Hi, I am interviewing author Susan Coryell. She is a career educator who has taught students from 7th grade through college-level. She earned a BA degree in English from Carson-Newman College and a Masters from George Mason University. She is listed in several different volumes of Who’s Who in Education and Who’s Who in Teaching. Susan belongs to Author’s Guild, Virginia Writers, and Lake Writers. She loves to talk with budding writers at schools, writers’ conferences and workshops.
A RED, RED ROSE, first in a cozy mystery/Southern Gothic series, was nominated for a literary award with the Library of Virginia. BENEATH THE STONES, the sequel, also nominated for a literary award, was released in April of 2015. NOBODY KNOWS, third novel in the Overhome Trilogy, was released October, 2016. All three novels were published by The Wild Rose Press in NY.
When not writing, Susan enjoys boating, kayaking, golf and yoga. She and her husband, Ned, love to travel, especially when any of their seven grandchildren are involved.
What is the title and genre of your latest novel?
NOBODY KNOWS is the 3rd book in the Overhome Trilogy (The Wild Rose Press, Oct. 14, 2016) All three novels in my series are categorized as cozy Mystery/Southern Gothic cross-genre. I have long been interested in the history and culture of the South where deeply-held and hard-fought ideals battle with modernity; the Southern Gothic works well with The Overton family’s historic plantation. Also, I love the fact that cozies rely more heavily on mystery and generally deal with gore and sex off-stage, if at all. This fits my own reading preference, not to mention I can’t write sexy scenes without cringing.
What inspired the Overhome Trilogy?
Interestingly, even though my setting is (fictional) Moore Mountain Lake in Southern Virginia, my inspiration for the first novel A Red, Red Rose, derived from an historic property in Northern Virginia where I lived and had my career. The beautiful old estate was rumored to house a ghost. Though I never experienced the spirit in any way (Lord knows, I tried!), I was fascinated by the ancient aura surrounding the house and barn. I never had time to write the novel, but, when I retired to Southern Virginia, I decided to fictionalize the setting based on my new home; thus, Moore Mountain Lake was born and I set out to write A Red, Red Rose. The setting remains the same for the second novel, Beneath the Stones and for Nobody Knows. In each novel a new conflict arises related to the layers of history and generated by the anxiety of spirits of that past, most notably those involved in the Civil War. The reader meets the ghosts of former masters of the plantation as well as slaves who worked the house and fields.
Tell us about the heroine and/or hero of your novel.
Ashby Overton is twenty years old when she arrives at Overhome Estate in search of ancestral roots and answers to family mysteries kept from her as she grew up in New Jersey. On her first night in her room in the oldest wing of the house, she is visited by Rosabelle, who turns out to be a family ghost. (A Red, Red Rose) Five years later in Beneath the Stones, Ashby, now owner of the Estate, battles with ancient spirits as she attempts to sell off some of the property to stave off financial peril. Another five years passes, and Nobody Knows finds Ashby a successful writer, happily married and settled at Overhome until a tall, dark (literally dark since he is African-American) stranger shows up claiming to be related to the Overtons. His appearance, along with a local developer’s attempt to destroy a slave-built church, stirs the slave spirits to a fury. In each novel, Ashby must use her sixth sense to ferret out the troubled spirits and set them to rest. I call the series mystery, history, romance and ghosts.
Tell us about your previous published work.
My first published work was a YA anti-bully novel Eaglebait, now in its third edition. It won the NY Library’s Books for the Teen-Age award as well as the International Reading Association’s Young Adult Choice. Schools, churches and other groups interested in anti-bully literature find the book a good way to talk about building self-esteem as a way to combat bullying.
What are you working on now?
I am thinking of a departure from my other writings—perhaps a snarky murder mystery based on my thirty-year teaching experience. Yes, there’re plenty of grounds for murder in career education!
What made you start writing?
I have always been a writer. My mother said I was born with a pencil in my hand, and I admit writing seems strongly embedded in my gene pool. My maternal grandfather was a published poet; both of my college dean brothers are published as are all three of my children. One grand girl, now nine, already knows she is a writer. I say, writers know who we are and writers have to write.
What advice would you offer to those currently writing novels?
I’d say, first, write for yourself, then branch out to a likely audience for what you have to say. Definitely find a writers’ group willing to dish out constructive criticism and tell it like it is. Read widely, especially in your writing genres and never quit—even when the dreaded “writers’ block” sets in. Lower your standards temporarily and press on. Learn to write a decent query letter and don’t be afraid to submit to small publishing houses willing to keep your book available indefinitely. Also, don’t quit your day job; if you make it big, it probably won’t happen for a long, long time.
A Red, Red Rose: http://a.co/7ZrZXFA
Beneath the Stones: http://a.co/gHEtQ3X
Nobody Knows: https://amzn.com/1509210504
Thanks, Jacqueline for the invitation to participate on your wonderful blog! I look forward to comments from our readers.