Kindle Author Interview: Susan Santangelo

Susan Santangelo, author of Retirement Can Be Murder, discusses her book, her journey as a writer, and self-publishing on Kindle.

DAVID WISEHART: What can you tell us about Retirement Can Be Murder?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: Retirement Can Be Murder is the first in the Baby Boomer Mystery series. I’ve been writing professionally for years, and always wanted to write a mystery. With 78.2 million fellow boomers in the U.S. as the potential audience, I decided now was the time for a series of humorous mysteries dealing with issues we’re all facing. In Retirement Can Be Murder, boomer Carol Andrews dreads her Beloved Husband Jim’s upcoming retirement more than a root canal without Novocain. She can’t imagine anything worse than a husband underfoot 24/7, with time on his hands and nothing to fill it, except interfering in the day-to-day activities of the household and driving her crazy. Until Jim is suspected of murdering his retirement coach.

DAVID WISEHART: How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: The book is told in Carol’s voice, and is written in the first person. Everyone who’s ever met me thinks Carol is really me and the husband is really my husband Joe. I can’t deny that there’s some of us in the two characters, but there are many other people in them as well. The book also includes the Andrews’ two adult children, Jenny (who becomes key to solving the mystery), and Mike (we never actually meet him except through e-mail). There are also Carol’s 3 best friends, who are composites of many of my own friends. Plus the murderer—no role model for that character! In the first draft of this book, many of the characters sounded similar. I got to know each of them more as I continued the writing process, and they began to take on lives of their own.

DAVID WISEHART: Who do you imagine is your ideal reader?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: I think I’m the first ideal reader, because I write what I want to read. I like humorous, light cozies. No blood and gore. I like to be entertained.

DAVID WISEHART: What was your journey as a writer?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I started freelancing for a weekly newspaper when I was in college. I’ve been a feature writer and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area for years, including a stint at Cosmopolitan. I’ve also done theater reviews, and I’ve met the most interesting people along the way. I’ve also done a lot of marketing and special events, and written hundreds of press releases for a variety of clients. So I have a pretty solid writing background, and now I’m finally doing what I’ve always wanted to do!

DAVID WISEHART: What is your writing process?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: I confess that I’m not a very disciplined writer. I don’t outline the plot, nor do I have a set time of day that I sit in my office and write. But my mind is always going. I’ll get an idea and rush to the computer to write it down. It may not fit in with the plot as it’s progressing now, but I know that if I don’t write it down, I’ll forget it. I keep pads of paper all over the house, too. And in the car.

DAVID WISEHART: What authors most inspire you?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: I love light cozy mysteries. Some of my favorites are by Joan Hess, Janet Evanovich, Diane Mott Davidson. Of course, I love all the Agatha Christie mysteries too. But as far as writers who inspire me, I’d have to tip my hat to Martha Grimes, P.D. James, and Elizabeth George. I don’t think any of those could be described as writing cozy mysteries, but their prose is just beautiful to read. And I love their characters. One of the best first chapters I ever read was in Martha Grimes’ first mystery, The Man With A Load of Mischief. It’s just superb.

DAVID WISEHART: What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: Anything by Martha Grimes. I really admire her work.

DAVID WISEHART: How have you marketed and promoted your work?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: I’m a member of both Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center. Both groups are very supportive of new writers, and SiNC even has a book out with marketing tips for writers. I’m always picking up suggestions and links to helpful review sites and blogs from the SiNC daily digest. I’m also on Dorothy L, and through Facebook have been connected to some great resources, including the Sassy Girls Book Club. I’m on Facebook all the time, and if anyone comments about the book, I send them a thank you right away. I also review mysteries for Suspense Magazine, and that gives me great national exposure. I spend a lot of time on Cape Cod, which is very supportive of writers. We have many indie bookstores and libraries which give writers lots of opportunities for book talks and signings. Plus we have many festivals throughout the year which gives authors an opportunity to promote their books. Since there are two English cocker spaniels in the book, I have a lot of success doing book signings at dog shows, which is loads of fun for me. The May 1 release party for second book in the series, Moving Can Be Murder, is a partial benefit for Cape Cod Hospital’s new Mammography Center. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and founded a non-profit called the Breast Cancer Survival Center in 1999. Part of the proceeds from the books is donated to BCSC. I’m a real believer in cause marketing.

DAVID WISEHART: Why publish on Kindle?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: It seemed to me that the ebook market was exploding, and Kindle has the biggest market share. Plus, Amazon is very supportive of its authors. Being on Kindle has given me a whole new audience. It’s terrific.

DAVID WISEHART: What advice would you give to a first-time author thinking of self-publishing on Kindle?

SUSAN SANTANGELO: Write the very best book you can. Be sure to vet it first with as many other readers as possible (not family members or friends!) and take all their comments seriously. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, until it’s something you’re really proud of. When you put the book on Kindle, you’re putting it out for the world to see. Good luck!

DAVID WISEHART: Thanks, and best of luck with your books.


Susan Santangelo has been a feature writer, drama critic and editor for daily and weekly newspapers and magazines in the NY metro area. She's a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center. Her first Baby Boomer mystery, Retirement Can Be Murder, has been suggested for a tv series. Find out more about Susan in the February 2011 issue of Suspense Magazine, where she's the profiled author in the Contributors' Corner. And you'll get to see her dogs, too! The second book in this series, Moving Can Be Murder, will be released May 1.

Visit her website, read her blog, and follow her on twitter.

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