If historical author Suzanne Adair had written high school history books, more students would have been riveted to the pages instead of their weekend plans. She tells historical events in a way that makes you anxious to turn the pages. I'm so glad she decided to stop by and share a little insight as to how she accomplishes it.
Welcome Suzanne, please tell the reader something about yourself.
Award-winning novelist Suzanne Adair is a Florida native who lives in a two hundred-year-old city at the edge of the North Carolina Piedmont, named for an English explorer who was beheaded. Her suspense and thrillers transport readers to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War, where she brings historic towns, battles, and people to life. She fuels her creativity with Revolutionary War reenacting and visits to historic sites. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking, dancing, hiking, and spending time with her family.
For new readers—what can they expect when they read your book(s)?
My books provide you with escape on a grand scale: a time portal to unforgettable characters and thrilling adventures in the past.
All five of my published books are crime fiction with an American Revolution setting. Among my characters, you won’t find those stuffy, powdered-wig types who spout social philosophy gibberish. Most characters are approachable, ordinary people who are called upon to find extraordinary courage. (That’s what we have to do in our everyday lives sometimes, isn’t it?)
To help me understand what motivated 18th-century American people, and to better capture the sensory impressions of the period in my writing, I became a Revolutionary War reenactor. After years of all that hands-on research, I now have gowns and petticoats, working muskets and pistols that I’ve fired, an appreciation of redcoats—and an idea of what filled the lives and shaped the decisions of the average American during the Revolution. That’s what you’ll find when you open my books.
How do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
By scheduling and fiercely guarding my writing time.
Can you describe a typical writing day for you?
My best writing happens before noon, so that’s where my focus is. I prefer to use the afternoon for editing and social media.
Describe your writing space.
In my writing space, on the wall behind my desk chair, is a white board covered with yellow sticky notes. Each note is a plot point that I must address in at least one of the remaining Michael Stoddard books. On the opposite wall hangs an Audubon bird clock, batteries for the bird noises yanked out because I could never get the sounds synched with the birds, and quacking owls were just a little too weird for me. The diplomas for my B.S. in Microbiology and my M.B.A. in Marketing also hang on that wall, as does my certificate for winning the Patrick D. Smith Literature Award. Near the white board, there’s a four-drawer filing cabinet that’s bursting its seams with background information (like old maps) for my novels. (And there’s 81% dark chocolate on top of the filing cabinet.) Three sets of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are crammed full, and I haven’t seen the cushion on the peacock chair in about two years for all the books stacked on it. Research books and notes are also piled around and on my desk—but the ILL books that I frequently borrow from the library are in the dining room, so they don’t get misplaced. Every six months or so, I dust the place. Kinda what you’d expect from a history and science geek, right?
What you are most passionate about outside of writing.
Other arts: dancing (ballet, Latin, contra), singing, playing the piano. Qigong and meditation.
What genre(s) do you write? Why do you write the stories that you write?
My five published books are interconnected stories of crime fiction set during the southern theater of American Revolution. I’ve also blown the dust off a science fiction series about genetic manipulation that’s set during the 24th century and am editing it toward publication of the first book in 2014 or 2015. And there’s some contemporary paranormal suspense coming, 2015 or 2016.
When I was growing up in Florida, I heard a lot of wrong history about Florida from residents and tourists. People believed that Florida’s history started with railroad barons Flagler and Plant constructing their empires down the coasts about a hundred years ago, and they forgot that as a European settlement, St. Augustine, FL predates Jamestown, VA by decades. Also, history is often taught in a way that leaves students with the impression that the American Revolution took place mostly in the northern colonies—but this war was just as virulent in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and the Caribbean. My historicals reflect my efforts at letting you learn the correct history while entertaining you. And I emphasize “entertaining.” You aren’t going to read it unless it’s fun, right?
Other than that, I’ve been told that I write the “David v. Goliath” story. The little guy perseveres and triumphs over the big, bad guy in all my writing, including my science fiction. Readers tell me my books plunge them into a world where they can win against a tyrannical boss or an upcoming surgery.
Do your characters come to you first, or the plot, or the world of the story?
My characters are a product of the world and culture in which they live, so characters, world, and culture come first, simultaneously, then plot.
What sets your books apart from other authors?
There aren’t many mysteries set during the American Revolution, especially the southern theater. But mostly, the main character and hero for my most recent books, Michael Stoddard, is an officer and criminal investigator in the 82nd Regiment of Foot, Crown forces. Nobody else is writing a series about a likeable, relateable redcoat stationed in North Carolina in 1781. In deciding to show this war from the point of view of someone who many Americans think of as an “enemy,” I took a big chance. But it’s paid off. Readers like Michael and his assistant, Nick Spry. (One reader wrote me that she wished her daughter would find someone like Michael to marry.) And since Cornwallis will surrender at Yorktown the last book of the series, you’ll see what the wind-down of this war looks like from the eyes of a non-patriot.
How do you go about developing your characters?
Understanding the world and culture that my characters inhabit is my first step. Participation in Revolutionary War reenacting for many years has given me a leg up into that world and culture. Next, I must have a good idea of where the story is going. I don’t need to have it all plotted out before I write chaper 1, but I have to know where it starts, where it ends, and a few points in between. That means I also have to know what real historical events were taking place during that time and the effects of them on people. At some point, I trust to my Muse and begin writing the first draft. 20–25% of the way into the manuscript, the characters take over and develop the rest of the plot around their greed, fears, and unfulfilled needs. I keep them on track if they wander off on a tangent.
Then comes the part I enjoy: editing. Since it’s my fifth drafts that get published, a lot of editing happens in the second through fifth drafts. When I said that my characters take over and develop the the plot, plot is primarily what fleshes out of the early drafts. In later drafts, after the plot has stabilized, that’s when I find all the places where I forgot to let you know how my characters were feeling. It’s vital that I find and correct all those spots where I skipped mentioning the characters’ feelings because I was in such a hurry to hammer out the plot. Allowing you to check in with my characters’ emotions is what connects you with my characters.
Out of all the characters that you've written, who is your favorite and why?
So far, my favorite character is Private Nick Spry, assistant to criminal investigator Michael Stoddard. Michael, being a British officer, is often faced with having to work matters out “by the book”—or at least make it look that way. When he gets stodgy or frustrated, Spry, intelligent and humorous, reminds Michael that he can loosen up every now and then. And Spry has an interesting family.
Can you share a little of your current work?
I plan to write three more Michael Stoddard thrillers set during the American Revolution.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m editing the first book of a science fiction series set during the 24th century, toward getting this book published in 2014 or 2015. The series is about genetic manipulation. It was agented in the mid-1990s and was almost picked up by Warner.
When I didn’t get the contract, I put the science fiction series in a drawer and began writing to a larger audience: contemporary paranormal suspense. That series also found and agent. It predated the great tide of paranormal novels by a couple years—but the agent didn’t know the gold mine was just over the horizon and was thus unable to sell the series. It, too, went in a drawer. But I’ll eventually get it published, too.
Where can readers find more information on you?
Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?
Paper Woman: A Mystery of the American Revolution
The Blacksmith’s Daughter: A Mystery of the American Revolution
Camp Follower: A Mystery of the American Revolution
Regulated for Murder: A Michael Stoddard American Revolution Thriller
A Hostage to Heritage: A Michael Stoddard American Revolution Thriller
The following information is for my latest release, A Hostage to Heritage, winner of the Indie Book of the Day Award.
Book description from cover:
A boy kidnapped for ransom. And a madman who didn't bargain on Michael Stoddard's tenacity.
Spring 1781. The American Revolution enters its seventh grueling year. In Wilmington, North Carolina, redcoat investigator Lieutenant Michael Stoddard expects to round up two miscreants before Lord Cornwallis's army arrives for supplies. But his quarries' trail crosses with that of a criminal who has abducted a high-profile English heir. Michael's efforts to track down the boy plunge him into a twilight of terror from radical insurrectionists, whiskey smugglers, and snarled secrets out of his own past in Yorkshire.
Barnes & Noble Nook—http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-hostage-to-heritage-suzanne-adair/1115218809?ean=2940148638360