I’m a new author on Mostly Mystery and I thank all of my fellow writers for giving me this great opportunity.
My journey as a writer has been a series of detours rather than a straight path. Currently, a small press is interested in the first of my series of amateur sleuth mysteries called Three May Keep a Secret. My main character, Grace Kimball, is a retired teacher living in the small town of Endurance, Illinois, who finds herself in the middle of a murder. Well, make that several murders.
But did I take a clear, straight path to writing novels? Absolutely not.
Six years ago when my brother and I were clearing out our father’s home after his death, we came upon a stash of family treasures. Besides WWII love letters to our mother and various newspaper clippings about his children’s accomplishments, he had also saved a tattered, construction paper-covered book I had hand-written and illustrated when I was eight or nine. (Reading the pages now, I realize the Nancy Drew influence was strong.) The Mystery of the Golden Slippers—evidently a precious gem had been stolen and hidden in the toe of the titled ballet slippers—made me smile at my childish but earnest attempt at book writing.
I had forgotten that early, ambitious foray into the world of authors, just as I had failed to remember a neighborhood newspaper I had typed on a manual typewriter using carbon paper to make duplicate copies. He had saved those too.
He was a wise man.
Despite those young thoughts about becoming an author, I spent my life teaching high school English and college education and communications classes for forty-four years. I loved that profession and, eventually, it took me back to writing. A conversation with one of my college students led to six years of interviews with former students and colleagues and late nights typing away on a book.
In 2010, I published The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks) as a POD book. A collection of creative nonfiction stories from my high school teaching career, it sold well and is continuing to sell on major online websites. (The “dirty books” part came from a book challenge in my classroom, an event that led to a hilarious letter from the book’s author, Kurt Vonnegut.) Pre-service and current teachers have written their positive reactions about the inspirational nature of my memoir and its realism about the teaching profession. This book will always be special to me.
However, I also love mysteries. I particularly enjoy the books of Michael Connelly, Agatha Christie, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Deborah Crombie, Sheila Connolly, Robert Parker, Linda Castillo, and Deanna Raybourn. (The list is even longer, but I think you get the point!)
Other influences have led me toward mystery writing. Since 2009, I’ve split my time between Illinois and Arizona. In the Phoenix area I regularly visit two independent bookstores: The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale and Changing Hands in Tempe. Each store invites writers to discuss and sign their books and I’ve listened to many authors, asked questions, and been inspired by their comments. I also joined Sisters in Crime, a web community of mystery writers, readers, agents, and publishers.
These many influences led me to write my first mystery, Three May Keep a Secret. I worked with an excellent editor and went through six months of queries and contacts with agents and publishers before connecting with a small press. The publisher also said, “Start writing the second one.”
I am hopeful.
I began my own blog two years ago at www.andsometimesshewrites.com, started my own website at www.susanvankirk.com, and set up accounts on Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. All of these projects have kept me busy and positioned me to promote my books.
I’ve changed the focus of my life from teaching in high school and college to writing fiction, and I’ve changed my description from “retired” to “writer.” Once again the road I am on has shifted.
One of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau, decided to alter his direction and leave the woods of Walden Pond because, as he wrote, “Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live…” Me too, Henry.