From the Booking Desk:
Susan Reiss is a member of my local chapter of Sisters in Crime – the incredible Chesapeake “Chessie” Chapter – so I have heard her speak at a number of local events. She is always engaging and makes audience members want to read her series set in St. Michaels, Maryland. Just look at that unique murder weapon on the cover of Tarnished Silver and tell me you are not intrigued. I am thrilled to have her here today to discuss the dangers of an active imagination and to give you a small taste of her books.
IMAGINATION: GIFT or CURSE?
by Susan Reiss
A vivid imagination can fire a successful writing career… or upend it.
Every author uses it to make sense of an event or share a joy or unravel a mystery.
Imagination sparks stories, but the trouble begins when it seems to foretell the future. Think about the mother who waves good-bye to her son as he drives off to college. And her imagination clicks into gear: What if he has an accident? Waves of dread threaten to engulf her. Fighting back,she hustles into the house to distract herself until she gets the phone call that he’s okay.
A writer doesn’t want distractions. Getting the imagination to run wild is part of the writing process: how a character looks, what she says to arival, when he sets the trap for a killer… and that’s just the beginning. I need my imagination to concoct characters, build challenging situations and create elegant solutions. What’s going to happen next? That’s what drives both the writer and reader forward.
That is, until my last book was released and everything changed.
Hammered Silver takes place at the prestigious Governor’s Cup log canoe race. It is the fourth book in the Silver Mystery Series, set in a real village on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland, filled with quirky characters, natural vistas, historical tidbits and lots of fertile ground for murder. This series combines my love for the water,small-town living and sterling silver.
My writing life started giving me an unsettled feeling just after the book went on sale. One morning, I read the read the shocking newspaper headline:
Log Canoe Capsizes
A log canoe is really a 35-foot racing sailboat with a crew of twelve people. The Chesapeake Bay is the only place in the world where you’ll find this unique boat that must maintain a delicate balance between the wind and need for speed. Its rich racing tradition, going back more than a century, is filled with hair-raising stories of boats capsizing. That’s why each canoe has its own chase boat to retrieve crew members often flung into the water, sometimes buried under acres of heavy canvas sails.
So, Log Canoe Capsizes was not front page news. But Woman Missing sent a chill through me. I had used a situation like this in my book, with tendrils of blood dancing over the white sails. The article reported that after the boat went over, the crew in the water counted off to make sure everyone was okay. They came up one short … just the way it happened in my story.
When they found the woman’s body days later, the newspaper recounted she had been an opioid user, gotten clean and fallen in love with a sailor. Opioids play an important part in my story,too.
I had a strong urge to change my plot. Remember,an author controls what happens in her story. She can kill people, make someone climb a tree or steal a valuable candelabra. I wanted to rush into my study and change my story to undo the headline, as if they were connected.
The log canoe accident haunted me for days. Finally, like the anxious mother who waved her son goodbye and dashed back to her normal life, I went back to work on a new book. Its storyline centers on real estate development,three little words that get people riled up in this part of the world. Great material for Foiled Silver.
Until I meta friend for coffee and she said, “Have you heard about the proposal to develop our quaint gas station into a mega-plaza?”
Was it happening again?
Our conversation revealed:
The community had squared off against the developer … as in my story.
Quotes in the newspaper were eerily close to dialogue in my story.
People screamed about saving 100-year-old trees … as in my story.
About that time, a hurricane named Michael devastated the Florida Panhandle. My series is set is St. Michaels and there isa storm.
Now, I’m afraid to even make notes for a new book. My rational side say take a break. But I’m a writer who has to write.
Here’s anew idea: Maybe I can use my imagination to my own advantage and include a character who wins the lottery. Yeah, that works.
Where’s my pen?
BIO: Susan Reiss trained as a concert pianist then worked as a television writer/producer for many years. Her work has received a Silver Medal, New York International Film Festival, the Cine Golden Eagle, three Tellys and numerous Emmy nominations and named as a Scribe of the Shore in 2016. She lives in St. Michaels, Maryland on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay.
I’m glad you’re still writing. When you mentioned the coincidences in November, I feared you really planned to stop because there had been just too many of them. In other news, I hope you’re feeling better.
Think of it this way, Susan–you are merely so familiar and in-touch with the community that you are able to foresee the sort of incidents likely to occur there. Truly the sign of someone who SHOULD be writing about the place. (But I can certainly understand how bone-chilling this must all be. Yikes.)
So appropriate that you won the SILVER medal–ha! Your books sound terrific; keep writing!!
Susan, regarding Silver Hammer – talk about life imitating art! Very chilling! Thank you for sharing your brilliant mind with all of us!