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Author Spotlight: Susan Hunter

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.

Author Spotlight: Laura Snider

Unsympathetic Victims is the first in the Ashley Montgomery Legal Thriller Series by Laura Snider. Fans of relatable female protagonists and plot twists that keep you guessing will love Snider’s gripping debut novel. SRP sat down with the lawyer/author to find out more about how she uses her professional experience to shape her books and what simlarities she’s found between the two.

SRP: Ashley Montgomery, the protagonist in your debut thriller Unsympathetic Victims, is a public defender, and, when you’re not writing, you’re a prosecutor. How did it feel to write from the opposition’s perspective?

Laura: I spent seven years as a public defender working in rural communities in Iowa. Yes, I’m a prosecutor now, but I wasn’t when I originally started writing the manuscript. I loved my work as a public defender, but it can be a grind. The case load is overwhelming. The only way to properly represent that number of clients is for public defenders to end up working extremely long hours for little compensation.

Prosecutors are better funded positions. They generally don’t have to work the late hours. Yes, law enforcement sometimes needs guidance in the form of a late-night call, but that work can be done from home. I made the switch because I got married and had children. I no longer had all the time in the world to work, and I felt like I had to decide between my family and criminal defense. I also started my writing career around the same time, and that requires a good chunk of time. Working part-time as a prosecutor has allowed me to be present for my family, work in criminal law, and write.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Laura: I think the most difficult part of writing any book is the revision process. I don’t outline before writing, so that makes for a lot of cutting and letting go. There are characters I’ve created and lost through revisions. I’ve had to trash entire scenes. Sometimes it is necessary to scrap 50,000 words and start over. It’s not fun to let go of a single word, but 50,000 can be pretty gut wrenching. But the truth is that revisions are the only way that a manuscript gets any better. I have come to terms with the fact that the first draft of anything I write is junk compared to the final product.

SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Ashley Montgomery? Do you see any of yourself in her?

Laura: I love Ashley’s snarkiness. She’s different from most people and she owns it. I would say I have many of the same thought patterns as Ashley, but I’ve never been strong enough to brazenly say what I think like she does.

Ashley’s character is modeled off the many excellent attorneys that I worked with in the public defender system. I worked with some pretty fantastic attorneys. They fight for their clients in a way that is unapologetic and bold, and I’ve always admired that about them.

SRP: What’s next for Ashley Montgomery?

Laura: Like any other public defender, Ashley’s office is a revolving door of new clients. In each new book, she’ll receive new cases, and with them clients and circumstances that continue to challenge her understanding of true justice.

SRP: Where do you see parallels between working in law and writing fiction novels?

Laura: Deadlines and preparation are both necessary parts of practicing law and fiction writing.

In law, deadlines are constantly present, forcing each case to move along at a fairly expedient pace. There are speedy trial deadlines, indictment deadlines, and motion deadlines. In writing, deadlines are necessary to keep the publication process moving along. There are people who cannot even start working on their job until I finish the writing portion. Blowing deadlines in both writing and the legal profession can cause serious issues for other people.

Preparation is key in both writing and law as well. They each require a different kind of preparation, but in both professions it is time consuming and it shows if you don’t do your due diligence. 

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Laura: I’m always reading three books – a physical book, e-book, and listening to an audiobook.

At this moment, my physical book is Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, my audiobook is A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers, and my ebook is A Killer’s Wife by Victor Methos.

Some of my favorite books that I’ve read this year have been, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson and All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

SRP: Are you a pantser or a plotter, meaning do you dive head first into writing and see where the story takes you or do you like to create an outline and work from it?

Laura: I’m a pantser. I write and see where the story takes me. I do this mostly because my books are character driven and I have a hard time deciding what a character will do until after I’ve created him or her. So, I sit down and start writing and as the characters form, so does the story line. It makes for some pretty extensive editing, which can be painful at times, but also much more adventurous. My characters are constantly doing things that surprise me, and I love that about them.


Unsympathetic Victims launches July 27. You can pre-order your copy for just $0.99!

When a defense attorney becomes the defendant, one small town is forced to reconsider their ideas of good and evil.

When successful public defender Ashley Montgomery helps acquit yet another client, people in small-town Brine, Iowa are enraged. Following the verdict, a protest breaks out — and the hated defense attorney quickly finds her life in danger.

But little does Ashley know, things are about to get worse — much worse. One of her clients turns up dead, and Ashley is arrested for his murder. As local investigators Katie Mickey and George Thomanson dive into the case, they start to suspect that Ashely is being framed — but by whom? 

With Ashley’s freedom at stake, Katie and George are desperate to find out the truth. And soon, they uncover a sinister plot born of corruption, greed, and misplaced loyalty that will leave the whole town reeling — and questioning their faith in the people they trusted most. 

Author Spotlight: LaVonne Griffin-Valade

SRP: What can you tell us about Dead Point?

LaVonne: Dead Point is a novel about a smart, tough female sergeant in the Oregon State Police who is more of a justice warrior than a law and order buff. By some measure, the story is based on my own experience growing up in the rural American West where poverty and the baggage that often comes with it are woven into the fabric of local culture. The one constant is the beauty of place, at least for those who love Grant County, Oregon’s vast landscape, which includes high desert country, ranges of blue mountains, profoundly strange fossil formations, forests of Ponderosa pine, fir, and spruce, rangeland juniper and sagebrush, and the sprawling John Day River valley.

SRP: How did you come up with the main character, Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: As I’ve noted before, I didn’t come up with Maggie Blackthorne, she came knocking at the door of my imagination, fully formed, a bit mad at the world, and looking for truth and justice. Well, and with a good heart and some of her own personal baggage.

SRP: Do you see yourself in Maggie?

LaVonne: Absolutely. She is me in many ways, although I would never have the courage or tenacity to chase down a killer.

SRP: What drew you to set Dead Point in Oregon?

LaVonne: I wanted to set the novel in Oregon, in part because that’s what I know best. But largely I knew I wanted the setting to be the eastern Oregon high desert. It’s a relatively unique fictional setting. Plus, most stories set in Oregon take place in or near the lush, green Willamette Valley of western Oregon or in towns and cities on the rugged coast, so I wanted to show a side of Oregon not often written about.

SRP: What’s next for Maggie Blackthorne?

LaVonne: The second Maggie Blackthorne novel is titled Murderers Creek, and I believe it is set for release this Fall. In addition to Maggie Blackthorne, Murderers Creek brings back these reader favorites: Trooper Hollis Jones, his wife Lillian Two Moons, Maggie’s love interest, Duncan McKay, and her surrogate mother and landlord, Dorie Phillips. Crotchety gas station owner, Cecil Burney, shows up again too. No spoilers, but Chapter One of Murderers Creek ends with the brutal slaying of another character from Dead Point and takes off from there.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

LaVonne: I’m currently reading Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain—the poverty and hardship in that book are heartbreaking, and the characters, particularly Shuggie and his mother, are living, breathing beings. It’s a wonderful novel in so many ways.

I like all kinds of novels, and one of my favorite recent reads was Richard Prowers’s The Overstory. Four great mysteries I loved and recommend often are Percival Everett’s Assumption, Lawrence Osborne’s Only to Sleep (a Philip Marlowe update), Julia Phillips’s Disappearing Earth, Evie Wyld’s All the Birds, Singing.

SRP: Do you believe in writer’s block? How do you push through it?

LaVonne: I definitely believe in writer’s block. I like to think of it as a necessary pause, a means of my mind and body suggesting, or often demanding, I take a break. I push through it by taking that break—reading, hanging out with family, going for a walk, or going outside and taking in a bit of sun (yes, the sun does come out in Portland, OR). And when I come back from a break, more often than not, my imagination fires on all cylinders.


Dead Point by LaVonne Griffin-Valade launches June 15.

Click here to get your copy.

Author Spotlight: Jason Kasper

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: Many heroes of military thrillers have no family—a fact inconveniently pointed out to me by a reader of my first book, shortly after I’d committed to writing about a military thriller hero with no family. At the time I was fresh out of the Army, and didn’t think much of it.

But since then I’ve become a father myself, and my adorable daughter has succeeded in making me very, very soft and weak. I just couldn’t write about a lone mercenary killer anymore; at the same time, I was far too ruined for a normal job to pursue any other line of work.

So for this book, I decided to flip the normal convention on its head. This time, my hero would have a family—and he was going to find them in grave danger.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Jason: David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world.

But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.

Soft targets to his enemies.

Half a world away, on a mission to assassinate a foreign operative, Rivers uncovers his worst fear.

An imminent attack on US soil will occur in four days.

The target is in his hometown.

And his wife and daughter are mentioned by name.

SRP: What were the easiest and most difficult parts of writing The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: The easiest part was the premise—a man finds his family in danger, and has four days to uncover and stop an imminent terrorist attack. Simple, right?

The catch was figuring out how to turn that promising foundation into a full storyline, and packing all the events and characters into one cohesive and fast-paced book. THAT was the hard part, and I quickly wondered if I’d bit off more than I could chew.

Several months, many hours of weeping at a keyboard, and untold bottles of bourbon later, the result is this book.

SRP: The hero of this book is former Army Ranger David Rivers. What would he say if he met you in person?

Jason: First and foremost, he’d probably shame me for being a cat owner—rightfully so. Then he’d slap me for all the trouble I’ve put him through in this book—once again, fully justified.

After that, we’d probably sit down and enjoy our shared favorite pastime: drinking bourbon.

And I’d try not to make him angry.

SRP: What’s next for David?

Jason: The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book will be released later this year.

SRP: You’re known for engaging with your readers, from answering emails to chatting on your Facebook reader group. What’s it like interacting with them on a daily basis?

Jason: There’s an Eastern saying that “the teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” I think this applies equally well as “the author and the readers together create the books.”

If no one read my work, I’d still write every day—but my stories wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Feedback from readers helps me improve with each book, and their support keeps me going no matter how difficult a manuscript gets. As any author can tell you, the writing process is filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. It helps a lot to know the readers have my back, and no matter how many books I write in this lifetime, I owe them a lot more than they owe me.

Also, I vividly remember starting out and having no readers at all. The world is a cold and lonely place for a struggling writer, so it’s hard for me not to be deliriously grateful today.

SRP: What good books have you read lately?

Jason: Confession time—I’ve never been big into zombie movies.

When a friend of mine recommended World War Z, I reluctantly agreed to check out the first few chapters.

Three days later I’d not only finished the book, but was ready to wrap a baseball bat in barbed wire and go battle the undead hordes. If you haven’t read that book, check it out!

SRP: You’re stranded on a desert island with all of your basic needs taken care of (food, shelter, clothes). What three items would you bring?

Jason: All the bourbon I could take with me, obviously. Then a baseball bat. And finally, some barbed wire to wrap around the bat, just in case the zombies come.

The Enemies of My Country launches January 15. Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: Shannon Baker

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.

Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: J.D. Allen

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Sin City Investigations and Jim Bean?


J.D.: I knew I wanted to write a Private Investigator series. I crushed hard on Rockford as a youngster (and still do!). At about the same time I was plotting through it, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of a serious crime. It devastated his life in more ways than I would have ever imagined. He had to start over. New job. New friends. New city. I found his experience, as bad as it was, made an excellent backstory for a PI. He gave his blessing and Jim was born.

SRP: What can you tell us about the series?


J.D.: I want to see characters in a series change over time. It makes them seem more human. With 19 Souls, Jim Bean starts the series dealing with a life-changing incident in his past. He’s gone to Vegas to lick his wounds, changed his name, and is happy to exist with minimal clients, his cat, and a good bottle of scotch. I’d like to think that after a while, he’ll get out of his own way and move past his anger. I’ve started the third book in the series, and he’s still a combination of Dirty Harry and Jim Rockford.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing 19 Souls, the first book in the series?


J.D.: I loved writing that book! Female serial killer? What’s not to love about that. Smart villains are super interesting to create, and Sophie Evers fits that bill! I had to take Jim to some pretty dark places though, and I sort of felt sorry for him at times.

SRP: What’s next for the series?


J.D.: Skin Game is next up in the series. In it, Jim and the woman who broke his heart in college have only a few days to rescue several young girls from a human trafficking ring.

SRP: What are you working on now?


J.D.: Wrapping up the next adventure with Jim. I’ll just say that I did some research with a taxidermist.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?


J.D.: Wow. Right now, I’m reading this weird Sci-fi my hubs gave me. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s an entire novel in journal entries and interviews. It’s fascinating!

SRP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?


J.D.: Go big. Stories need to be large, not in word count, but in scope. Big characters, big setting, big themes. You can always back it down if needed, but making a thin story work is difficult.

Her bloody finger left a translucent smear on the phone screen as she glanced through the list of private investigators in Vegas. Her stained nail came to rest on Sin City Investigations.

Jim Bean would serve her well.

Private investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. He likes his cases to follow suit. But when his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

As he falls deep into a manipulative game of cat and mouse, Jim uncovers the horrible truth about Sophie. Now he must set things right before her plan leads to the loss of innocent souls . . . even more than it already has.

19 Souls releases October 27. Pre-order today for only $0.99.

Author Spotlight: Don’t Look In Author Tom Saric

With Don’t Look In, the debut in his newest series, Tom Saric pens a twisting novel of psychological suspense, introducing a psychiatrist trying to save lives while battling his own demons.

We talked with Tom about writing his new series— from the inception of main character Gus Young to what his writing weakness is. Read the interview below!

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Don’t Look In, and what can you tell us about the plot?

TOM: Don’t Look In started with Gus Young. The idea of a grizzled looking man, with a thick beard, wearing work boots and hunting jacket while being an exceptional psychiatrist spoke to me. In the years after I finished my training in psychiatry, I realized that working as a psychiatrist wasn’t the idealized version I had fantasized about. In addition to seeing patients, my day was filled with paperwork, managerial pressures to see more people more quickly, and therapy was something psychologists did while psychiatrists seemed to be expected to prescribe medications only. So, the idea of this pure, genuine psychiatrist who wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and do his own thing in his own way appealed to me.

The seed for the plot came from realizing that in order to maintain the purity of his work, confidentiality of his patients would have to be absolute. And he would have to take this duty further than the average therapist would.

The plot really developed from there. It follows Gus as he is working in the small practice that he operates out of the back of a hardware store in a rural town. When a patient of his is murdered, he seeks to find out who did it, but in doing so it will put him in conflict with many of his deepest held values.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

TOM: The story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine. I decided against using a real place in part to make my life easier by giving the setting flexibility for future books. But the town itself has elements of a few different places I’ve visited, worked in or lived in in Eastern Canada and the Prairies. On top of this, I love the East Coast, I love Maine. I find the entire region rich, and atmospheric. The rain, the fog, the hurricanes, the history just give it so much richness that I couldn’t see the book being set anywhere else.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

TOM: I think the most difficult part was trying to describe psychological processes without the jargon in order to make it accessible to people. Psychoanalytic writings and theory is its own language. It took me years to become comfortable with the language and nuance of the differing theories. That’s my biggest criticism (and Gus’) of psychoanalysis: It is largely inaccessible and can come across as elitist. But, in fact, it should be anything but. It is likely the richest understanding we have of the human mind.

So, in keeping with Gus’ character, I was mindful that he would be able to avoid jargon and explain complex theories simply. So it required constant iteration to get it right.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

TOM: I’m already working on the second book in the series, titled Believe In Me. In this book a young woman is found wandering on the outskirts of Bridgetown with no memory of who she is. Gus is called in to help police recover her memories. As he works with her, she begins to show abilities that verge on the supernatural. I don’t want to reveal much more than that at this point, but it will test Gus’ abilities in a way that he hasn’t yet faced.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

TOM: I started reading a couple of books by C.J. Box recently because after I submitted Don’t Look In, my publisher compared it to his novels. I hadn’t read his books previously, though I’d known about them. I picked up Bitterroots and loved it. He has a masterful way of creating setting and atmosphere. So what I said about Don’t Look In not being able to be set anywhere but Maine, perhaps Montana would be a close second.

SRP: What is your writing Kryptonite?

TOM: Social Media. I have a real love hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with readers, and other authors. On the other hand, I have spent 4-5 hours mindlessly thumbing through Instagram photos when I meant to be writing. I’m always telling my kids to set limits with screen time. Maybe I should take my own advice.


Don’t Look In launches October 6.

Click here to buy Don’t Look In. The e-book is $.99 for a limited time!