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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.