Today, we welcome debut author, Suzanne Bratcher, whom I met a few winters ago in Arizona. I’ve visited Jerome, the setting for her mystery, and even read a bit of the story early on. Suzanne is offering a free print copy of her novel to one fortunate commenter. Enjoy! 

Suzanne, I’d like to know how the plot idea came to you, and if you saw the ending from the start, or if the story evolved as you wrote. 

The plot grew out of the setting. Jerome, Arizona advertizes itself as “the largest ghost town in America” and “the billion dollar copper camp.” From my many visits to Jerome, I knew it would be the perfect place for a mystery, particularly a mystery with a connection to the past. I wanted to use the copper connection, which is so apparent in Jerome, so a copper box became the object someone was willing to kill for. I think of mystery writing as telling a story upside down and backwards. To do that I have to know the ending before I start writing.

Tell us how the setting influenced the characters of your novel. 

Because Jerome is a ghost town, I imagined characters who had come to Jerome to face ghosts from their own past. Marty Greenlaw’s ghost was a four-year-old girl with golden hair who appeared in a recurring nightmare, a child who turned out to be Marty’s little sister who died twenty-two years before. Paul Russell’s ghost was his dead wife Linda, killed in a car wreck Paul blamed himself for. He was in Jerome for the summer doing his best to fulfill Linda’s dream of rebuilding an old house across the road from Marty’s grandmother’s house.


Your title and cover certainly attract the reader – please explain how they came to be. 

I wanted a title that would make a reader wonder what the book was about. Boxes always make me curious because I wonder what might be in them. The cover was designed by Diane Cretsinger Turpin of Mantle Rock Publishers. Diane read a synopsis of the book and then asked me about covers I liked on books I’d read. I sent her several, and she went to work. She sent me three or four ideas, and I picked the concept of the young woman and the copper mine. This cover is what she came up with. I’m really pleased with how it turned out.

Do you have another book in the works? Tell us how it compares to The Copper Box

I’m finishing a romantic suspense novel called Guardians of the Canyon. I started it while my agent, Jim Hart, was looking for the right publisher for The Copper Box. Guardians is set in Arizona, and the two main characters are a woman and a man who fall in love, but the plot isn’t a mystery; it’s suspense. I’m also starting to consider possibilities for a sequel to The Copper Box. Jerome is a perfect setting for a series of mysteries, and Marty and Paul make a good team.

Any advice you’d give fledgling authors, and lessons you’ve learned along the way that might help others avoid pitfalls? 

Read, read, read! Find contemporary books you wish you’d written and study how the writer put the story together. When an agent or an editor makes suggestions about your writing, don’t get defensive. Listen and take it to heart. The published version of The Copper Box is very different—and much better—then my first vision of the story. The dual point of view, the starting point, and even the genre all grew out of comments I first took as criticism. But the more I thought about each comment, the more I saw new possibilities for the story.

Thanks so much for being my guest, and congratulations on your DEBUT AUTHOR DAY!!!  

Thanks for having me. I’d like to let your readers know of an early order incentive I’m offering. Anyone who orders the paper copy of The Copper Box by June 12 and sends a copy of the receipt to will receive the free feature article, “The Story Behind the Story.” It tells about my personal connection to Jerome and goes into more detail about how The Copper Box came to be written.

On The Writing Process

Today, I welcome Connie Cockrell – we have yet to meet in person, but it’s fun to host an Arizona writer this week.

A 20-year Air Force career, time as a manager at a computer operations company, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s story-telling.

Cockrell grew up in upstate NY, just outside of Gloversville before she joined the military at age 18. Having lived in Europe, Great Britain, and several places around the United States, she now lives in Payson, AZ with her husband: hiking, gardening, and playing bunko. She writes about whatever comes into her head so her books could be in any genre. She’s published fifteen books so far, has been included in five different anthologies and been published on Connie’s always on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be the next one.

She can be found at or on Facebook at: or on Twitter at: @ConnieCockrell or on Amazon at

Connie, what motivated you to write fiction? 

I’ve always been interested in writing stories but I never knew how and with the press of working in the military and being a wife and mother and going to college, there just wasn’t time to figure it out. After I retired and moved to Arizona, my daughter moved in with us for a time. She met a young woman who was working on her first novel and told my daughter about National Novel Writing Month, a writing challenge to write 50,000 words, a short novel, in one month.

I asked my daughter how hard could that be and she challenged me to do and loaned me a copy of Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Well, it was already mid-October, 2011, so I sped read through the book, put scene ideas on sticky notes on the back of the closet door and on 1 November, began writing my first book, The Bad Seed. I did the whole book in one month and it was pretty darned exciting. It took me months and months to rewrite and revise it but I did publish it in 2012.

Please tell us more …

One question I get all the time from readers is, “How do you write a book?” What they’re asking is, “How do you get started?”, “How do you know what to write?” and even, “Where do you get your ideas?”

The idea comes first. For me it’s usually plot. I see a documentary on TV, or read some trending memes on social media, or it’s a subject my friends are talking about. Anywhere, really. So, I get start with the question, “What if…,” then I take off. What could possibly happen in that situation? What people would be involved? How can I make the situation unusual? For example, instead of a down and out woman being the protagonist fighting against a corporate controlled world, what if I choose a woman from the upper 1% of the population? How would that change the story?

Then it’s a matter of writing those possible ideas down, lining them up, thinking up connecting scenes, maybe even adding a plot line or two. I arrange the scenes in some sort of order, doing my best to make sure the three or four-part story beats are in the right spots, and start to write.

After that it’s a matter of sitting down each day and writing to the scene. Do I stick strictly to the scene as written? Only as far as I get to the critical point, where the scene leads to the next one. But within the scene, I could create a new character from the past, I could reveal an unknown aspect of my character’s background. I could reveal a new plot line. All kinds of things could and do happen while I’m writing.

I don’t shoot for a certain number of words per chapter or book. It’s done when it’s done. Give it a try. It’s fun!

Connie’s giving away an e-book to a commenter. Just leave your contact info with your comment. Happy second week of January, 2017!