MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: As a child, I was a big fan of the Dana Girls and Nancy Drew mysteries, which were written by a number of authors using the name Carolyn Keene. I was drawn to them because of their strong female protagonists. I wonder if Nancy and her compatriots were responsible in part for the feminist revolution—they were such great role models.
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: I had been writing romances with suspense and mystery components, and wanted to stretch myself a little bit. TRIANGLE was the result, which was modeled on a classic Agatha Christie mystery, MOUSETRAP.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I write romance and romantic suspense, as well as erotica under the name Suz deMello. I also write nonfiction articles about writing.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or the characters?
AUTHOR: That’s hard to say. Probably the characters and their conflicts.
Every writer’s process is different. Often I start with a very strong image, a scene, and write that scene, and the next, and the next, until I run dry. Then I’ll sit down and think through the characters, their conflicts and the plot. After I do that I can then write the rest of the book. Strangely enough, those first few scenes may not make it into the final manuscript. I cut over 100 pages out of my first published novel, HOPELESSLY COMPROMISED, a Regency-era romantic suspense. That proved to be a good decision, as it won my first book award.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the story, do you feel like you could solve the crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s mysteries?
AUTHOR: LOL. I certainly don’t feel I can solve all the world’s mysteries, but I know I can solve the crime I created.
Though one of the tricks I often play on myself and on readers is change the identity of the villain close to the end of the manuscript. I feel when I do that it makes the mystery more obscure.
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of a schedule do you have? Do you write fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: I’m an attorney, and I take cases from other writers mostly on contract analysis. After over a decade in this business, there are few kinds of writers’ contracts I haven’t seen. I work out daily and have a part time job, so I have to cram the writing into the rest of my life.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you enjoy doing? What is the most important thing to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: I suppose that my relationships are the most important thing in my day-to-day life. After that I try to take care of my health by working out or taking a yoga class daily. I keep my home tidy and peaceful.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors? Do you try to emulate them in your own writing?
AUTHOR: I love the classic authors: DuMaurier, Conan Doyle and Sayers the most. Of the modern authors, I really like Lisa Scottoline and Tess Gerritsen.
I don’t try to emulate anyone. I believe it’s more important to refine my own voice.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: SPY GAME is a standalone with series potential. My heroine, Ani Sharif, works for a super-secret government organization, the United States Security Agency. Her best friend, with whom she occasionally works, is Linda Wing and I think Linda’s a really compelling character.
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on for several years with it?
AUTHOR: I can’t contemplate more than one more book with these particular characters.
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit crazy by going off in their own direction? If so, how do you rein them in, or do you just let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: I think it’s important to keep my eye on the ball, which means that I have to keep the characters and their conflicts in focus. There are times that their personalities will create events I didn’t anticipate, and I have to decide if these events are in line with their conflicts and the plot’s direction. If not, I store them for another day or another book. If it works, it works, and it’s in.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after yourself or someone you know? If so, do you let that person know they were your “pattern”?
AUTHOR: After eleven novels, it’s really not possible for me to pattern my characters after myself. That would become boring for both the reader and for me as the writer. I’ve never done that, really. Frankly, I’m not interesting enough. Characters in a novel have to be larger than life. I’ve had a cool life and done a lot of fun things, but I’m not “big” enough to be the main character in a novel.
MLC: How long did it take you to get published? How many rejections did you have to suffer through first? Were you ever tempted to give up? What do you think made the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: I was fortunate…I started to write in late 1996 and after I finished four manuscripts, I began focusing on getting an agent and selling in earnest. I “got the call” on June 30, 1999.
I don’t know how many rejections I’ve received in my writing career. I still get them! I don’t keep count as I prefer to focus on the positives.
As for giving up: right now I’m tempted to do so. I haven’t been feeling creative lately. Writing’s not an easy process, and right now, it feels especially hard.
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I spread myself out…I’ve been known to go to RWA national, RT, and so on. This year, I’m splurging and going to the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy. I was a keynote speaker at the first WFF in 2004, went two years ago in 2006, and it’s time for me to return to see my European friends.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: Every author that I know promotes his or own work. The traditional publishing industry is in trouble financially for a number of reasons, and there isn’t the money out there for the publishers to thoroughly promote every author’s work.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: I don’t know. If I knew, I’d sure be selling more books!
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is selling?
AUTHOR: Nope, haven’t heard anything about that.
MLC: What has been the best review you have gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: I got a beautiful review of SPY GAME from Publisher’s Weekly, one of the most important review sources:
Cyber geek meets seductive spy girl in this feverish Silicon Valley thriller from Swift (Triangle). Half-French, half-Algerian Ani Sharif, whose parents were murdered by extremists 10 years earlier when she was at a private girls' school in Algiers, has joined the United States Security Agency. On her first undercover assignment, Ani must uncover who's selling Defense Department cyber secrets to foreign governments. The prime suspect is Richard “Baby Rex” Rexford of Rexford.com, where Ani lands a programming job by playing the part of an opportunistic cyber pirate. Her mission is to hack into Richard's home laptop and locate incriminating evidence. What she doesn't bargain for is falling in love with this possible traitor. Swift delivers a fast-paced romantic romp as the spy games escalate into erotic games, testing Ani's faith in her ability to separate business from pleasure. Swift's brisk narrative offers an unusual blend of romantic suspense and cyber crime. Publishers Weekly, 12/3/2007(Feb.)
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an author or for your books? Please tell us about them.
AUTHOR: A variety: the Beacon Award for my first book, something called the Smooch Award for my third. My second book was a finalist in the RITA contest. My fifth hit a best-seller list…and so on.
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a reader has written to you that made you just want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: Recently two other authors, entirely unbidden, wrote me complimenting me on my books. I loooove that. Sedonia Guillone, a very well-regarded erotica author, just wrote and told me that my WALK ON THE WILD SIDE was one of the hottest books she’d ever read. Years later, she even remembered the hero’s name! Recently, another Five Star author, Jacqueline Seebold, wrote me to say she loved SPY GAME.
MLC: What is your next project, and when will it be out?
AUTHOR: I’m not sure. I’m shopping a futuristic erotic novel now, QUEEN OF SHADOW, and hope it will be out in several months, because I’m shopping it exclusively to e-publishers. I love e-publishing. There’s less money but far less hassle.
MLC: If you could write anything at all, ignoring what editors and publishers say they want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I pretty much do that anyhow! That’s why my books are in several subgenres ranging from traditional romance and mystery all the way to the most far-out futuristics and triple-X rated erotica. That’s probably why I don’t have a recognizable “author brand.” I don’t really want to do that; I’m not Heinz and I don’t produce bottles of ketchup.
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Work. Write. Read. Write some more, every day.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: QUEEN OF SHADOW is futuristic erotica. Audryn, the ruler of a planet on which most humans are sterile and indiscriminate sex is encouraged, seeks a mate. The book features plenty of palace intrigue and kinky sex.
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said they would grant you just one wish for your books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: That they be the best books ever written so they entertain everyone who reads them.
MMLC: Please give us your website url and your email address where people can contact you.
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.