by Cynthia Chow
& Lorie Lewis Ham
I can’t believe it has taken us this long to review Sue Ann Jaffarian’s wonderful Odelia Grey series! This week we are reviewing the latest book, Hide & Snoop, have an interview with Sue and at the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of the book. You will also find a link to purchase the book from Mysterious Galaxy, which not only helps Sue and a wonderful indie bookstore, but also helps support us so we can keep bringing you wonderful mystery content!
As much as Odelia Grey loathes her designation as the “corpse magnet,” she nevertheless seems completely unable to avoid it. That’s probably because this seventh installment in her adventures opens with Odelia sitting in a police interview room, dressed in a nightgown, covered in blood, and attempting to explain to the detectives how she just happened to discover a bloody corpse in the house of her very unlikable boss.
It all began with the merger of law firms that put Odelia’s paralegal job in jeopardy to the massive layoffs and at the mercy of her new supervising attorney, Erica Mayfield. Not only does Erica assign the billable hours to her own favorite paralegal, but she dumps the duty of babysitting her niece Lily onto Odelia, to the point where Odelia is responsible for caring for the toddler over the weekend.
When Lily becomes sick, Odelia attempts to track down her mother, only to discover that Connie Holt’s home has been trashed while Erica herself goes AWOL. Never one to shy away from her impulsive need to snoop, Odelia finds herself assigned by one of the law firm’s founding partners to the task of ferreting out whether or not Erica has been having an affair with her paralegal. Unfortunately, it is that impulsive streak that sends her out to confront Erica at her home in the middle of the night, only to instead discover the bloody body of her sister.
Jaffarian has again written a mystery that highlights the extremely likable, humorous, and evolving Odelia Grey. By now she is secure in her marriage and mostly accepting of her larger-than-life size, which no longer plays such a central role in either the plot or her personality. Now Odelia is at a place in her life where she is confronting her maternal side and whether or not she has passed the point when she should decide if she could raise a child of her own. Once believing that her age put her out of reach of such a decision, she now finds that the opportunity now appears to be all too real.
Odelia is once again joined by her supportive friends, who helpfully include a police detective and a highly connected fugitive. The plot and antics of the characters keep the reader engaged, and while the culprits may appear to be highly visible their motives do not. The strongest element of the Odelia Grey mystery series has been how the characters have believably grown and seemed real, and their friendships and humor should appeal to a wide audience.
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Interview with Sue Ann Jaffarian
By Lorie Ham
Lorie: How long have you been writing?
Sue Ann: For about 17 years.
Lorie: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
Sue Ann: It was Too Big To Miss, the first in my Odelia Grey mystery series. The book opens with Odelia shocked by the apparent suicide of Sophie London, one of her friends. Not believing it was suicide, Odelia goes on the hunt, thus kicking off her sleuthing career.
Lorie: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Sue Ann: The first two books I wrote, and which were never published, were general fiction. I also write a digital short story series called Holidays From Hell which are not mysteries.
Lorie: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Sue Ann: My latest release is Hide and Snoop, book #7 in the Odelia Grey series. While Odelia does frequently travel the freeways of Southern California, taking her and the readers to many areas, the series is primarily based in Orange County, where I was living at the time I started writing it. Odelia is a middle-aged, plus size paralegal (like me) who can’t seem to escape finding bodies (not like me).
Lorie: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Sue Ann: Primarily I write to entertain, but I would hope people also take away the understanding that we are all valuable individuals, whether we be fat, old, gay, disabled, or anywhere outside the “norm” of what is portrayed as “perfect” by the media.
Lorie: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Sue Ann: I write almost every weekday morning before I go to work and for several hours a day on weekends. When I’m facing a deadline I also write in the evenings.
Lorie: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Sue Ann: I do not outline, but I have a very large whiteboard next to my desk. I put character names and bullet points on it as I go. I also print a calendar of the month in which the book takes place and track the timeline of the story on it as I go. It’s important to track the action, even if you don’t outline it.
Lorie: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Sue Ann: I write most mornings before I go to my day job as a paralegal. I prefer mornings as I’m fresher and the day hasn’t crowded in on me yet.
Lorie: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Sue Ann: I found my first agent quickly, unlike a lot of my colleagues, but from there it took a while to get published. While she liked my earlier but unsold manuscripts, my first agent hated Too Big To Miss, my first Odelia novel. We parted ways over it. I self-published it, then went on to find another agent who championed the series until she found a traditional publisher for it. From there the series was eventually picked up for 12 books.
Lorie: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Sue Ann: That goes back to my first agent. When she rejected the manuscript for Too Big To Miss she told me, “No one wants to read this crap.” She also said she would be embarrassed to represent it. Too Big To Miss went on to win an award while self-published. The series was contracted by Midnight Ink for twelve novels and is one of their bestselling series. Apparently, someone is reading my “crap.”
Lorie: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Sue Ann: They’ve all been pretty normal, thankfully!
Lorie: Future writing goals?
Sue Ann: Lots and lots and lots of them, but I am still under contract for five more books to Midnight Ink and two books and two novellas to Berkley. I’d like to write and publish at least four more Holidays From Hell short stories and finish out that e-reader series so I can move on to another series of short stories I have in mind. Also, I have sketched out ideas for three other novels, two of which are not mysteries. My readers have also been begging for more in my Madison Rose Vampire series, which Midnight Ink ended after two books. The third book has been started, but I have no idea when I’ll have time to finish it. Sigh…I need more TIME!
Lorie: Writing heroes?
Sue Ann: So many, how do I choose? Walter Mosely, the late Anne George, Megan Abbott, just to name a few.
Lorie: What kind of research do you do?
Sue Ann: Depends on the book. Usually the Odelia Grey books can be researched online or by a quick visit to a venue. The Granny Apple books require more in depth research involving the time period of the ghost being helped by Emma and Granny, and even traveling to specific locations.
Lorie: What do you read?
Sue Ann: A little bit of everything: mysteries, literature, biographies and other non-fiction.
Lorie: Favorite TV or movies?
Sue Ann: I LOVE TV. My never miss shows are: Dexter, Homeland, Game of Thrones, Covert Affairs, Burn Notice, Suits, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, Top Chef, Amazing Race. Thank goodness for On Demand TV!
Lorie: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Sue Ann: Never give up on your dream. But that doesn’t mean be bull-headed about it. Know when you need to edit and resubmit. Learn who is trying to help you and who is trying to blindside you. And remember, it’s a business. You may be putting your soul onto the page, but in the end it’s a business. Learn the business of writing along with your craft and you will save yourself a lot of heartache and disappointment.
Lorie: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Sue Ann: Love it! I love print books and do not believe they will ever go away, but e-books are reaching more readers and has an unlimited geographic territory and almost unending shelf life. They also provide more opportunities to authors both in publication and royalty earnings. I love independent book stores and hate it when one closes, but believe the indies that survive will be the ones offering both print and digital to their customers.
Lorie: Do you read e-books yourself?
Sue Ann: Yes, all the time. I read both e-books and print books, as well as listen to audio books.
Lorie: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Sue Ann: Many readers are shocked to discover that I still work full time.
Lorie: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
Sue Ann: My website is www.sueannjaffarian.com, and I’m on both Twitter and Facebook as sueannjaffarian. There is also a Sue Ann Jaffarian Fan Club on Facebook in which readers chat about books, and not just mine, and where I run contests.
Lorie: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Sue Ann: Honestly, I would hate to be entering the publishing marketplace right now. It is definitely overcrowded and not always with good material. Those of us who started our careers and established a fan base before this explosion have a definite leg up. I try to keep in close touch with my fan base, but the real key to competing is writing the best books you can. It takes time to build a solid career, something a lot of new authors don’t have the patience for, but if you deliver quality books into the hands of readers time and time again, they will spread the word and you will see a rise in your success.
To enter to win a copy of Hide & Snoop, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Snoop”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 10, 2012. U.S. residents only.
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