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02/09/2010

Tuesdays with Friends Introduces Suzanne Adair

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 This week’s Tuesdays with Friends guest is award winning author, Suzanne Adair. Suzanne, a native Floridian now transplanted to North Carolina, writes a historical mystery series set against the backdrop of the Revolutionary War. Her new latest book, Camp Follower was released in 2008.

KdBlog: Welcome Suzanne and thanks for being my guest on Tuesdays with Friends.

 SA: Thanks, KD. It's good to be here.

 KdBlog: I read that you are a Revolutionary War reenactor. My area of the country is full of Civil War reenactors, but we’re a little too young for the Revolutionary War. Tell us how you got involved with that?

 SA: One of my writing goals is to get inside my characters' heads. Early into my research for the first book, Paper Woman, I realized how much convenience and accessibility underpin my culture and shape my values and reactions. In twenty-first century America, most of us have cell phones, indoor plumbing, central heat and/or air conditioning, refrigerators, and automobiles. If I'm hungry for an omelet, I buy eggs, cheese, mushrooms, and onions from the grocery store. I don't have to maintain a henhouse and collect eggs every morning, or milk a cow and make cheese, or grow vegetables — although I do plant a summer veggie garden, so I have an idea of how much work it takes to grow your own food.

 During the Revolutionary War, very little was convenient or accessible. Danger and scarcity shaped decisions, especially for the middle and lower classes. If I wanted to get inside my characters' heads and create believable fiction about people who lived more than 225 years ago, I'd have to do more than read books and interview subject matter experts. I'd have to learn what clothing of the era felt and how I'd move in it. I'd have to learn what everyday challenges someone from that time faced, how their world smelled, felt, tasted, and sounded. So I became involved in Revolutionary War reenacting.

 My family and I spend a typical reenacting weekend at a site of a battle camped in white canvas army tents with no mosquito screens. We're dressed in eighteenth-century clothing made of natural fibers such as wool or linen. Our menu is limited to what would have been eaten back then and what we can prepare over a wood fire, and on occasion we eat scorched food. Sometimes we have access to running water. Rarely do we have access to flush toilets.

 I infuse my writing with the sensory impressions that I've gained from reenacting. Reenacting does give me a ballpark idea of the conditions our foremothers and forefathers encountered. But it's sobering to remember that the experiences I have in the course of a weekend are what people during the Revolutionary War endured 24/7. Those were some hardy folks.

 By the way, reenacting is also great fun!

 KdBlog: Tell us about Suzanne Adair. What do you like to do when you’re not writing or reenacting?

 SA: Read, dance (especially classical ballet), cook, garden, hike, bicycle, listen to music, and learn. I love to learn.

 KdBlog: Your interest in reenacting probably made the research for your series a lot easier. What’s the hardest part of writing a historical mystery series?

 SA: The first draft.

 KdBlog: What do you like best about writing historical mysteries.

 SA: I don't have to include modern technology and forensics details like DNA evidence or even fingerprints. I can focus on characters, their relationships, and how their thoughts, feelings, and reactions help them solve the mystery. And I can explore how they would have dealt with emotional and physical traumas and threats without the help of modern psychology.

 KdBlog: Who’s your favorite mystery author?

 SA: Gosh, do I have to pick just one?

 KdBlog: What authors have influenced you most in your writing career?

 SA: Robert Louis Stevenson, Daphne du Maurier, the Brontë sisters, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, D.H. Lawrence, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle.

 KdBlog: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

 SA: Never stop looking for ways to improve your craft. Persevere.

 KdBlog: What advice would give to a new author?

 SA: Be clear with yourself about the goal for your writing. If your goal is just to sell books, your path will yield different results than the path to becoming acknowledged as a professional author. You cannot easily jump from one path to the other.

 KdBlog: What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started writing?

 SA: "Don't sweat the rejections. It'll be almost 40 years before you're published." (I was in second grade when I first started writing.)

 KdBlog: Tell us a little bit about your newest book, Camp Follower?

51gMc59lwbL._SS500_   SA: First,here's the description from the Kindle edition: As the year 1780 draws to a close, the publisher of a loyalist magazine in Wilmington, North Carolina offers an amazing assignment to 29-year-old Helen Chiswell, his society page writer: pose as the widowed, gentlewoman sister of a British officer in the Seventeenth Light Dragoons, travel to the encampment of the British Legion in the Carolina backcountry, and write a feature on Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. But Helen's publisher has secret reasons for sending her into danger. And because Helen, a loyalist, has ties to a family mistaken by the redcoats for patriot spies, she comes under suspicion of a brutal, brilliant British officer. Filled with action, mystery, and suspense that climax at the Battle of Cowpens, Camp Follower is the story of a woman forced to confront her past to save her life during the American War for Independence.

I pulled together the subplots for Camp Follower from a number of sources. First of all, the commander of the British Legion, Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton, has often been demonized by American historians, so I thought it would be an interesting twist to follow a story from the point of view of a loyalist and, in particular, show Tarleton and the Legion through the eyes of someone who was on their side of the conflict. Also, in Paper Woman, a character named David St. James admits that he killed a man years earlier in a duel over the man's wife. Dueling was illegal in the late 18th century, but many who engaged in it got away with it, and I was curious to explore how this character escaped being charged with murder. In addition, I was curious how a woman of the 18th century dealt with the psychological traumas of being sold to a rich merchant to be his wife, and how she would manage a repressed memory of abuse as a young girl. Finally, armies provided the greatest source of protection for people in most areas during the Revolutionary War, so many civilians followed the army as artisans, sutlers, and retainers. Such a lifestyle was grueling, and when an army was defeated in battle, as the British Legion was during the Battle of Cowpens (January 1781) (www.nps.gov/cowp/index.htm), its civilian followers often suffered terribly or died. I wanted to examine the plight of those brave civilians.

 KdBlog: Would KdBloggers need to read the series in order to understand what’s going on?

 SA: No.

Suzanne, thank you so much for joining us her on KdBlog today. My favorite thing in the world is to find a new author to add to my TBR pile. Now I have three new stories waiting for me. Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend and feel free to stop in again sometime.


 

 

Comments

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Thanks for the interview, KD!

Thanks for being a Tuesday Friend, Suzanne.

Suzanne, I didn't know you danced classical ballet! KD, I LOVE this site. The colors just pop.

Thanks for the interview, gals.

Hi Kaye,
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the compliment on the site. You have no idea how hard I had to fight to get my red. :)
Sometimes it's not easy when you're related to your webmaster.

Kaye, I've danced classical ballet for more than 30 years. I originally got into it so I'd quit tripping over my own two feet. Over time, I discovered that it had helped me avoid back surgery on a congenitally deformed lumbar disk. It also helped me bounce back from two childbirths. And recently, I learned that the combination of aerobics and flexibility in ballet has contributed to keeping my arteries free of plaque. What a deal! :-)

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