas?). She’s a total insider, related to everyone in Grand County by one degree of separation—or less. She’s capable, competent, and never wants to live anywhere else.
SRP: What can you tell us about The Kate Fox series?
Shannon: The series is set in the Nebraska Sandhills where cattle outnumber people by more than 60:1. The population is .9 people per square mile which leaves a whole lot of places to hide bodies. Grand County has one law enforcement officer, the sheriff, so it’s like the wild west. With so few people around, it’s hard to keep secrets, but it can happen. Kate is smack dab in the middle of nine brothers and sisters, all caring and all meddling, creating havoc in Kate’s life.
SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing Stripped Bare, the first book in the series?
Shannon: When I wrote Stripped Bare we were living in McCook, Nebraska. I’d just fired myself from a start-up in Boulder, CO because it wasn’t starting up. My husband worked for BNSF Railroad and was due to retire in two years so we figured we could move to a small town in Nebraska and live on his salary. Feeling kind of failure-ish and kind of lonely (he was on the road several days a week) I settled into the hovel we bought and started to entertain myself with Kate’s disaster of a life. Winter in McCook was long and gray and very cold. I had one rule: I had to get out of the house for at least two hours every day to keep from sinking into depression. I took long walks and every day I’d go to the library and write there. I did that for months and the librarians never spoke more than two words to me, even after I donated books from my first series. But I finished Stripped Bare while we lived there, so I have fond memories.
SRP: What’s next for Kate?
Shannon: I’m super excited for Kate to have a second life and for new readers to discover the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s been a blast diving back into Grand County and all the characters I’ve missed. First, Stripped Bare will take flight December 8, then Dark Signal is coming in hot just a week later on December 15. After that, Bitter Rain is rearing its head in the spring. Right now, I’m finishing up book four, and if you could give me a title, I’d be happy to name a character after you. This story features Kate’s loveable younger brother, Jeremy, horses, and elements south of the border.
SRP: What are you working on now?
Shannon: Just before I bumped down the dusty trail road back to the Sandhills, I was working on a suspense set in Tucson. When I moved here a few years ago and discovered Joe Bonanno, the boss of one of the Five Families of New York, retired here in the 70’s, I knew I had to write about the Mafia in Tucson. It’s twisty, so much so that it twisted out of my head and I need to figure out how my main character, Josephine, did what she did and when she knew she was going to do it.
SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?
Shannon: It’s good to be a writer and have amazing writer friends. Last summer, I got to read Jess Lourey’s latest book, Bloodline, well before it was released. It’s a Kindle First Reads right now and I highly recommend you all get it. They call it Rosemary’s Baby meets Get Out. And it’s creepy in all the best ways!
And right now, I’m loving Alice Hoffman’s Rules of Magic. What a writer! If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, I’d recommend Karen Odden’s A Trace of Deceit.
SRP: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Shannon: I don’t even have to think about this. Hands down the best money I ever spent was hiring my editor Jessica. She’s like a personalized MFA.
Stripped Bare launches December 8.
SRP is excited to announce the signing of USA TODAY bestselling author Jason Kasper, author of the Spider Heist, American Mercenary, and Shadow Strike thriller series. Kasper will introduce the brand new Shadow Strike series, featuring the fan-favorite character David Rivers, with The Enemies of My Country in early 2021. He will also continue to produce books in the bestselling Spider Heist series and launches a standalone psychological thriller Her Dark Silence later this month.
Kasper uses his experiences as a former Army Ranger and Airborne Infantry and Special Forces officer to create incredibly authentic and action-packed novels that have sold more than a quarter of a million copies worldwide, landing him on the USA TODAY bestseller list.
‘I couldn’t be more excited to have SRP supporting my work. With the success of my ongoing Spider Heist Thrillers series, and a 10-book outline drafted for the upcoming Shadow Strike series, I look forward to seeing the SRP team reach new readers as I spend more time doing what I love most: writing.’