Jen: Today we welcome Susanne Matthews to Romancing the Book. Susanne, will you share a short bio with us?
Susanne: Susanne Matthews was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. She’s an avid reader of all types of books but always with a penchant for happily ever after romances. In her imagination, she travels to foreign lands past and present, and might even soar into the future. A retired educator, Susanne spends her time writing and creating adventures for her readers. She loves the ins and outs of romance, especially when it’s steeped in suspense. As she writes, her characters take on a life of their own, and she shares their fear, agony, and joy on the road to self-discovery and love.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Susanne: The White Carnation is the first book in The Harvester Series. It’s a suspense novel with a second chance at love romance built into it. There’s a serial killer on the loose, one who targets women who’ve recently given birth, poses them to look like angels, and vanishes with the newborns. The detective on the case, Rob Halliday, seems to be spinning his wheels until another murder ends up in his hands, one seemingly unrelated to the Harvester killings, reported by his ex-fiancée, Faye. When Faye’s assaulted, all the pieces of the puzzle come together, and they work to solve the case and find one another again.
The inspiration for the story comes from a number of different sources that I meshed together. Serial killers and serial rapists are nothing new and are common element in suspense novels. I simply took that one step further, adding a little megalomania and a date rape drug. A couple of years ago, a man was arrested when one of the women he’d kidnapped and kept basically as a sex slave escaped. In my trilogy, the kidnapped women are used for breeding. Over the years, there have been several stories about cults where people would do anything, including commit murder, for an insane but charismatic cult leader—think Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Hitler, you get the idea. Finally, there are almost daily reports of terrorists, both foreign and domestic, plotting to destroy us, either because they don’t like our religion, ethics, or politics. The Harvester Series was created using elements of each of these tropes.
Jen: Are you a plotter or pantser?
Susanne: I’m definitely a pantser. When I was teaching English, I taught the writing process, hailed it as a necessary thing, and insisted on seeing each step from the brainstorming to the final polished copy. When I retired from teaching and decided to try my hand at writing, I tried to follow the process, but it didn’t work. I almost gave up, but I’d also taught the value of spontaneous writing, so that’s what I did. I put my working title on the page, and started to type. Ideas flowed. The characters created themselves with very real personalities and attitudes, and they took the story where it needed to go. I haven’t looked back since.
Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Susanne: Research is part and parcel of being an author. I guess once a teacher, always a teacher, so I like to think people will glean a tidbit of trivia from reading my books too. I spend a considerable time in Lake Placid where part of the story takes place, and I visited Boston and area three years ago, so I’m familiar with streets and places. I invented Slocum, but Beverly and the other towns I mention all exist. For The White Carnation, once I settled on the locations, I had to research scopolamine, an anti-nausea drug that has some frightening characteristics when used as a street drug. It’s gaining a lot of notoriety because it can render a subject susceptible to suggestion. People have emptied their bank accounts, attacked others, the list goes on, but the biggest problem is that people have no memory of what happened when they were under the influence of the drug. I also researched the aftereffects associated with rape and date rape, especially when the latter was done under the influence of a drug. I wanted to be sure not to minimize this horrendous crime in any way or downplay the devastating effect being the victim of such crime can have on the person involved. Finally, I researched on the prevalence of cults in the United States, and did some background on cult leaders such as Jones, Koresh, and Manson. To be honest, I was stunned by the statistics indicating the number of Americans currently believed to be involved with cults in one way or another.
Jen: If this book was made into a movie, who do you see playing the main characters?
Susanne: I thought I’d give you an all Canadian line-up.
Rob Halliday, the hero: Nathan Filion, who stars as Richard Castle in the series with the same name.
Faye Lewis, the heroine: Evangeline Lily. She has the perfect eyes.
Minor characters could include:
Tom Adams, Rob’s partner: Dan Aykroyd. He’s multi-talented and could easily pull off a serious role.
Jimmy Farley, the photographer: Eric McCormack. He’s a terrific actor who handles complex roles well and I think he could pull off that difficult character.
Garrett Pierce: Ryan Gosling. He actually grew up in my hometown. I worked with his aunt.
Trevor Clark: Taylor Kitch, just because I loved him in John Carter.
Jen: How do you come up with characters’ names?
Susanne: Most of the main characters in my books are named after friends and acquaintances. Members of my family are waiting for a book with a character in it named after them. Rob and Faye, the main characters in The White Carnation, are named after my oldest and dearest friends. I met Rob when we were children and my parents bought a cottage near his. We were friends, dated a bit in our early teens, but stayed friends even after we weren’t dating. I met Faye in high school and we just clicked. We were inseparable. Eventually, I introduced Rob to Faye and they’ll be married 43 years this year. We are still good friends, enjoy spending time together, and even if months go by between the time we see one another, we pick up as if it were yesterday. Faye’s younger sister, Helen, is desperate to get into one of my books, but she wants to be a villain, so I need to think about that one.
Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you’ve received about your books?
Susanne: One of the reviewers for On His Watch compared me to Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense himself. I don’t think as a romantic suspense writer I can ever do better than that.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Susanne: I need to finish Books 2 and 3, and then, who knows what inspiration will strike me? I may try my hand at something lighter or work on one of the other projects I’ve considered.