Thursday, August 18, 2016

Guest Blogger: Susan Lynn Solomon

                                             Voices in My Head by [Solomon, Susan Lynn]

1. Please tell us about your latest book.
My most recent book is “Voices In My Head”, a collection of my short stories. Though some have previously been published in online literary journals, most, such as “Mystery of the Carousel” and “Maggie’s End”, are available for the first time. Not that these are new stories. I’ve been working on some of them for years. Those who’ve done me the honor of reading my first Solstice Publishing novel, “The Magic of Murder”, and the short story sequel, “Bella Vita”, will have noticed those murder mysteries demonstrate my peculiar and often irreverent view of the world. The characters that yammered in my head until I at last told their stories see life from a much different perspective.

“Mystery of the Carousel” speaks of a young man just returned from France during the First World War, unable to escape all he’s witnessed. “Maggie’s End” examines the short life of an abused teenage girl in early 18th century rural England. “Kaddish”… well, this story tells more about me than I care to admit.

2. What can we expect from you in the future?
Stories of the people who live in my head will take me wherever the characters want to go. At the moment, the voice shouting loudest is that of Emlyn Goode, the narrator of “The Magic of Murder” and “Bella Vita”. Emlyn’s next story—a novel called “Dead Again”—has been completed, and is in the hands of my friend, Gary Earl Ross, for editing and comments. In the meantime, as if I haven’t done enough damage to poor Emlyn, I’ve begun the next story in the Emlyn Goode Murder Mystery series. This story has the working title, “Writing Is Murder.” I actually like Emlyn, and sometime feel as though I ought to apologize for all I’ve put her through. Fortunately, that feeling doesn’t last long. Sorry, Emlyn.

As you can see, murder mysteries is the genre to which I’m most drawn. It’s been this way since my mother handed her eleven-year-old child Agatha Christie’s “Peril At End House”. But during all the years I’ve been writing, I didn’t believed I could plot a mystery. This changed about 18 months ago.

My friend, Gary, is the moderator of the Just Buffalo Literary Writers Critique Group. After one of our sessions, Gary said if I enjoy mysteries this much, why hadn’t I written one. When I explained my concern about plotting such a story, Gary laughed at me, then did something unthinkable—he dared me to try… I’ve never been smart enough to turn down a dare. So, that was the moment Emlyn Goode was born.

I’d already done a great deal of research on witchcraft for my short story, “Witches Gumbo”, the tale of a woman mistreated first by her father then her husband in a Louisiana bayou early in the 20th century—this, by the way, is another story from “Voices In My Head.” As a result, if seemed natural to give Emlyn this background. So, she became a writer trying to research that story. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I stuck her with a heritage of that which she’d been researching. She became the direct descendant of a woman hanged in Salem for that craft. With
that in place, all the fun I had writing—and others have said they had reading “The magic of Murder”—followed naturally.

3. How much of your personality and life experiences are in your writing?

I’ve already mentioned that “Kaddish”, the story that concludes “Voices In My Head” has much of me—and my personality in it. In a similar way, most of what I write reflects me—my personality, the way I think, and yes, my strange sense of humor. In fact, this autumn an online literary journal will publish my latest short story, “Smoker’s Lament”. This is almost autobiographical. The only place it varies from the truth is that my plane arrived in Baltimore before I got arrested… I’ll leave you to wonder about the trouble I caused that day.

4. Do you feel humor is important in your writing?
Actually, I do believe humor is an important factor in that things I write… well, in almost everything I write. In fact, I tell people that in “The Magic of Murder” and in “Bella Vita” murder has a sense of humor. My reason for this? It reflects my personality and my world view. Believe it or not, at one time I was a serious person—sort of. Then a bit more than 20 years ago I was in a very bad auto accident, and woke up in a hospital with a broken neck. In the three months I resided there, with a halo screwed onto head, I realized I had two choices: I could either bemoan what fate had done to me, or, having survived the crash, I could recognize and laugh at how ridiculous my situation was. If I chose the former, I would be miserable alone. I chose the latter, and had lots of people around to share my laughter.

So, humor in my stories—I’m incapable of seeing the world, and the worlds I build for my characters, in any other way.

5. What do you think of critique groups in general?

This is an easy question to answer. For me a critique group is vital. I’ve been a member of the Just Buffalo Literary group for more than 12 years. I recall when I first walked into my first session, to use my grandmother’s phrase, I thought I was a whole goddammit. My stories were perfect, my characters were perfect, my use of language was… You get the picture. Very quickly I saw the quality of the work some very talented authors brought to the group for critique. Fortunately, I was wise enough to listen to their thoughts not only on my work, but on the work of everyone else. And I learned. I wrote and rewrote and listened to comments and rewrote again, until one magic day our moderator said, “This story works, Susan. Don’t change a thing.”

So yes, writing is a very lonely profession, but it’s one I can’t do by myself. Without the help of those very talented writers—their comments and criticism, I wouldn’t be able to at last call myself an author.

6. What kind of research do you do?
Years ago, after I completed my first draft of “Witches Gumbo”, I showed it to a friend. I’ve never forgotten what he told me. “If you want people to believe what you’ve written, Susan,” he
said, “you have to research what you’re writing about.” He was right, of course. Another lesson learned.

Not even the best educated of us knows everything, and certainly not enough to fill a story with the glorious detail that causes a reader to smile with satisfaction when they finish something we write. Research provides the details that fill out and enrich our tales in a way that imagination alone can do. This is advice I give to young writers I speak with.

7. Where can we find your books?

Each of my books can be found on the Solstice Publishing Website, and on Amazon at these links
“Voices In My Head”: “The Magic of Murder”: “Bella Vita”:

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