Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Susan Russo Anderson, author of the Serafina Florio historical mystery novels DEATH OF A SERPENT, NO MORE BROTHERS, DEATH OF A SAD FACE, DEATH IN BAGHERIA, MURDER ON THE RUE CASSETTE, and Fina Fitzgibbons contemporary mystery novel TOO QUIET IN BROOKLYN, and welcome her to my blog.
Thanks for having me, Marcia, and for the opportunity to meet your readers.
Q: Have any life experiences inspired you to write your books?
A: Great question! There are probably lots that I’m not aware of, Marcia, but my first book began when I was commissioned to paint the Lower East Side, a preserved immigrant neighborhood in Manhattan that I really love. Anyway, this was way back in 1997. My assignment was to paint a diptych of the area and I began my research by just walking the streets and wondering what it would be like to leave everything—friends, family, all the knowns—and arrive in a new country barely understanding the language, not knowing the way around, and dressed in odd apparel. One thing led to another, and I began to imagine being there in 1900, bumping into the pushcarts, walking in the middle of a melting pot. There were so many characters on the street. And they charmed me, they really did. They walked right into my heart. One thing led to another, you know how life changes, and I began painting with words instead of with oil.
Q: For how long have you been writing?
A: A very, very long time. I’ve always loved it. I wrote for my school newspapers, but it wasn’t until early 2000 that I began writing short stories, and after my husband died in 2006, I decided to get really serious and write mysteries.
Q: Each writer works in different ways with reference to writing. Do you have a writing program/schedule that works for you?
A: Sit butt in chair and write first thing in the morning—that’s my system. In the afternoon, I edit and read or walk or shoot with a camera. I read a lot, it helps my imagination, especially poetry. It frees my mind. But getting back to words, it’s necessary for me to have daily word goals, but the process of writing is much more than that. For me, giving room to the subconscious is also necessary, impossible to quantify. When walking the dog or feeding the cat or scratching the pen across blank pages, I rely on my subconscious to understand my characters and to arrive at plot.
Q: Do you have any favorite book genres which you love to read?
A: There’s another great question! You’d think I’d say, yes, mysteries, and I love to read them, I’ve always loved them. But I also love literary and historical fiction and romance. I love them all to bits. And you’d think I’d write in one of those genres, but you know, I don’t think you choose your genre: your genre chooses you.
Q: Are there any favorite books and authors who have been influential upon you and your writing?
A: Wow, so many. I think James Joyce was the first. I was introduced to him in college and it’s been a love affair ever since. And F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, W.B. Yeats, Anita Brookner, Dylan Thomas, Hilary Mantel, Ann Beattie—can I keep going?—Saul Bellow, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, John Hart, T.S. Eliot, Barbara Cleverly. To name a very few.
Q: After reading DEATH OF A SAD FACE, I was struck by the deft characterization of detective Serafina Florio, and how the story depicted both her investigative pursuits, and family life, all with a florid and colorful background in Sicily, 1868. What inspired you to create this heroine, and write stories in the mystery genre?
A: Thanks so much, Marcia, for being such a fan, but you’ve given me another challenging question. I guess I’ve always been fascinated and frightened by leaving. And death is the ultimate leaving. And migration—that’s a sort of death. And since mysteries are all about death, I guess I gravitated toward that genre.
Q: What led you to choose the beautiful Sicily as the setting for the Serafina Florio book series?
A: Serafina is based on my love of the immigrant neighborhood in large Manhattan, specifically Elizabeth Street where Sicilians clustered in the early 1900s and also on an ancestor of mine who was a midwife in Sicily. And BTW, she lived from 1805 to 1905.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, either from the past, or still on the air?
A: I love the British sitcoms, for instance, Doc Martin and As Time Goes By. And who doesn’t love Downton Abbey and The Paradise? I love most of the mystery series on TV and I’m just getting into House of Cards. And I love Great Performances, especially when performances at The Met—I used to work there and it gave me a sense of lavish production.
Q: Are there any hobbies you like to participate in when you have spare time?
A: I’ve always loved photography and shoot when I’m out walking and of course traveling. I look for how light falls on objects which is to say, I try to create a mood. I used to paint but I’ve had to make choices. And I love to walk. For me, it’s the easiest way to plot.
Q: Would you like to write stories in other genres at some stage?
A: Again, a wonderful question. I think really that the genre chooses the author, so if something literary were to choose me, I’d be flattered.
Q: Do you have any other writing projects, or new/upcoming releases, that you would like to mention?
A: I’m editing the second book in the Fina Fitzgibbons series, Missing Brandy, and writing the third book, Whiskey’s Gone, and last month I talked to The Literary Ladies book club and had so much fun doing it. I think I’d like to do more of that.
I am certain you will join me in thanking Susan today for her time, and that we look forward to reading more of her works in the future. If you wish to contact Susan, she is available on:
– Susan’s books can be accessed on Amazon by clicking on the book covers below: