by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of another Halloween related mystery–Death of a Wolfman by Susan Boles. We also have an interesting interview with Susan. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a signed copy of Death of a Wolfman, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
Death of a Wolfman: A Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery by Susan Boles
Review by Kathleen Costa
OK…Lily Gayle doesn’t get along with her bossy cousin, Benjie Carter, but he is family, so she meets him for a weekly dinner date. While they debate dessert, Ben gets a call alerting him it is time to put on his county sheriff hat and investigate an anonymous 911 call. Could it be a Halloween prank? Lily Gayle is not one to be left behind, so they head out and are surprised to find a dead body in the clearing. Is that a werewolf costume? Despite carrying her own gloves and protective booties so to not disturb the crime scene and having a strong opinion about the body based on her frequent viewing of the television show CSI, Ben will have none of it. It is a murder investigation and women don’t investigate murders…
Lily Grace joins her friends at the It’ll Grow Back Beauty Shop, and is inundated by questions about the first murder in Mercy, Mississippi, in over twenty years. But, seeing LizBeth Mitchell, daughter of the first family and midwife to the town, crossing the street turns the conversation to the latest gossip. Lily Gayle has been commissioned by LizBeth to do a thorough genealogy search of the Mitchell family. Surprised that a family like that wouldn’t already have shelves of documentation on all its family members since they came from Ireland to Virginia to Mississippi in the 1700s, but that wasn’t the case. And Lily Gayle discovers that rumors have it that every generation of Mitchells had a midwife and all family members were birthed at home. Curious? Very, especially when the second body shows up.
Lily Gayle is also not known for leaving an investigation to the professionals, and for this case, she gets extra encouragement from Miss Edna, the town expert on everybody’s business (OK, the town snoop), and coerces Dixie’s participation, her best friend and owner of It’ll Grow Back Beauty Shop (OK, gossip central). However, Ben has nothing: no one knows the identity of the ‘wolfman,’ information about the Mitchell family is sketchy at best, two good ol’ boys ‘reek’ of being guilty of something, an intriguing family heirloom enters the picture, and then…there’s the bullet.
WOW! Great story! Susan Boles created a delightful southern town with pitchers of sweet tea, beauty shop hang outs, and everybody in everybody’s business. The colorful characters are deeply attached to each other having clever, humorous, and often contentious banter. The mystery is unique and kept me turning the pages… I would love to join the residents of Mercy, Mississippi, for a sweet tea, sit on the porch, and enjoy an afternoon of juicy gossip. “So, what’s been happening today, Miss Edna?”
Death of a Wolfman by Susan Boles earns 5/5 Silver Bullets with a glass of sweet tea!
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Interview With Susan Boles:
KRL: We’re so excited about your newest book, Death of a Wolfman, so, let’s start right off. How long have you been writing?
Susan: I first started writing in junior high school. Little short stories a couple of pages long that I wrote with a friend. We called ourselves ‘The Bookworms of Bethel.’ The school we attended was Bethel Springs Junior High School in Bethel Springs, Tennessee. It makes me smile to think of it now, and I still have some of the stories in an old blue clothbound three ring binder. I’m still friends with the girl who wrote the other stories. I showed her the notebook a while back, and she laughed about the stories with me. Good memories.
KRL: Can you tell us a bit about that first novel?
Susan: My first novel came out in 2007. It was called Kate’s Pride and was loosely based on the life of one of my own great, great grandmothers. I had been tracing my family history since the early eighties, and I was unable to find anything about her family. I was told, by my oldest living family members at that time, that she had been disowned because she had an illegitimate child. I don’t know if that’s all they knew or if that’s all they were willing to tell me. These family members were born in the very early 1900s and were shaped by the taboos and stigmas of their generation. So, being a writer and having done a good bit of research into the time when my great, great grandmother lived (1844-1901), I wrote my first novel. It’s out of print now, but it received some good reviews and a few local book clubs chose it as their book of the month. I have the rights to it and may re-release it later.
KRL: In your new book Lily Gayle is keen on researching genealogy, too. Have you ever performed an actual genealogy search or had your family researched? Any fun branches in your family tree?
Susan: I have been researching my family since the early 1980s. It’s one of the most fun, and at the same time, most frustrating things I’ve done. I’ve worked on four branches and traced three of them back to the early 1700s. I’m stuck in the mid 1800s on one branch. And it’s the one I made into the fictional novel Kate’s Pride. I didn’t discover any significant historical figures, but I did learn that my roots are sunk deep into farming and military service. And there were a few places, back in the 1800s, where the tree didn’t branch too far. If you get my meaning.
KRL: We know about your mysteries and the fictional novel. What else have you written?
Susan: Kate’s Pride was historical fiction. But my others have been romantic suspense and cozy mystery. Those are the three genres that have appealed most to me all my life. Fated Love is a romantic suspense set in Memphis, Tennessee. It has a bit of paranormal in it. I also love a bit of a shiver in my suspense. The cozy mystery is set in the fictional town of Mercy, Mississippi. It’s more Dukes of Hazzard meets Murder, She Wrote.
KRL: Mercy, Mississippi, the setting for Death of a Wolfman, is quite the southern town with delightful residents. Is there a little bit of reality here? Are the town and characters based on your town and people you know?
Susan: I have always loved Agatha Christie. I think I’ve read every book she wrote…multiple times. So choosing a cozy mystery was not a reach for me. I wanted to set in the world I grew up: a small town in the South where the characters grew up together and who come from families that have lived there for generations. The characters themselves are a mix of people I know now and knew growing up. Some of them my own family and some who seem like family. I wanted to have the freedom to create the town in anyway I chose, so I set the Lily Gayle Lambert Mysteries in a made up place. It’s in north Mississippi, not far from Memphis, Tennessee. So it’s still in my ‘stomping ground’ so to speak and I can give an authenticity that I don’t feel I would be able to do if I placed it somewhere else.
Lily Gayle is a little like me and a little like several other people I know. I am a genealogist, and I sew some. I have a cousin who is a wonderful seamstress. So those traits in Lily Gayle came from the two of us. I like a good mystery and so do a lot of my friends, so Lily Gayle sticking her nose into her cousin’s police business comes from a wide variety of people. Like a lot of people in small southern towns, Lily Gayle left when she graduated from college, and came back when she needed to after her husband was killed in a car accident.
Mercy is made up of snippets of several small towns I’ve lived in or visited over the years. I took my favorite parts, mixed them up and created Mercy. I love the concept of a big open town square with the veterans memorial, a great big magnolia tree, and a gazebo. Lily Gayle and the gang are a mix of myself and people I’ve known, met, or related to. Miss Edna is a mix of all the older people I knew back when I was a young girl. Those people born in the early 1900s who spoke their mind and didn’t care what anyone thought about them. They would be the first to call you out on something they thought was wrong or inappropriate, but they would also be the first ones to come to your defense if you needed it.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Susan: My main goal is to entertain. I feel that everyone needs to escape from time to time. That being said, I would like the reader take away to be a feeling that she/he met some people that she/he likes, and that reading my books was time and money well spent.
KRL: When you actually sit down to do some writing, do you have a schedule or just write whenever you can? Any special times?
Susan: I have a full-time day job and also a part-time job ghost writing articles. So those have to come first. I write my books betwixt and between. Any time I can find a spare five minutes or so, I try to use it to get a little further with my book. Maybe figure out a plot point or a way to build out something already in the works. I usually manage to carve out a couple of hours in the evening two or three days a week to really put in some time with writing my books. And Saturday morning, early, is devoted to my books, too.
My ideal time to write would be late at night. When everyone has gone to bed. Not just in my house, but in all the houses in my neighborhood. When the world is hushed. No traffic, no planes, no people. Just that hushed feeling of the world waiting for what comes next. So peaceful. And, for me, so conducive to writing! Sadly, my day job begins at 6:30 a.m., so communing with the universe in the wee hours is a rare treat.
KRL: Do you outline or other interesting trick you use to keep track of what’s going on or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Susan: I sort of outline. I didn’t with Death of a Wolfman and kept finding issues that I hadn’t resolved every time I read through the manuscript!
So I went to Hobby Lobby and bought one of those trifold core boards that kids use for school projects. I lined if off into grids with each grid representing a chapter and then bought Post-it notes in multiple colors. Each color represents a strand in the story line and has a plot point written on it. I can track the whole plot process from start to resolution across the book by looking at the Post-its in the matching colors. I can just fold it up when I’m done for the day and all the Post-its stay in place.
I also have a box with index cards in it. Each character has an index card with height, weight, hair color, eye color, individual traits, etc. So that’s how I track that information. This seems kind of complicated, but it’s actually much easier for me than trying to juggle all those details in my head.
KRL: Besides using your family, familiar place, and what you know, what kind of research do you do?
Susan: For Death Of A Wolfman, I talked to some local police officers to get a feel for what would happen with Lily Gayle breaking into a suspect’s house and bringing back evidence. I also talked to some friends in the medical field to clarify some things with the autopsy. So my research for the next book will be the same type thing. Reaching out to experts in various fields to get reliable information about plot points.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Susan: Yes. It’s very difficult to get published in the beginning. It seems like the odds are stacked against you. I went the traditional route with Kate’s Pride. I never did find an agent, which meant I couldn’t submit to the big New York publishing houses, but I did find a small independent press that was willing to take a chance on me. Another small independent press published Fated Love in 2007.
I regained my rights to both and rereleased Fated Love as an independent author. Death of a Wolfman is also independently published. I do have another cozy series that I think I will take to a publisher first, but if they aren’t interested, then I will independently publish that series as well. I have a professional editor, a professional book cover designer, and a professional formatter. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have those. You put a lot of work into your book. Make sure it’s presented professionally when it’s published. Whether you hire the professionals yourself or you find a publishing house.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Susan: Keep writing and learning. Make sure your work is polished and professional, and if you choose to go the indie route, make sure you hire professionals to assist. It’s a hard field to break into, and even when you do, it will, most likely, be a long slow build. For every author that breaks out into bestsellerdom with their first book, there are a thousand or more walking a longer path.
KRL: Do you have any future writing goals?
Susan: I plan to write more books in the Lily Gayle Lambert Mystery series. I have another cozy mystery series I plan to write and I also am working on a series that will consist of short books, about 50 pages each, that will only be published on Amazon as ebooks.
KRL:Death of a Wolfman is great for the Halloween season. Can we hope for Christmas in Mercy, Mississippi?
Susan: I would love to have a Christmas book out, but unfortunately, I don’t think there will be a Christmas book this year. I have so many ideas for celebrations in town! But if I manage to pull it off, y’all will definitely be on the list to find out early.
KRL: Do you have any writing heroes?
Susan: My heroes will be regular guys. Like Ben Carter in Death of a Wolfman. He’s just a small town guy who’s made some mistakes but always pulls himself up by his bookstraps and keeps on keeping on. He’s the old fashioned kind of hero. Sort of like Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
KRL: You seem very busy with work and writing, but what do you like to read?
Susan: Oh my! I read a lot of different authors across a lot of different genres. Historical Tudor England, anything to do with Celtic legends, contemporary cozy mysteries, fantasy and some sci-fi. The list is endless.
KRL: Do you indulge in television or movies? Any favorites?
Susan: I don’t watch much TV. Lack of time and not a lot of shows I’m interested in. I have been a huge fan of Big Bang Theory from the start, and I absolutely loved Downton Abbey. I watched the premiere of Bull and think I may get drawn into that one. My favorite movie is Dirty Dancing. I can pretty much quote it word for word. LOL.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Susan: Most people are surprised to learn that I’m pretty adept at what I call the ‘old fashioned womanly arts.’ I can knit, crochet, sew, and embroider. I can also plant, harvest, and put up/can all kinds of food. I learned all these skills growing up in that small town I talked about earlier. I still miss sitting on the porch snapping green beans with my grandma.
KRL: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Susan: I’m in the process of adding to my Street Team. It’s called the “Boles Bunch” and is made up of reviewers, bloggers, and readers who want to be a part of growing the fan base for the Lily Gayle Lambert Mysteries by reading free copies of the book and reviewing on their own blogs, Amazon, Goodreads, or any social media site they participate in, also tweeting and Facebooking about the series. Anyone who’s interested can contact me at susan@susanbolesauthor[dot]com.
KRL: This has been great. Thank you for joining us. Let’s end it with something fun. Many cozy mystery writers include recipes or tips at the back of their books. Can you give us your best Sweet Tea recipe?
Susan: For the best Sweet Tea, place seven individual size tea bags into a pot with 4 cups water. Bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and let steep for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Pour into 2 quart pitcher and add one cup sugar. Stir till sugar is dissolved, then add cold water to fill line of pitcher. Let chill in the refrigerator or serve over ice.
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To enter to win an e-book copy of Death of a Wolfman, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “wolfman,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 22, 2016. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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The tea sounds delicious! The book even better.
Great interview. Once again persistence pays off.
Thank you for introducing me to a new book and author! I look forward to reading Death of a Wolfman. I enjoyed your summary, review, and interview. I like finding new cozy mystery authors and books!
Sounds like there are a variety of threads to this cozy murder mystery. Probably an interesting read that I’d like to do.
I love mysteries set in small Southern towns. This does sound like a wonderful story.
I haven’t heard of this series before. What a great find. utaker555(at)gmail(dot)com
Oh I’ve been wanting to read this one! Would love a chance to win a copy. Thanks for hosting!
Another new to me series.
kckendler at gmail dot com
Sounds like a good read that I would enjoy
We have a winner!