Today’s exclusive interview is with novelist and MTW2017 participant Suzanne Adair, who writes historical mysteries from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her newest offering is called Deadly Occupation: A Michael Stoddard American Revolution Mystery and it’s available as both a trade paperback and an e-book.
Here’s a blurb about the book:
A wayward wife, a weapons trafficker, and a woman with “second sight”—it’s a puzzle that would have daunted any investigator. But Michael Stoddard wasn’t just any investigator.
Late January 1781, in coastal North Carolina, patriots flee before the approach of the Eighty-Second Regiment, leaving behind defenseless civilians to surrender the town of Wilmington to rhe Crown. The regiment’s commander assigns Lieutenant Michael Stoddard the tasks of tracking down a missing woman and probing into the suspicious activities of an unusual church.But as soon as Michael starts sniffing around, he discovers that some of those not-so- defenseless civilians are desperately hiding a history of evil.
Tell us something(s) about the book that the blurb doesn’t reveal
The history behind this novel—the British occupation of Wilmington, North Carolina for most of 1781—isn’t taught in most schools, probably because it was a great victory for the British and a great embarrassment for American patriots.
What was your favorite or most surprising comment/review about the book?
I was surprised at the reason the editor of a mid-sized publishing house rejected Deadly Occupation; she didn’t believe my historically accurate account that the civilians in town surrendered to the British without a struggle and was certain that they would have fought and died instead. Many readers learn history from historical fiction, so this lack of basic knowledge on the part of the editor—a gatekeeper—is frightening.
If given a chance, which author (living or dead) would you like to meet (have met)?
Ellis Peters. Her Brother Cadfael mystery series set in 12th-century England helped encourage me to write historical mysteries. I’m sure I’m not the only author she inspired.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you cast as which characters?
That’s a hard one to answer. Readers describe my detective, Michael Stoddard, as a cross between Sherlock Holmes, Richard Sharpe, and Daniel Boone—with a whiff of Harry Dresden. Major supporting characters in the series are also complex.
When and why did you decide to become a writer?
I wrote my first story when I was in second grade—quarantined at home with a case of the mumps, bored because I didn’t feel bad and had read all the library books my mother checked out for me. A few weeks before contracting the mumps, I’d been through my first hurricane, and the memory of all that raw, natural power was still clear and needing an outlet. I found some paper, wrote a story—and that was the start of my writing career.
What other jobs have you held (even what you’re doing currently)?
Grocery store cashier, sales clerk, plant pathology technician, science lab manager, technical writer, product designer, software and hardware tester, marketing specialist, business owner, grant writer, researcher, blogger, public speaker, novelist.
What are you working on next and when do you expect it to be on the shelves?
I’m currently doing research for book #5 of the Michael Stoddard American Revolution Mystery series while editing the third draft of Killer Debt, book #4 of that series. I expect Killer Debt to hit the shelves at the end of 2017.
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of publishing today?
Of course, I love the writing. I enjoy meeting readers and working with them. Marketing and promotion is also fun. However, the work of a publisher—finding a professional editor, cover designer, and interior designer, proofing what they’ve done, and dealing with printers—is time-consuming and dry.
Are you traditionally published or self-published and why?
A regional press traditionally published my early trilogy. That press folded before I could offer them my Michael Stoddard American Revolution mysteries. I published Deadly Occupation and other titles in the Michael Stoddard series independently because publishers’ editors who read my manuscripts didn’t know enough history to make informed assessments of my stories. Most presses also had a queue of two or more years, and I didn’t want readers to wait that long for my next book.
If you were going to dabble in a different genre, what would it be and why?
I’m editing the third draft of book #1 of a science fiction series. When I was a teen, I climbed on the roof of my house in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida to watch the contrails and first-stage separations of several Apollo launches; that made quite an impression on me. I also enjoyed reading science fiction. My first career was in science. And yes, I do get cultural whiplash jumping from historical mystery set in 18th-century North Carolina to science fiction set during the 24th century on another planet.
Where Readers Can Find You?
11 February 2017:
Hillsborough, NC--Presentation and booksigning at Revolutionary War Living History Day, 12 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
25 February 2017:
Currie, NC--Presentation and booksigning at the Moore Creek National Battlefield 241st Anniversary event, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
A full listing of my workshops, signings, and presentations is available at http://www.suzanneadair.net/calendar/
Web site and blog: http://www.SuzanneAdair.net/
Quarterly electronic newsletter: http://tinyletter.com/Suzanne-Adair-News
Suzanne was kind enough to allow us to republish an excerpt from Deadly Occupation:
WITH A NOD of approval for the sergeant, Lieutenant Michael Stoddard clasped his hands behind his back and faced the thirty soldiers where they stood on the sand-and-shell road. Each man in the two parallel lines before him was clear-eyed, his chin up and shoulders squared. Red wool coats had been brushed out and buttons buffed. Even in the dull winter dawn, every musket looked clean.
It was a fine day, indeed, for the Eighty-Second Regiment to occupy Wilmington, North Carolina, and these men were ready for it.
“Men, we’ll be marching out shortly, as soon as Captain Barkley heads upriver with the galleys.” A column of soldiers stomped through a drill behind Michael. He elevated his voice through the clank of muskets and equipment. “Here’s how matters stand. A deputation of civilians met Major Craig last night and gave him their articles of surrender. He rejected their terms. Any residents remaining in Wilmington when we arrive will be considered our prisoners of war, at Major Craig’s discretion.”
The din from the drill faded. Over the shoulders of his men, Michael saw a ship’s boat from the transport that was anchored in the middle of the Cape Fear River reach the bank. Infantrymen disembarked from it onto North Carolina soil and trotted up for inspection with another sergeant. He paced to allow him to make occasional eye contact with the men before him. “Scouts report that the regiment’s presence has thrown the rebels into confusion and panic. The leaders of these ‘patriots’ have fled the area, some with little more than the clothing on their backs. Less than a day ago, the militia commander, Colonel Young, evacuated his garrison from the barracks in town. Yes, surprising as it sounds, the rebels appear to have been caught off-guard by the Eighty-Second’s arrival.”
From the corner of his eye, Michael saw that a scout who’d been present at last night’s meeting, a free Negro called Teal, was conferring with Captain Pitcairn, his gestures animated. Michael returned attention to his men. “We’ve learned that Wilmington is home to many merchants who are not sympathetic to the rebel cause. Perhaps the occupation will proceed more smoothly than what we’d expected when we sailed from Charles Town. However, I don’t need to remind you lads to keep your wits about you. You can imagine what we’ll find when we arrive in Wilmington at the end of today’s march. Sullen and hostile townsfolk, and special ‘gifts’ that the militia left behind, like spiked cannon and traps set in the barracks. Don’t delude yourselves into believing that we’ve seen the last of the rebels, just because they ran like rabbits—”
“Mr. Stoddard!” called Pitcairn. “A word with you over here immediately!”
After another nod to the sergeant, who stepped forward to address the men, Michael strode for the captain and scout. While he traversed the distance between them, he squinted at the overcast sky to the southeast. Was that a thin column of smoke rising? Hard to say against the clouds. He didn’t smell smoke—but the breeze was coming from the west.
After exchanging a salute with Michael, Pitcairn jutted his chin to Teal, who was carrying a rifle. “Tell Mr. Stoddard.” His nose red, the captain sneezed into a handkerchief.
The scout’s hunting shirt was rumpled, and his face was sweaty, as if he’d been running. “I have come from the estate of loyalist merchant Mr. Farrell one mile distant from here. This very moment, about twenty men on horseback are attacking the estate.” He swiveled, pointed to the southeastern sky, and added in his melodious-accented voice, “They have set one of the outbuildings afire. You see?”
Yes, that was a column of smoke. Michael addressed Teal. “Are these men from Colonel Young’s militia?”
“I do not believe that they are—”
“Even if they were, it wouldn’t matter.” His voice gravelly, Pitcairn cleared his throat. “I’ve just watched those soldiers pass inspection, Mr. Stoddard. Excellent work. They’re more than a match for rebels.”
It sounded as though Pitcairn wanted him to run some men out there and take care of those marauders. Michael swelled his chest. “Orders, sir?”
The first portion of Pitcairn’s cough missed the handkerchief. “Bloody head cold. Take ten men and follow Teal back to the estate. Render assistance to the King’s Friends and drive off the perpetrators. Any captives will be marched to Wilmington with the regiment and imprisoned there.”
Michael frowned, certain he’d misunderstood. “Ten men, sir? Teal said there were twenty mounted rebels. Surely all thirty men—”
“It isn’t a pitched field battle. They aren’t Continental dragoons. They’re just rabble on horses.” Pitcairn sniffed, propped a fist on his hip, and waved the handkerchief once. “Stand your ground with your selected ten, give those rebel scum their first taste of the King’s might, and the miscreants will run away. They always run away. You know how it is.”
Copyright 2016 Suzanne Adair. Reprinted with permission.