Happy Sunday, y’all!
Today is my first Sunday Writer Interview. (Reviews will be back next week.) If you’re familiar with my intrepid, multi-genre writing career, then you know I wrote a sweet cozy mystery for Carolyn Haines’s Trouble Cat Mysteries series. SMALL TOWN TROUBLE was super fun to write, and I did a Valentine’s short story as well. It’s great to be able to stretch one’s writing skills.
I’m in awe of the writers who have kept the series books coming. Today I’ve got Susan Y. Tanner here. A WHISPER OF TROUBLE is the latest in the series, and I think you’ll love her story–along with the book, of course. (And please stick around for today’s animal pics.)
SUNDAY INTERVIEW: Susan Y. Tanner
Tell us about the plot of A Whisper of Trouble.
In A WHISPER OF TROUBLE, stallions from protected breeds native to Italy have begun disappearing without a trace. Italy is a small country with a beautiful heritage and a great deal of pride. In recent history, efforts have been made to recognize and safeguard their indigenous horses, some of whose numbers have dwindled dramatically. My research of those bloodlines and the steps taken by the Italian government to identify and protect them has been some of the hardest I’ve done to date.
Private investigator Will Chandler has been engaged by the Italian government to find the missing animals as well as the master-mind behind the thefts. He tracks the first to Summer Valley Ranch and encounters horse whisperer Liz O’Neal and it is not love-at-first sight. Liz needs time to make a connection with the stallion placed in the care of Dirks and Avery Hanna’s staff veterinarian, Tucker Hollis. Will, however, is a man on a mission and in a hurry. But Will also realizes he needs Liz’s help to safely return the stallion to Italy.
When the young woman who brought the horse to Summer Valley Ranch is found dead, Trouble realizes things are about to get dicey. The three—Trouble, Liz, and Will—team up for a whirlwind trip to Italy as more stallions are stolen and more dead bodies turn up in the wake of those thefts. To find the mastermind, they return to Summer Valley Ranch where Will’s team helps him and Liz find and return several of the stolen stallions to their homeland. But the thefts have not stopped and the trail of clues leads closer to home than any of them expect.
How did the story come to you?
I knew I wanted to write a story about a horse whisperer. We have a long-time friend who has that affinity for horses, that intuition to reach them on their terms. She’s a quiet, private person who doesn’t label herself but she comes when needed. I’ve always been amazed and impressed by her ability, as well as grateful. Horse whisperers may not be exactly what has been portrayed in book and movies, but they do exist!
The logical scenario to bring in a horse whisperer would have involved rescue horses but, with Summer Valley Ranch already focused there, I wanted to shift from that premise a bit. Because horses are stolen far more than people suspect, it seemed a logical transition to those horses that fall victim to greed and selfishness. Stolen horses aren’t always blatantly mistreated but are traumatically ripped from their homes and the people who love them by strangers who care nothing for the animals, only their value. When those animals react with fear and self-protection, they can be treated in a cruel and dangerous manner.
The idea for setting this story in Italy came during the planning stages for our trip there after my brother invited my daughter and me to join him and his band of merry travelers!
I know you have many beloved horses in your life. Do you ever dream about them?
I don’t dream! The few dreams I’ve had, many years ago, were nightmares—bad ones—so not dreaming is fine with me. Actually, scientists are still divided on whether there are people who truly don’t dream or simply can’t recall dreams because they sleep through the night without periods of waking. But, my horses are truly a part of my heart and, if I did have dreams about them, I hope they’d always be happy ones.
What do you love about writing books for the Trouble series?
Honestly, everything—although I would call it a love/hate relationship at times! These books were my first foray into contemporary as well as into mystery. I’ve learned so much and I love learning. Previously I’d only ever written historical romance, third person. Shifting to first person with a cat while retaining third person with his humans, mapping out a mystery, and letting romance take a side seat has allowed me to explore and develop talents I would never have claimed. And Trouble is the best of felines! Not the kindest, mind you with his sharp-edged thoughts, and not the most patient, but the wisest and the wittiest. He is sheer fun and I love sharing my ‘writing space’ with him.
Which of your characters would you like to be best friends with?
Jake, Kylah West’s sidekick and mentor from TROUBLE IN ACTION. I honestly don’t know where he came from but I fell in love with him as a person. I think, in some ways, his wisdom is the wisdom of my daddy—whom I miss every single day—but that didn’t happen consciously. He just came to be and I came to love him as much as Kylah did. I missed him the most when the book ended.
If you could only choose one, would you rather have a million dollars cash, or a book on the NYT Bestseller list for a month?
This is more easily answered than you might think. I’ve never sought fame. I wrote for years without attempting or caring to be published and would continue to write if I never published again. I enjoy the process of writing. So, I’d say without hesitation, give me the cash, please. I have what I need but I give as much as I can to my four favorite charities and having more would enable me to give more—to charity and to my family.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Thank heavens, I don’t have a favorite. I’m probably most comfortable in my office with its clutter (and dust, I’ll admit). But I can as easily sit at my daughter’s kitchen counter when I’m needed there. And pre-retirement travel for work taught me to write in a hotel room which comes in handy when barrel-racing out of town. But, although I don’t have a favorite, a hotel room is my least favorite.
You’re shipwrecked on a tropical island. You can have either two horses or one person with you? Which do you pick?
Oh, no, my mind is much too logical for this question. Not horses, my thoughts immediately jump to no oats, no alfalfa, no shelter for them. Not family because I’d be all kinds of panicked for their safety. However, I will say that my son can build anything out of nothing so we’d probably have a boat in short order. And my daughter is so pragmatic, she’d shrug and say, “Guess we’d better start swimming.” But she’s also the person who could sit and wait because she has friends by the hundreds who would come looking for her so we’d be sure of rescue. But, back to that choice, I guess Jake from TROUBLE IN ACTIONonce again!
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing the third and final book in the Bellamys of Texas, a historical romance trilogy I’d begun (and published books one and two) in what seems a lifetime ago. And I’m plotting and creating characters for my next Trouble book and, yes, it involves horses!
This past week, I had to get out of town. I’m not quite ready to take on our closest big city, St. Louis, and there’s a sweet town called Ste. Genevieve, Missouri just an hour or so away. Finally, it was a glorious, not-too-hot day–perfect for a belated birthday celebration with a good friend.
Founded sometime after 1735 and named after the patron saint of Paris, Ste. Genevieve was the first permanent European settlement west of the Mississippi. Historic houses and buildings that you can tour everywhere. The Centre for French Colonial Life and the town’s information center has all the info you need. A terrific day trip.
While we were there, we saw the incredible Savannah store cats in residence at ASL Pewter. How gorgeous are they?! (I might have done some excellent Christmas and Halloween shopping there as well.)
Last but certainly not least–the MONSTER that appeared on one of our Ring cameras around 2:00 a.m. I might have awakened my husband to show him, and watched it moving around for twenty minutes before I went back to sleep for some terrifying dreams. 😱