Talking Books, Films and Garage Sales with Author Suzi Weinert

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.

Business PortraitBased 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?

GarageSaleMystery_0001UYes, 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.

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3 thoughts on “Talking Books, Films and Garage Sales with Author Suzi Weinert

  1. Hi Suzi:

    Great interview! And so interesting to hear how you went from garage sale enthusiast to garage sale author. I know your stomping grounds well, having lived in the DC area for 35 years and spent a third of them in Old Towne, Alexandria. During that time, I attended many a garage sale and haunted the antique and consignment shops endlessly.

    My favorite story about garage sales has to do with a beautiful c. 1800 ogee mirror that was in a consignment shop on Prince Street, just around the corner from me. It stayed there for three years and I watched it lovingly but the price of $300 was just too steep for my budget. (This was in the late ’70s-early ’80s.)

    One day I went into the shop and it had disappeared! Of course, I was crestfallen. Then a few Saturday mornings later I attended a garage sale. I almost didn’t go because it was raining like mad but I finally decided to brave the weather. And there was the mirror — for $35. Even my husband had to admit the value of garage sales after that!

    I’m looking forward to reading all of your books and seeing the movies, too. Please keep us posted on your new works so we can keep up with murder and mayhem at the sales!

    Best wishes for continued success,
    Britt
    Author of MESSAGE FROM PANAMA
    and coming soon — ESCAPE TO PANAMA

  2. Suzi,
    What a wonderful story. I love the premise of your books and will have to hit the On Demand to look for the films. But, first, I’ll get the book. Because nothing is better than the printed page.
    I love how you came to write the series. As an old yard-sale enthusiast, I can believe all kinds of strange things happening in that atmosphere. As a matter of fact, this article has me thinking that I’d like to hit a couple of sales just to observe the people hanging around. I might get some new characters for my own story.
    One of the most exciting take-aways from your own story is your age. You’ve given me high hopes. I’m 69, have one published short story and two finished books, ready for an editor and hoping for a publisher. Maybe I, too, can spend my 70’s on a movie set watching the studio’s rendition of my work.
    Thank you for a wonderful interview.
    And kudos to you, Carolyn. I thoroughly enjoyed this post.

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