Monthly Archives: April 2013

Awesome Authors–Susan Russo Anderson

Today on Awesome Authors I’m pleased to introduce Susan Russo Anderson, author of the Serafina Florio historical mysteries. I firstgagasue_3 became aware of Susan on Twitter and through the fabulous writer’s group, Sisters in Crime, then went on to work with her on an anthology with several other talented indie authors. The first book in her intriguing mystery series, DEATH OF A SERPENT, is set in nineteenth-century Italy and features Serafina Florio, an amateur sleuth who happens to be a midwife. Kindle Book Review says DEATH OF A SERPENT is “… for readers who love mystery/suspense and drama that will propel you into another world and hold you spellbound until the end.”

D: Hi Susan! It’s great to have you here. Please tell us something about yourself.

 S: Thanks, DV, it’s a thrill to be here. Wow, great question, where do I start? I’m just a simple mom and gran doing the best she can to write great stuff. And I love the act of writing.

 But I did read this quote from Jean Paul Sartre, “We are our choices.” And if I could choose the perfect activity it would be eating ice cream and sipping the perfect coffee while writing in the morning. And the next best thing is reading an unputdownable book.

 And although I love my kindle and the ability to carry lots of books wherever I go to say nothing of the ability to sneak read a book instead of listening to a boring sermon, I still love bookstores and rambling through them. There’s one in a resort town in Michigan that I love going to. It’s right next to an ice cream store and they play opera and it’s crowded with families on vacation and it’s just fun to be there.

 D: Bookstores and libraries—gotta love any place with books. 🙂 You write the Serafina Florio mysteries set in nineteenth-century Italy. What inspired you to write an historical mystery series? What did you find particularly interesting when doing research?

S: I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had. It started, I guess, with the American Revolution. And then of course there was the French Revolution. And all of a sudden people all over Europe showed an Covers_600unbelievable thirst for freedom and fought to overthrow their oppressors.

“I’ve always found European history from 1848 onward to be fascinating, the yearning for freedom that everyone had…”

 Well, it’s a long story, but the Italian Revolution in the 1860s was a devastation for Sicily. There were riots and epidemics and famine and ruin all over the place. It’s in this setting that Serafina does her sleuthing. And yet in this setting, life managed to go on. For me, someone who’s always had a cushy life, I just can’t imagine how people can go all normal, continuing on with their life in the face of hunger and catastrophe.

 I read this story of a mother who around dinner time would lock the windows and doors and have her children bang on pans while she rattled the plates so that the neighbors would think they were preparing the meal and wouldn’t know they couldn’t afford to eat. That story really got to me. It told me about the resilience of the human spirit.

 D: No kidding. People are amazing, especially in times of distress. Describe your newest release, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, in two sentences.

 S: When a headstrong aristocrat commissions Serafina to find her mother’s poisoner, the midwife turned sleuth travels to a windswept villa on Sicily’s gold coast where she begins her investigation of the baroness’s death. With the help of her friend, Rosa, two daring servants, and an unexpected visitor, she uncovers ugly entanglements that portend dire misfortune for the baroness’s heirs.

 D: What’s your favorite line from the book?

 S: In my Serafina books it’s Rosa who always gets the best lines. She is totally unfettered by convention, having been a madam. At the time of the story, she is retired and very rich and of a certain age so she takes lots of pleasure in food. It so happens that the cuisine at Villa Caterina where the mystery takes place is uninspired to say the least so Rosa is disgruntled for most of their stay. There’s an incident with the cook where we don’t know if she’ll recover but when Rosa hears that the cook survives, she says, “It figures. She can’t cook so she’ll live forever.”

 D: Rosa was definitely one of my favorite characters in Death of a Serpent. Who is your favorite character and why?

 S: My favorite character would have to be Serafina. She has faults; she is exuberant and colorful; she does most of the writing; she has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have; most important, she never gives up.

“…She has a sixth sense, something I’d love to have…”

 D: What are you currently working on?

 S: I’m working on two books at the same time, something I’ve never done before, two different series. I’m writing the fourth book in the Serafina Florio mystery series. She’s commissioned to go to Paris to investigate the death of Loffredo’s estranged wife. The plot is exciting and different and complex for many different reasons. The working title is Murder on the Rue Cassette and since I love Paris, even the Paris of the 1870s, I’m loving the writing experience.

 And I’m writing the first book of the Fina Fitzgibbons mystery series. She’s the great-great granddaughter of Serafina, named after her and inherits her notebooks and a brownstone Serafina bought when she arrived in this country. Fina is much younger, early twenties, and lives in Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Clancy, a cop assigned to the 84th Precinct. The working title is Dead In Brooklyn.

 D: What a great idea! Working an ancestral thread into your mysteries makes sense—it becomes a continuation of the original series. What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 S: Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.

 D: Sage advice, Susan. What’s the worst advice you received from someone about writing?

 S: Hmmm, let me think. That would have to be all those prejudicial rules against adverbs and adjectives. They’re a prison.

 D: LOL. They certainly can be. What do you like to read?DeathInBagheria_600

 S: Mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction.

“Immerse yourself in the world you create and don’t fear what others might think.”

 D: What do you do when you’re not writing?

 S: Social networking, working out, walking, hanging out with my grandkids.

 D: Tell us about the most exciting place you have ever visited.

 S: I’ve been to lots of exciting places—Iraq, most countries in Europe—but the most exciting of all is the world of the imagination. John Milton said it much better, though: “The mind is its own place and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

 D: Love that quote. So true. What jobs other than writer have you held?

 S: I taught creative writing, worked for an airline, for an opera company, for lots of advertising agencies, and for a publisher.

 D: If you could time-travel, where would you go and why?

 S: Paris, August 1944. I’d love to experience firsthand the excitement of the liberation

 D: I think Paris is a good bet in just about any timeline. Liberation day would be an amazing experience.

I’d love it if you’d provide an excerpt of DEATH IN BAGHERIA for us to read…

S: In this excerpt from Death In Bagheria, Serafina and Rosa talk to the baron, husband of the deceased whose death Serafina has been commissioned to investigate:

Bagheria, Sicily. March 1870

“The baron was showing me his new steamer. You can see it through the telescope if you like.”

Rosa shook her head, dismissing the offer with a wave of her hand.

He smiled at the madam. “In the harbor now, being loaded with supplies.”

“It sails when?” Rosa asked.

“Late today.” He paced before them. “We hope to make North America in ten days, not a record, but respectable, especially for this time of year—early for steaming into northern waters.”

“Do you carry passengers?”

He nodded. “A few. There’s room for over two hundred men, women, and children, most of them in steerage, but these days, our profit is from carrying cargo, not people; now we ship citrus to New York and Boston, perhaps New Orleans or San Francisco in the future.” He rubbed his hands together. “Next year, my son tells me, when families who can afford better accommodation begin to leave, we plan on refitting part of the upper deck with first-class cabins, but for now, our need is for space below deck.”

“When who begins to leave?” Rosa asked.

“Our bankers bet on hard times, a mass exodus from Sicily within the next five years, growing stronger in the next decades.”

Serafina and Rosa were silent.

“There’s unrest all over the Europe. I’m afraid for France, that idiot Emperor trying to slap around the Kaiser—doesn’t know what he’s in for. And Italy struggles while Garibaldi fights Austria and the papal states. If more banks fail, the future of the merchant class in the south will be grim. The new world calls, and that’s where we come in.” The baron smiled.

Serafina swallowed. She imagined her son, Vicenzu, looking out at her from behind the windows of their empty apothecary shop, saw in her mind the streets of Oltramari which, lately, seemed rustier, dustier. But no, she rejected his words: after all, what did he know? She turned to Rosa, who caught her mood, reached over, and patted her hand.

“The ship’s named after the baroness,” Serafina said, looking at Rosa.

The baron nodded.

“A shame she’s missing this day,” Serafina said.

He furrowed his brows. “Afraid you’re wrong there. She wanted nothing to do with our business. She hated it. How did she think …” His question hung in the air.

To break the mood, Rosa said, “Such an honor, having a ship named after—”

“Hated all talk of business.” Red faced, the baron heaved himself over to the hearth, grabbed an iron, and poked at smoldering embers. “Drat those servants! Don’t know how to tend a fire?”

Recovering somewhat, he sat across from them and crossed his legs. “What is it you wish to discuss—my married life? How my wife loathed me, couldn’t bear the sight of me? How we slept in separate rooms, seldom spoke? How she never cared a fig for my business, didn’t want to hear my thoughts on European history or its future? I disgusted her! I suppose she assumed aristocrats cultivated coins from the soil or grew them in huge pots and stored them in the larder. Unspeakably stubborn, Caterina, just like her father and his father before him. Blind to the change, killing themselves out, that’s what they’re doing. But …” He looked up at her portrait, then at a spot in the room as if he could see her shade. “She was so beautiful, like an angel when she walked into a room, and a poet with words, so charming, they flowed from her lips.” He stopped, as if reluctant to leave the memory. “And I loved her.”

The two women were silent until Serafina asked, “Your business, is that what killed her?”

*****

D: Thank you so much for being here today, Susan. I look forward to reading the rest of the Serafina Florio series. I’m also eagerly anticipating her great-great granddaughter’s own books. 🙂

Links to find out more about Susan are below:

 Susan’s Bio:

Susan Russo Anderson is a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime, a graduate of Marquette University. She has taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Like Faulkner’s Dilsey, she’s seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, she writes.

DEATH OF A SERPENT, the first in the Serafina Florio series, published January 2012. It began as a painting of the Lower East Side and wound up as a mystery story. NO MORE BROTHERS, a novella, published May 2012, the second in the Serafina Florio series. The third book, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, published in December. You can read excerpts on Amazon and on her websites, http://www.susanrussoanderson.com  and http://www.writingsleuth.com

In between writing, revising and editing, she writes for several blogs and reviews books.

Website: http://susanrussoanderson.com

Twitter: @susanrussoander

FB: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Susan-Russo-Anderson/349374975075796

Amazon author’s page: http://www.amazon.com/Susan-Russo-Anderson/e/B006VCJ0ZC


Writing in 1st or 3rd POV

Seven people standing and waiting in a lineWhen I first started to write, I naturally gravitated to telling the story in third person. I doubt I even thought about writing in first person point of view (POV). But for my second book, first person felt right. I continued in first person for the next few books in that same series, then switched back to third for the Leine Basso series.

 At the time I didn’t consciously make the decision to use different POVs for the different series, but looking back on it now, it makes sense.

 For the Kate Jones books, I wanted the reader immediately immersed in Kate’s life—all the danger and fear and heart-pounding events—so I used first person. Using this POV can get tricky, as you can only write what one character experiences, so are limited in what you’re able to tell the reader. Many writers see this as a constraint, but I viewed it as an interesting way to challenge myself. First person allows for more immediate intimacy and it suited the character and the story.

 Writing from third person allows more freedom to tell the story because you can use other character’s POVs, but you have to work harder to enlist the reader’s sympathies. The Leine Basso books were doubly difficult because not only did I write it in third person, but the character is an ex-assassin, not someone for which readers would necessarily feel empathy. I mean, would you feel sympathy for someone who used to kill people for a living? According to readers, what I ended up doing worked, thankfully. 🙂

 Many times, if I’m struggling with a story, it’s because I’m writing it from a less-effective point of view. Take the following passage:

 Third Person: Her eyes flew open. At first she didn’t remember where she was. Sam’s deep, even breathing told her he was asleep next to her on the bed in his room. She rolled onto her side to watch him.

He was even sexier asleep. He laid on his back, one hand across his stomach, the other tucked under his head. The smooth skin of his face and lips begged for her touch. At least, that was her story. She trailed her finger along his jaw, tracing a delicate line under his ear.

 His hand shot up and captured hers in an iron grip. At the same time he spun her onto her back and straddled her hips, pinning her arms over her head. He paused for a moment, his eyes burning through hers, searching. Then he lowered himself until his lips barely brushed against hers.Overhead view of an unmade bed

 The above scene works fine—the reader gets the idea—but they aren’t immersed in Kate’s viewpoint, so there’s distance between the reader and the character/unfolding story. Now for first person:

The same passage—First Person: My eyes flew open. At first I didn’t remember where I was. Sam’s deep, even breathing told me he was asleep next to me on the bed in his room. I rolled onto my side to watch him.

 He was even sexier asleep. He laid on his back, one hand across his stomach, the other tucked under his head. The smooth skin of his face and lips begged for my touch. At least, that was my story. I trailed my finger along his jaw, tracing a delicate line under his ear.

 His hand shot up and captured mine in an iron grip. At the same time he spun me onto my back and straddled my hips, pinning my arms over my head. He paused for a moment, his eyes burning through me, searching. Then he lowered himself until his lips barely brushed mine.*

 (*Dead of Winter, a Kate Jones Thriller)

 Personally, I think the scene feels more intimate when it’s in first person. The passage written in third person still works fine, but didn’t convey exactly what I wanted it to. It’s also a matter of personal taste.

 If you’re not sure you’re writing from the most effective POV, try changing a scene from first to third, or vice-versa. If you do, I guarantee it’ll be easy to figure out which one to use.


Fantastically Free Friday

Hi again!

Piggybank on stack of booksHere are some links to sources for free ebooks. As always, check to make sure the book is free before you download, as some may have expired. Happy Friday!

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/04/12/freebie-friday-fabulosity/

http://www.pixelofink.com/

http://ereadernewstoday.com/category/free-kindle-books/

http://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/154606011?ie=UTF8&ref_=pd_ts_zgc_kinc_154606011_more#

http://www.freebooksy.com/

Enjoy!


Becoming a Master Author

This is a great post by Kristen Lamb on the phases of becoming a master author. http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/three-phases-of-becoming-a-master-author/

What do you think?

 


Guest Blogging Today on Blog-A-Licious-Authors

Should you use first person POV or third? I’m blogging about the age-old question today on Blog-A-Licious Authors. Stop by and share your strategies…

http://blogaliciousauthors.blogspot.com/2013/04/dv-berkom-should-i-write-in-first-or.html


Free Book Friday 4-5-13

Here are some links to find free ebooks today:

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2013/04/05/freebie-friday-born-free/

http://www.pixelofink.com/category/free-kindle-books/

http://ereadernewstoday.com/category/free-kindle-books/

http://authormarketingclub.com/members/fridays-freebies-get-them-while-theyre-hot/

http://awesomeindies.net/2013/04/06/friday-freebies-free-fiction-fantasy-and-thriller/

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/Free-eBooks/379003078/

Enjoy!


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