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Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview with Susan Russo Anderson

Hi and welcome to the Willow Tree. Today I have the privilege of interviewing author Susan Russo Anderson. Take  a seat and enjoy her answers. 
What are you currently working on and when do you plan to release your next book? I’m working on the third book in the Serafina Florio mystery series for a late fall release. It’s the sequel to DEATH OF A SERPENT and NO MORE BROTHERS and the working title is DEATH IN BAGHERIA. Here’s the plot: Serafina, a struggling widow and midwife turned sleuth investigates the suspicious death of a baroness in Bagheria, one of the aristocracy’s watering holes in the nineteenth century. She discovers many suspects, including the local mafia don, the butler, the gardener, the cook, a local witch. Meanwhile, townspeople gossip about her ongoing affair with the ME; some of her children disappear; money is scarce, the country is in chaos; and grisly types threaten her. Along with the rest of the middle class in Sicily, her family’s life is becoming more and more desperate. (Sound familiar?) But despite these difficulties, Serafina never, ever gives up. She is determined to learn the truth.
Do you have a favorite genre for your writing or do you write whatever moves you? I love writing mysteries, maybe because I’ve always loved puzzles and, of course, the greatest puzzles are characters and why they do what they do, especially in extreme situations. And for us mortals, what could be more extreme than death? It’s our central mystery, such a big part of life. In the midst of life, death; in the midst of death, life.
Any hobbies? I love to walk. I walk about six miles a day, plotting as I plod along. It’s where I walk with my characters and get to know them and let them do the work. I also listen to books. I love to travel and get up at first light, go outside with a journal and walk, walk anywhere and sit and write. Characters and scenes just pop out. And I love love LOVE to read—mysteries, literary, historical fiction and poetry.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about writing? Write before you do anything else. Just sit in the same spot once a day, every day, and achieve your daily word goal. In the beginning, don’t stop to edit or look up a word. After that, revising, editing, and polishing are integral parts of the writing process. Then let the professionals do the final touches. They’re the ones who’ll make you look good.
Do you have a special spot where you like to write or are you a “have lap top will travel” writer? When I commuted to work on the train for an hour each way, I had a laptop and I’d do a lot of writing then. But now I “commute” from my bed to my desk at 5:30 every morning.
What is your favorite book and favorite author? Well, right now I’m very much into Deborah Crombie, Val McDermid, Denise Mina, Lee Child, and I’ve just started reading Scott Nicholson and J.A. Konrath and Margaret Maron. Of course I love the works of William Faulkner, Robert Penn Warren, Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood and James Joyce, the poetry of T.S. Eliot. I could go on and on—I’ve been reading for a very long time. When I find an author I like, I feel sort of, I don’t know, like Balboa must have felt when he discovered the Pacific and I want to read all their books, lose myself in the ocean of their words.
When did you discover your passion for writing? I didn’t begin writing seriously until high school and college. Actually, I used to hate writing term papers, and there were lots of them because I majored in English and minored in history, then went on to take graduate courses in British and American Lit. Maybe it was afterward, when I was first married and going through a bad patch and I’d sit down with a journal and just write. I wrote to understand. But now I write to understand my characters. Lots of times, they take over and that’s when writing is really fun. One thing about characters, they love to take over. Take Serafina. She’s the one who decided to have an affair in NO MORE BROTHERS. Wasn’t my idea, not at all.
Do you have a favorite beverage or snack you must have while writing? I like to eat my breakfast while writing—yogurt, granola, fruit, and whipped topping. And there’s the glory of that first cup of coffee.
Do you have any advice for other writers on any subject you choose? Well, for fiction writers: let your characters tell their story. And if you have children, and I’m very fortunate to have a child and grandchildren, listen to them, the cadence of their speech, the breathless way they have about them when they’re talking to their friends. They’ll charm you with their life and do all the work for you, create characters and write scenes and all you have to do is listen and write it down.
Links to my writing:
My blog and website:,
Where you can buy my books:
Bio: After attending Marywood High School for Girls and St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, I received a B.A. in English Literature from Marquette University.
I am a writer, a mother, a grandmother, a widow, a member of Sisters In Crime. I’ve taught language arts and creative writing, worked for a publisher, an airline, an opera company. Traveled. Grew up on the north side of Chicago, but lived most of my adult life in the east. So, like Faulkner’s Dilsey, I’ve seen the best and the worst, the first and the last. I’ve seen worlds blow apart and life turn inside out in less time than it takes to type this sentence. Through it all, and to understand it somewhat, I write.

Thank you Susan for visiting and answering my questions. I look forward to reading your new book. Happy writing. Blessings,


  1. Brilliant, Susan. So interesting to read about your life. I wish I was an early riser. I waste such a lot of time. And I love your concluding thought.

  2. I love what you said about characters taking over. That is absolutely true. Sometimes words will appear on the page and I'll sit back and say, "No, really?! Well...okay, if that's what you want!" And off we go into new territory.