Today we welcome award-winning thriller/suspense author, Susan Furlong to answer our pointed questions about her writing and her latest release, What They Don’t Know.
What drives your story forward in your books the most, the characters or the plot, or do you feel they are intertwined?
I believe that character and plot development are equally important, but my characters tend to drive my story. I have eleven published novels (plus a few unpublished manuscripts) and the writing process has been different for each book. With What They Don’t Know, the final twist of the story came to me initially, but before I wrote the first line, I spent time getting to know my protagonist and how she’d react to conflict in the story.
If you were a character in one of your books, which would you be? The protagonist, mentor, villain, love interest, etc.?
In What They Don’t Know, I’d be the detective investigating the case. He’s got a few quirks, and is a little misguided, but he’s trying to do the right thing.
If you had the power to make any of your books into a film, which would it be and why?
If I had that power, I’d make all my books into film. Why pick just one? Honestly, seeing a book play out on screen would be a dream come true.
Is there a particular genre of fiction that you have always wanted to write, but haven’t yet tackled?
Horror. Not “gross-you-out horror” but the type of scary that leaves readers feeling a little unbalanced. I mixed in some elements of horror in What They Don’t Know, which I think blends well with the psychological aspects of the mystery and makes for an atmospheric story.
If you could meet a literary character or author, who would you most like to meet?
If I could meet any author, it would be Flannery O’Connor. She was a fearless writer, stepping outside the bounds of female authors in her time, and her work is the epitome of Southern Gothic literature.
As with the rest of us, you have a real life to live. So, in your most recent book, what was happening in your life and how did it influence your writing?
I had just begun writing What They Don’t Know, when we returned home from an afternoon out and found our entire house flooded by a burst pipe on the second floor. We ended up having to move out during repairs. Believe me, being in a hotel room with your family for seven months, through winter and a pandemic lockdown is enough to drive anyone half nuts. The good thing: I was writing a character who doubts her own sanity, and I could definitely relate to her.
Was there something in your first edit that didn’t make it in the final copy that you sometimes wish you would have kept?
Nothing that I would have kept. I always edit up to the last second, I’m never happy with my own work, and I never, ever read the book once it’s published.
What do you do to prepare your mind to write? To get into the mind of your characters.
I begin each writing day by reading, editing, and layering my previous day’s work. Then, I rough out my next chapter, and so on.
What book as a child/adolescent most influenced you as a writer?
My mother is a mystery reader and she introduced me to the Nero Wolf mysteries. We read all of them together. I believe that’s where my love of mysteries began.
How much research went into your last book?
A lot! I relied on professionals who were generous enough to help me with some police procedural elements and a scene with an autopsy. Also, I wanted my lead character to have an unusual relationship with her collection of dolls. And as a psychological thriller, what better than including a couple of possibly haunted dolls? So, I found the perfect person to visit and interview: a real-life paranormal investigator and haunted doll collector. Yes, reality is sometimes stranger than fiction!
What’s one of the most important things you’d like your readers to know about you? What defines you most as an author?
I’m grateful to be able to work as a writer and I work hard to bring my readers entertaining and memorable stories. There is nothing more defining as an author to know that something I’ve written has inspired a reader or brought a bit of joy to someone’s life.
What is one thing about you that may surprise your readers?
I’m very private, so there are many things that would surprise readers. Lol. One thing a lot of people don’t know is that I am a third-degree black belt. Through college I competed on the national level, and at one point even had my own martial arts school. That was years ago, but I still practice consistently.
Can you tell us what prompted you to write your latest release?
I never know what will inspire a story. Sometimes it just pops into my mind, and other times it takes hours and hours of story starts and stops before a thought develops into the possibility of a book. The idea for What They Don’t Know came to me after watching a scary movie with one of our daughters. Not the whole movie, because I hate scary movies and I was so freaked out that I didn’t make it to the end. And that night, I couldn’t get to sleep, but sometime in the early morning hours, a story sparked in my mind. By the next day I had a twist that I knew would make an amazing plot.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I’m finishing a book due to come out next year, titled The Killer’s Wife, about a man who’s obsessed with a true crime television series. So obsessed that he moves to a remote town in Montana to become the parole officer for the wife of the notorious serial killer featured in one of the series most popular episodes. I’m excited about this book. The story is unique and has memorable characters, a bit of strangeness, and an ending that will hang with you.
Publication Date: May 17, 2022
A picture-perfect suburban life fractures. . . and a darker reality bubbles beneath the surface.
Mona Ellison’s life is as perfect as the porcelain dolls lined up on her shelves. She has a successful husband, a loving son, a beautiful home, and a supportive group of girlfriends ever ready for their weekly wine night.
But when Mona’s son gets entangled with the wrong crowd and runs away from home, her blissful suburban world begins to unravel. She tells her friends that boys will be boys, that he’ll be back as soon as his money runs dry . . . but deep down she knows there’s something else going on.
Then the police show up at Mona’s door. A young girl has turned up dead in their quiet town, and her missing son is the prime suspect.
Determined to reunite with her son and prove his innocence, Mona follows an increasingly cryptic trail of clues on social media, uncovering a sinister side of suburbia and unveiling lies and betrayal from those she trusted most. And as Mona spirals further from her once cozy reality, a devastating revelation shatters everything she thought she knew. Now the only thing she’s sure of is that she can’t trust anyone . . . not even herself.
With unrelenting psychological suspense and a wicked twist, What They Don’t Know marries small-town thriller and domestic mystery—suburban paranoia at its best.
Susan Furlong is the author of eleven novels including SHATTERED JUSTICE, a New York Times Best Crime Novel of the Year. She also contributes, under a pen name, to the New York Times bestselling Novel Idea series. Her most recent novel, WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW, has been praised by reviewers as an engrossing and delightfully creepy read. She resides in Illinois with her husband and children.
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