Formerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, the setting of many of her stories. In January 2017, she was appointed as the facilitator of the Just Buffalo Literary Center Writer’s Critique Group.
Since 2007 her short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals. These include Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writers Journal short romance competition), Ginger Man, Elvira, The Memory Tree, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, Smoker’s Lament, Kaddish, and Sabbath (nominated by the editor of Prick of the Spindle for 2013 Best of the Net, and winner of second place in the 2017 Word Weaver Writing Competition). A collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been published by Solstice Publishing.
Susan Solomon is the author of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries. A finalist in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and a finalist for the 2016 Book Excellence Award, her first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, The Magic of Murder, has received rave reviews, as have the novelettes, Bella Vita, and The Day the Music Died, and the novel, Dead Again, which was a finalist for the 2017 McGrath House Indie Book of the Year. In the latest Emlyn Goode Mystery novelette, ’Twas the Season, Ms. Solomon once more demonstrates that murder has a sense of humor.
Emlyn Good Mysteries
The Magic of Murder: http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Murder-Susan-Lynn-Solomon-ebook/dp/B015OQO5LO
Dead Again: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N0OA1IV
Bella Vita: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B01I01WEWW
The Day the Music Died: https://www.amazon.com/Day-Music-Died-Emlyn-Mystery-ebook/dp/B0747V1DPT
’Twas the Season: www.amazon.com/Twas-Season-Emlyn-Goode-Mystery/dp/1625266987
How long are your books?
Both current Emlyn Goode Mystery novels—The Magic of Murder and Dead Again are about 260 pages. There are also two Emlyn Goode Mystery novelettes, The Day the Music Died and ’Twas the Season, both of which are about 110 pages. Finally, for people with a penchant for short mysteries, Bella Vita is about 50 pages…
Wait now. I fibbed. There are two new Emlyn Goode Mysteries on the way. The novel, Writing is Murder will available soon on Kindle and in paperback. This book will also be about 260 pages. And finally (I mean it this time) the novelette, A Shot in the Woods which will appear in the Solstice Plots & Schemes 2 anthology is about 110 pages. Whew! Seven Emlyn Goode stories in the past three years. I think I’m exhausted.
Why did you decide to write this series?
The Emlyn Goode stories have grown from two things. First is my love of murder mysteries—especially cozies. If I close my eyes I can recall my parents sitting in our living room lost in such books for hours. Agatha Christie was my mom’s favorite. Dad’s was Rex Stout. I wasn’t much of a reader as a child until my mother gave me Christie’s Peril at End House. That Hercule Poirit mystery—the places, the characters, the twists and turns—filled my imagination. I’ve was hooked.
The second thing that’s led me to Emlyn Goode is a fascination with witchcraft. Ten or so years ago I was writing a short story for an online journal. That story, “Witches Gumbo,” was told in a metaphor of witchcraft practiced in a fictional Louisiana bayou, and focused on the maltreatment of women. To provide details that would give life to the story, I purchased a few books about witchcraft. Again I was hooked, and I’ve been researching the subject since.
So, when a friend dared me to write a murder mystery these two factors jumped into my mind: a light story—at times I laughed while typing it—people of all ages would get lost in, involving a modern day witch… or in the case of my narrator, a novice witch getting in trouble when trying to use the craft.
What genre is your series?
The Emlyn Goode stories are murder mysteries—cozy mysteries, actually.
Do you consider your books character-driven or plot-driven?
I believe a good story must be driven by its characters. I work to make my characters both believable and people my readers would like to have as friends. From the reviews and comments each Emlyn Goode Mystery has received, it appears I’ve accomplished this.
Once my characters had been established, it was time to wrap a plot around them. With murder mysteries I work to make that plot full of twists and turns—and a red herring or two. Always, though, there will be clues scattered within the story. Then I sit back and watch how my characters unravel what’s happened.
What makes your series unique?
The uniqueness of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries lies with my characters. Not long after her fortieth birthday, Emlyn Goode, my narrator, learns she’s a direct descendant of Sarah Goode, a woman hanged as a witch in Salem. Emlyn has been given her ancient relative’s Book of Shadows, a diary of a sort, in which old Sarah wrote her thoughts and observations of people she lived among. In this book are also ways in which herbs and spices might be mixed together to accomplish… uh, certain results. In each story portions of Sarah book are quoted.
Emlyn’s friend, Rebecca Nurse, owns The Black Cat, an arcane shop that stocks materials Sarah Goode might have used.
Where the history of Salem at the time of the witch trials is mentioned, the facts have been researched, as has the old-fashioned English Sarah used in her book. The herbalism/witchcraft mentioned has also been researched (I won’t claim I use these things—don’t want to be strung up as they were back then). Although magic is a factor in these stories, the crimes Emlyn and her friends (and cat) face aren’t solved by magic. Each time it’s used there’s an alternate explanation. For example, when Emlyn attempts a spell that takes her back in time, the alternate explanation is that she’s gotten stoned on the incense she burns during her ritual—her cop boyfriend certainly believes that’s what happened.
Do you plot ahead of time, or let the plot emerge as you write?
When I began to write I carefully outlined my stories, attempting to force my characters to do what I demanded of them. I soon found those early stories didn’t work. The characters had no life. Lesson learned, I became what people smile and call a “pantser.” By this I mean I start with a basic idea of the story’s end, then I develop my main characters and sit back and let them tell me how they’ll get there. The result has been a number of short stories published in print and in online literary journals—several of which have won awards—and then published novels which have also won awards.
How do you develop the names for your characters?
This is a good question. It’s something I’ve never thought about. I guess in most cases the names just come to me. There are, of course, a few exceptions. In developing the Emlyn Goode Mysteries I needed the names of people who were prosecuted in the 1692 Salem witch trials. The names of these actual people were found in my research. For Emlyn I needed an old family name that sounded like it might have come from that period, and yet would be different enough to stick in the minds of my readers. Don’t know where “Emlyn” came from. It just popped into my head when I began to write. Blushing from embarrassment, I confess that in many respects Emlyn Goode is me…
Other names? Sometimes they’re those of people I know or have met (at least built on their initials). As an example, in the new Emlyn Goode novel that’s about to be released, a number of the characters are based on members of my writers group, so their names are built on their initials… again with one major exception. This was a character originally named Ellen. Halfway through the novel I realized that that I had three characters whose names began with an “E.” As a result, I had to change Ellen’s name to Samantha. Again, that name just popped into my head.
How do you decide on the setting?
The books I most enjoy reading allow me to see what the characters see, and taste and smell what they do. Since I want to give my readers this experience, my stories are set in places I know well. The Emlyn Goode stories as well as a number of my short stories are set in western New York—especially Niagara Falls, the place I live. Other stories, and a paranormal romance novel on which I’m currently working, are set in Manhattan and on Long Island. These are places I’d lived for many years. Using sites I know so well, I can imbue my stories with details—the streets and back alleys, the restaurants, the businesses—readers could find if they visited.
Do you have a writing mentor?
I do. Gary Earl Ross, a novelist and playwright. For a number of years Gary moderated the Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Writers Critique Group of which I’m a member. Though I’d had a few short stories published before we met—few among many I had written—Gary guided my writing to a level I never thought I could achieve. I don’t know what Gary saw in me or my writing, and I’ll never be able to properly thank him.
One thing I should mention. The Emlyn Goode stories are Gary’s fault. They are, and he can’t deny it. Though I’ve always loved reading cozy mysteries, I’d never written one. Gary, on the other hand, is a master of the genre. One evening after a writers group meeting he and I were talking about our mutual love of murder mysteries, and he asked why I hadn’t written one. I told him I didn’t believe I could create the plot for such a story. That’s when he did the unthinkable. He gave me a hard look, and dared me to try… I’ve never been smart enough to ignore a dare. Well, The Magic of Murder, the first Emlyn Goode Mystery grew from that dare. So, readers, if you’re ready to throw a book against the wall in frustration from trying to unravel the clues on one these stories, blame Gary Earl Ross!
What’s your writing schedule? Do you have a favorite place to write?
I’ll write any chance I get and any place I happen to be. I carry my writer’s journal with me most of the time, and make notes about the places I am, the people I see, and conversations I might overhear… Of course, that last one can be a bit dangerous. Apparently people are less than thrilled to see me making notes of their private conversations—a few times I was asked to leave a restaurant. Well, at least a few stories built from notes in my journal have turned into published short stories—The Memory Tree, the Christmas story I wrote for a Solstice anthology was one of those.
As to the times I sit at my computer working on stories, after practicing law for more years than I care to remember I recently retired. Now I work on stories every morning—and when I’m in the middle of story, sometimes late into the evening. I have to get the writing done before I forget what I wanted to say. It’s fortunate I have a good friend who periodically drags me from my writer’s lair, or I might go months without breathing fresh air.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I do have three things to add. For Emlyn Goode Mystery fans, two new stories will soon be released. The novelette, A Shot in the Woods, is in Solstice Publishing’s Plots & Schemes 2 anthology, and there’s a new novel, Writing is Murder.
Besides these—and while a begin the fourth Emlyn Goode novel—I’m working through chapters of a paranormal romance that I expect to have out near this end of this year. This book will give my reads a view of stories I write when I’m not killing people.
Where can we find you?
Bonus! Book review!
I read The Magic of Murder and enjoyed it so much, I have to let you know! 5 stars:
I loved this book. It’s funny, clever, multi-layered, and rich with self-deprecating humor. The protagonist and amateur sleuth, Emlyn Goode, is a writer who has recently discovered her ancestry and family gift. As she works to master her powers, there’s a mystery to solve and a romance shimmering on the horizon. The well-planted red herrings, plot twists, and great characters kept me turning the pages. I’ll definitely read more in this series, and glad there are plenty of books to satisfy my craving for magic and murder!