Today I am thrilled to be talking with Suzi Weinert who is the author of the Garage Sale mysteries series. First a bit of history: Moving regularly as an Air Force brat, after college Suzi married an Army officer and in the succeeding 21 years, moved 11 more times across the US, Germany and the Philippines. Transforming each new house into a home, she discovered on-post thrift shops where military families consign for sale whatever they can’t take on a move and later supplement their belongings from their new destination’s thrift shop.
Based on that military experience, she investigated local bazaars and civilian thrift shops (many benefitting charities, organizations, churches and social causes). After exploring huge markets like San Diego’s swap meets and Ft. Lauderdale’s flea market, she finally settled on her favorites: garage and estate sales! They all offer potential treasures with the added benefit of recycling and she’s ever alert for stories to enliven her writing.
Her first mystery thriller, Garage Sale Stalker, unfolds in McLean, Virginia, where she and her husband lived for 25 years after his Army retirement. Her stories reflect first-hand knowledge of the area. Researching for accuracy, she attended the 10-week Fairfax County Citizen Police Academy course, one highlight of which is the citizen-ride-along in a police cruiser during a normal 12-hour shift to observe the patrolman’s challenges and responses.
How did you come up with the ideas for your book?
A frightening experience at a garage sale prompted my trying to sort out what happened on paper, maybe as a one-page short story. Soon this short story had chapters and looked suspiciously like the start of a book. But I’d never written a book so I needed to cram knowledge to do so. In college I’d majored in psychology and minored in creative writing, but that was MANY years ago. As these “uninvited” chapters increased on my computer, I read “how to” books for writers and began attending writers conferences.
What was the process for finding your publisher?
I found an editor at one writers’ conference and my publisher at another. When this first book was finally published (5 years to write it and 2 years to find a publisher), I was amazed and thought “Garage Sale Stalker” (GSS) was the only book I’d ever write. But my publisher said, “No, you’re on to something big. This is just the first in your Garage Sale Series.” So I started the 2nd book, “Garage Sale Diamonds” (GSD) realizing now that I could write a book and had a publisher if I did.
How did it become a Hallmark film?
To my amazement, a Hollywood producer (whose wife had read my book, given to her by a friend) approached me about buying my characters and my idea of mystery/intrigue/danger at garage sales. We signed a contract and 2 years went by with no activity. The producer explained at the outset they’d make many changes. I agreed to this. Then, two years passed with no movie. I feared the concept had crashed and burned. Then, suddenly, the producer sent me a screen play, said his casting department was searching for the right star and invited me to attend the filming in Vancouver, BC.
Were you there for the filming?
Yes. Never having been on a movie set before, I was agog. They worked 12-hour days and filmed on site. A scout had found and rented the needed locations where the studio crews, stars and staff went every day to film. Their mobile trucks (wardrobe, beauty salon, cast dressing rooms, fancy wash rooms with showers and makeup mirrors in addition to flush potties, and all-important food vehicles) also trek to that location for however long that filming phase takes.
The director, Peter DeLuise (son of actor Dom DeLuise) invited me to do a walk-on in a garage sale background scene. I hadn’t prepared for this with makeup or clothes but thought, “If not now, when?” Of course, I said yes. But don’t blink or you’ll miss my tiny part.
Did you have input on the scripts?
The producer graciously sent me every draft of the screenplay and invited my comments. I made a few suggestions and (no surprise) they were ignored — because screenplay writing is an entirely different art form from writing a book. The producer is an absolute professional and his talented screenplay writer (Walter Klenhard) did a fabulous job.
Did you have a chance to meet Lori Loughlin who portrays your main character and what is she like?
Yes, she was charming and very gracious to me even though by that time the screenplay, which superseded the book, was their new bible. Why they chose to treat me royally when my book was long in the background still amazes me. Lori is also a real professional. She knew all her lines for every scene and spoke them take after take (often 7 or more) in a fresh, convincing way as if it were the first time.
A few fun facts about Suzi and the films based on her books: Her first book (Garage Sale Stalker) was published when she was 75 and her second book (Garage Sale Diamonds) when she was 78. Her 3rd book, “Garage Sale Riddle,” should be published later this year when she’s 80. So her experience helps others realize it’s never too late to discover and strum your talents.
In the hands of the talented producer, the 1st Hallmark film in 2013, “Garage Sale Mystery,” (GSM) brought history-making viewership success. Based on that success, the company decided on a name change from the old Hallmark Movie Channel to the new Hallmark Movie & Mystery Channel.
Their 2nd movie based on her work, “All That Glitters,” (ATG) aired in 2014. The 3rd film, “The Deadly Room,” (TDR) premiered on April 11th. They’re currently filming a 4th film, “The Wedding Dress,” (TWD) presumably to premiere in 2016.
A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime, Suzi lives with her husband in the Virginia countryside. For more information, see her website: www.SuziWeinert.com.