Sunday, November 7, 2010
Introducing Susan Santangelo, new blogger
By Pat Browning
Susan Santangelo, a new blogger at Murderous Musings, lives part of the time in Old Saybrook, Connecticut and part of the time in Dennis, Massachusetts. She published her first mystery, RETIREMENT CAN BE MURDER in 2009. The second in the Baby Boomer series, MOVING CAN BE MURDER, is due out early in 2011. Susan and her husband founded their own publishing company, Baby Boomer Mysteries Press. The web site is www.babyboomermysteries.com.
Susan and her husband Joe share their lives with three English Cocker Spaniels: Tucker, Lucy (she's on the back cover of the book), and new puppy Boomer.
So why the focus on baby boomers? In an interview on WCAI (one of the listener-supported public radio stations serving Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and the South Coast) Susan notes that today’s baby boomers don’t have the kind of retirement their parents and grandparents did. On the whole they’re living longer and better, with time for volunteering, giving back to the community or starting new careers, doing things they always wanted to do.
RETIREMENT CAN BE MURDER is a classic cozy but with a difference. Susan's book is a light-hearted look at a serious subject: the first wave of what will be a tsunami of Baby Boomers facing retirement. When you've spent a lifetime with the clock and the calendar, what do you do after you throw away the alarm clock? Where do you go if you aren’t going to work?
Susan and Joe are both writers, recently retired from the public relations business. She proposed they write a mystery together. It was meant to be a “she said-he said” kind of story with the two of them writing alternating chapters. Susan wrote the first chapter to get them started and ended up writing the whole thing.
Story in a nutshell: Unsure of how to deal with a retired husband hanging around the house, the wife sends him to a retirement coach, with calamitous results. It’s a murder mystery, after all.
There’s an interesting interview with Susan at Novel Journey, chosen as One of Writer's Digest 101 Most Valuable Websites for Writers 2008 and 2010.
Some brief excerpts from that interview of Aug. 21, 2009:
“It seems that people of a “certain age” become invisible, because our country seems to be more and more obsessed with youth. I’m hoping that by writing a series of books focusing on the everyday lives of Boomers, that perception will change. We still have plenty of good years ahead of us and lots of things to contribute. And if we can laugh along the way, that’s even better!”
“I’ve always written. And I’ve always wanted to write a mystery. I always figured I had plenty of time ahead of me to do it. But then I was diagnosed with breast cancer (12) years ago. That event completely changed the way I look at my life. I decided I’d better get going and do the things I want to do now. It’s really true that life is not a dress rehearsal.”
“I find that I can’t just sit at the computer and write write write all day long. I write in spurts, and I’m constantly making notes to myself. What really stimulates my ‘little gray cells’ is overhearing other people’s conversations. I confess I’m a real observer of human nature, and it’s amazing what people talk about in public situations such as the check out line of the local supermarket or on their cell phone. I get great plot and character ideas every day this way.”
A Special Note: Susan Santangelo is one of the founders of the Breast Cancer Survival Center in Connecticut, which provides support and education about the disease to those who have undergone treatment. A portion of the sale of each book will be donated to this organization (http://www.breastcancersurvival.org/).
This week I lobbed some questions Susan’s way to find out more about her.
Q: You’re in an interesting location, far removed from the wide open spaces of the West and Southwest where some of us live. Tell us about Cape Cod and Connecticut, and what it’s like to live in two places. How did that come about?
A: I guess I'm just lucky! I was born in Connecticut, but my family vacationed on Cape Cod for many years when I was growing up. When our first son was born, my parents rented a cottage here, and we loved it so much as a family that we continued the tradition and rented one the following summer. And the one after that. And the one after that. Finally, it made sense to buy a place.
Joe and I both love living near water. Getting up early in the morning and having the option of walking on the beach (or rolling over and going back to sleep!) is heaven. But our three dogs -- Tucker, 14 1/2, Lucy, 9 (she's on the back cover of the book), and new puppy Boomer, 9 months -- always vote for the walk.
The best part of the year is from now until early April. That's when we locals have the Cape all to ourselves, and can actually go out to eat without having to wait in line for hours to get a table. Life here is pretty casual. Most of the time, when we have people over, they're close friends, and everyone always brings something. But the specialty of this house, no matter what the time of year, is my homemade meatballs. If I could figure out how to stuff a turkey with them, my family would love it!
But Joe worked in Hartford, Connecticut for many years, and we still have a house there too, in the beautiful shoreline town of Old Saybrook. So many of my good friends are in Connecticut, and I have many good friends on Cape Cod as well. I guess someday we'll have to choose where we want to live full-time, but for now, it's a great life.
Q: You and your husband both had careers in journalism and public relations. What is he doing now that he’s retired?
A: Joe retired in December, and in his usual fashion hit the ground running on January 2 with an article published in The Hartford Courant (that's Connecticut's largest daily paper) on the legislature and governor etc. He's also had several pieces published in Connecticut Magazine, and has partnered with another go-getter here on the Cape to start a public relations company. The business is growing and he's working hard and enjoying the challenge of being an entrepreneur at last. He also hosts a television show called "Cape Cod Newsmakers" on our local cable access channel.
Q: At the end of your book you list some questions for discussion. I’ll put a couple of them to you.
(1) What is your definition of success?
(2) If you could choose one thing to do every day, what would it be? Why?
A: (1) At my age, my selfish definition of personal success is opening my eyes and putting my feet on the floor. My real definition of success is making a positive difference in somebody's life.
(2) If I could choose one thing to do every day, it'd be writing a great chapter in the next baby boomer mystery book. That gives me a real feeling of accomplishment. And it's so much fun!
Q: I looked up the web site of http://www.breastcancersurvival.org/.
It offers a comprehensive schedule of programs. Is the organization run by volunteers and/or professionals? Do you contribute to the programs?
A: Thank you so much for this question. The Breast Cancer Survival Center is near and dear to my heart. I'm one of the co-founders, along with my dear friend Carla Gisolfi of Norwalk, CT, a 2-time survivor who, unfortunately, lost her battle last year. I serve as President of the board of directors, which is a very hands-on job. We are the only non-profit in the state of Connecticut exclusively devoted to post-treatment education and support for breast cancer survivors and their families. Most of our programs are free. Part of the profit from the sales of baby boomer mysteries is donated to the Center. In the past 11 years, we have served more than 8,000 survivors and families. We are all-volunteer.
Q: I also followed the link to National Association of Baby Boomer Women (http://www.nabbw.com/)
and its sister site (http://www.boomerwomenspeak.com/).
At the sister site, among many other things I found notice of an August teleseminar, “How To Hire And Work With a Ghostwriter - Plus Tips on How to Become One,” and a writing contest. I’m astounded. It’s a whole new world out there. In a nutshell, what do you consider the most important contributions being made by baby boomers?
A: We are living life on our own terms, as we always did! NABBW is a great organization. I look at the membership roster, and I can't believe the diversity of talented women there.
Q: One more question. You have a good support system for your writing. What suggestions and critiques did members of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers’ Center contribute during the writing of your book?
A: Sisters in Crime (SINC) is such a fabulous organization. I'm not sure how many folks know that fans can become members too. They have terrific on-line support and information feeds daily that, for a fledgling writer like me, is invaluable. Cape Cod is a very nurturing environment for writers. The Writers Center has a very reasonable summer conference with great courses. I took a course there and learned a lot about editing and revision that I hope has served me well. There are also many independent writers' groups on Cape Cod, including Book In The Hand, which is headed by another wonderful writer, Elizabeth Moisan, and allows prose writers (both published and unpublished) to come and read from their work.
Q: With Thanksgiving coming up I must ask: Is there much of an American Indian presence on Cape Cod?
A: There's not as much of a Native American presence here on Cape Cod as there used to be, except in the town of Mashpee, which is not too close to us. There's actually a tribal council which is integral to that town, and lots of talk about a casino off-Cape to bring the tribe revenue, like Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. We'll see how far that goes.
Q: How about your own Thanksgiving plans?
A: Thanksgiving will be spent traveling to New Jersey for a big family gathering. Our niece and her husband have a cast of thousands (at least, that's what it seems like!), and the food is delish. Then back in the car and onward to Maryland the next day to see our older son, Mark and his family -- wife Sandy, and grandchildren Jacob and Rebecca.
I should mention we just got back from Halloween in Maryland on Monday! We seem to spend lots of time in the car to-ing and fro-ing, but in the summer, the family (including son Dave, who's living the good life in Marina Del Rey California where he buys and sells sailboats -- lives on one too) gathers here on the Cape for barbecues, trips to the beach, splashing in our pool, and generally having fun being together.
To-ing and fro-ing and pigging out on homemade meatballs – sounds like the good life to me. Many thanks to Susan for answering all my nosy questions, and good luck to her with her new Baby Boomer mystery series.
PERSONAL NOTE: This is my last post for Murderous Musings. I’m taking my online life in a new direction: first as an editor at Lorie Ham’s ezine, “Kings River Life,” and second by joining Tumblr and Kindle Forum, a couple of new promotional avenues. I still have a personal blog, Morning’s At Noon, at http://pbrowning.blogspot.com/, and most important of all, I’m going to finish my second book and get cracking on Books 3 and 4. – Pat Browning