Since 1997, you’ve been coming to BarnesandNoble.com to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, BN.com is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.

Reply
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

I asked Susan: Do you have a favorite among your books/series? She responded:

 

China is the character closest to my heart, but Ruby is a close second—so that makes the series my favorite. In fact, I often think of China and Ruby as two sides (one logical, a linear thinker; the other imaginative and creative) of a single personality. Together, they can do things (and solve mysteries) that one of them, alone, can never manage.  I never had a sister, but now I have two: China and Ruby. I’m looking forward to trailing them around with a notebook and a mini-recorder as they get tangled up in their next adventure.

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

Do any of you have questions about Susan's books? I know a lot of you have read them! I'm excited to read the Wilder Rose - growing up, my best friend was addicted to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. I read a few of them but I leaned toward more gruesome books - scary thrillers and all kinds of mysteries. I discovered Susan's books when she first started writing the China Bayles books. As a garden writer, I've always enjoyed books that combined mystery and plants! I've read almost all the books in that series - the latest ones are in my to-be-read pile. (Since I started babysitting for my granddaughter, I'm not reading as fast as I used to!)

 

I have a couple questions for Susan, but I hope you'll all join the discussion, too. Susan is very busy working on her books and I REALLY appreciate the time she's taking to join us!

 

Susan, I hope you don't mind a couple writerly questions. Do you plot your books before you write them, or do you write organically?

 

With your series books, do you plan the whole arc of the series or do you take it one book at a time?

 

With all the books you've written, has it gotten easier to write a book or is every book just as challenging as your early books?

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,389
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

I did ask one queston yesterday, but I will also ask one that I had earlier asked Nicola Upson when she was here, talking about her Josephine Tey series.

 

Susan, have you ever heard a name for the subgenre in which real-life authors are featured as the sleuths?  I seem to find myself drawn to these; in addition to your Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and Nicola's Josephine Tey series, I also have mysteries featuring Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcott, and even Dashiell Hammett.  I'd love to be able to put a name to this type of mystery.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

I asked Susan: With all the books you've written, has it gotten easier to write a book or is every book just as challenging as your early books? This is her reply:

 

Good question! It’s easier in some ways, yes: I’m more skilled and experienced and confident—all of which make the process easier and the outcome a little more certain. (After all, I’ve been writing adult mysteries for two decades now. It ought to be easier, oughtn’t it?)

 

But in another way, it’s harder, because the bar (my own expectations for the book) seems to be set a little higher each time. I don’t know if it’s apparent to the casual reader, but I’m an experimenter. I’m bored easily, and I like to try different things in different books—different forms, different combinations of characters, different plot juxtapositions. I definitely do NOT want to write the same book over and over. Which is one reason I’ve decided to vary my writing by doing mainstream, non-genre standalones, probably author-published.

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

I asked Susan: With your series books, do you plan the whole arc of the series or do you take it one book at a time?

 

She replied:

 

I’ve done it different ways. China was my first adult series. It began back in 1992, and I had no way of knowing—when I wrote that first book—how far it would go. So I thought of it more like a series of disconnected standalones, featuring the same characters. When I got as far as Books 4, 5, and 6 (they were all on the same contract), I began to think of it as a series of connected narratives, with an arc for China’s relationship with McQuaid—and I plotted that out. After that, the arc of the series was defined by changes in the lives of the characters.

 

Please remember that in the middle 90s, writers weren’t yet talking about the “arc” of a mystery series. That was a new concept, primarily because most writers weren’t paying attention to character growth across a stretch of books. I think I was one of the first authors to introduce that idea as a subject for discussion on a panel at one of the mystery conferences.

 

The Cottage Tales did have a clearly defined arc, established by the real life of Beatrix Potter, the protagonist in the series. It begins in 1905, when she buys Hill Top Farm, and ends in 1913, when she marries Will Heelis. Each of the books is anchored in a particular year and related to specific (and real) events in her life.

 

The Dahlias series is set in the Depression years (1931, 1932, 1933), and the lead characters’ lives change during that time. So the series has a “period” arc and the characters live through the natural changes in their lives.

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

From Susan:

 

I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’ve learned to trust my characters to create their own plot. This is especially true in my own series—China Bayles, the Dahlias, the Cottage Tales—where the characters are more like friends, or members of the family. I try to find a central issue or set of problems, then put them down in the middle of it and let them muddle through. WIDOW’S TEARS is a good example. I knew the hurricane story—mother nature essentially plotted that for me, and I relied on the work of writers like Erik Larsen to fill in the details. But Ruby constructed her own plot, and China helped. Seriously. I didn’t know until the final chapters how it was going to turn out, because Ruby and China were still working on it. (Sounds weird, but there it is.)

 

The Robin Paige books were very different, though. Bill and I were working together, and we had to know that we were working on the same book. So Bill would create a storyboard, with the multiple plot lines on it (usually a plot for each point of view character, which might amount to eight different plots). We generally stayed pretty close to his plotting, because of the intricacy of the construction.

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...


dulcinea3 wrote:

Hello again, Susan!  I hope you can manage to sign in; it must be frustrating. I have no tips, as I have not had that problem.

 

I wanted to say that I really loved The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter!  Potter was a favorite childhood author of mine; I had several of her 'little books', and now I have them all collected in one volume.  I have to say that you had me running to pull it out many times, when you would indicate that we could see something you were describing in one of the illustrations!  The stories were fun, and I especially loved the animal characters.  One of my favorite things would be when they were trying to communicate with humans, and would be told to stop barking or meowing!  Beatrix usually seemed to understand them, though!  And of course, the Brockery was always fun to hear about!  I also enjoyed the biographical notes at the end of each book - by the time I finished the series, I also felt like I had read a complete biography of Beatrix Potter, which was very interesting.

 

I have a question for you - why did you decide to introduce a dragon as a character?  I don't remember Beatrix ever writing about a dragon, and it was the only imaginary animal you used.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed him, but wondered why.


Here's Susan's response:

 

Dulcinea, I’ve wondered about this too. In the broader mainstream world, fiction featuring real people is called “biographical fiction.” It’s also categorized as “historical fiction.” So maybe we could call them “biographical mysteries”? Personally, I love to read them. And you already know that I love to write that kind of fiction.

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,389
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...


becke_davis wrote:

dulcinea3 wrote:

Hello again, Susan!  I hope you can manage to sign in; it must be frustrating. I have no tips, as I have not had that problem.

 

I wanted to say that I really loved The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter!  Potter was a favorite childhood author of mine; I had several of her 'little books', and now I have them all collected in one volume.  I have to say that you had me running to pull it out many times, when you would indicate that we could see something you were describing in one of the illustrations!  The stories were fun, and I especially loved the animal characters.  One of my favorite things would be when they were trying to communicate with humans, and would be told to stop barking or meowing!  Beatrix usually seemed to understand them, though!  And of course, the Brockery was always fun to hear about!  I also enjoyed the biographical notes at the end of each book - by the time I finished the series, I also felt like I had read a complete biography of Beatrix Potter, which was very interesting.

 

I have a question for you - why did you decide to introduce a dragon as a character?  I don't remember Beatrix ever writing about a dragon, and it was the only imaginary animal you used.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed him, but wondered why.


Here's Susan's response:

 

Dulcinea, I’ve wondered about this too. In the broader mainstream world, fiction featuring real people is called “biographical fiction.” It’s also categorized as “historical fiction.” So maybe we could call them “biographical mysteries”? Personally, I love to read them. And you already know that I love to write that kind of fiction.


Oh, I like that!  Thanks, Susan!  I will from now on call them biographical mysteries!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

I wrote to Susan: I hadn't really thought about the fact that series mysteries are relatively new.

 

She replied:

 

Actually, thinking about your remark below—it’s not that series mysteries are new. They’ve been around since Sherlock Holmes and the early Agathas. But those are what I think of as “snapshot” mysteries, where the books in the series (or short stories or novellas) are essentially standalones. There’s little carryover from the previous books, and the protagonist changes little from book to book. The Kinsey Milhone and the early Sharon McCone mysteries are structured that way—you can think of many others.

 

What’s fairly recent about series mysteries is the idea that each book represents a consecutive chapter in the main character’s evolving life situation. In the case of China Bayles, you can read all 21 books as if they were 21 chapters in China’s life—the series is a megabook, in that sense. When they’re read in order, that life situation arc is clearly apparent. Of course, each book has to stand alone, since not all readers can or want to read the full arc.

 

 

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...


dulcinea3 wrote:

becke_davis wrote:

dulcinea3 wrote:

Hello again, Susan!  I hope you can manage to sign in; it must be frustrating. I have no tips, as I have not had that problem.

 

I wanted to say that I really loved The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter!  Potter was a favorite childhood author of mine; I had several of her 'little books', and now I have them all collected in one volume.  I have to say that you had me running to pull it out many times, when you would indicate that we could see something you were describing in one of the illustrations!  The stories were fun, and I especially loved the animal characters.  One of my favorite things would be when they were trying to communicate with humans, and would be told to stop barking or meowing!  Beatrix usually seemed to understand them, though!  And of course, the Brockery was always fun to hear about!  I also enjoyed the biographical notes at the end of each book - by the time I finished the series, I also felt like I had read a complete biography of Beatrix Potter, which was very interesting.

 

I have a question for you - why did you decide to introduce a dragon as a character?  I don't remember Beatrix ever writing about a dragon, and it was the only imaginary animal you used.  Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed him, but wondered why.


Here's Susan's response:

 

Dulcinea, I’ve wondered about this too. In the broader mainstream world, fiction featuring real people is called “biographical fiction.” It’s also categorized as “historical fiction.” So maybe we could call them “biographical mysteries”? Personally, I love to read them. And you already know that I love to write that kind of fiction.


Oh, I like that!  Thanks, Susan!  I will from now on call them biographical mysteries!




From Susan:

 

The downside: The books make more sense when they’re read in order. But who has the time/commitment for that?!?

Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

Please email me or send me a Facebook message if any of you are having trouble accessing the Mystery Forum. Thank you!

Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
Posts: 4,389
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...

Susan, thank you for visiting with us this week!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Moderator
becke_davis
Posts: 35,755
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
0 Kudos

Re: Please Welcome SUSAN WITTIG ALBERT! The Nook Books...