Sunday, April 2, 2017

Susan Slater - From Fact to Fiction

Palm Coast writer Susan Slater has penned seven mystery novels, a novella, and a women’s fiction – each inspired by an actual event. According to Slater, “I truly believe that truth is often stranger than fiction, and I’m fascinated by this.” This fascination has led Publishers Weekly to praise her writing as “witty and absorbing,” and has earned her a legion of fans.

Writing came naturally to Slater. “When I was little, my parents would hand me a pencil and paper to keep me quiet in church,” she recalls.  After earning her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature/ Theater and a Masters degree in English Literature, she took a government job. She then taught college-level writing for 38 years before trying her hand at a novel. “I always thought I could write books,” she says. “It was on my bucket list.”
Slater was in her fifties when she started her first novel. She set the story in New Mexico, a state where she lived for a time and had grown to love.  The Pumpkin Seed Massacre, based on an actual outbreak of Hanta virus, introduced Ben Pecos, a Native American psychologist intent on identifying the mysterious illness killing the people of his pueblo. 

The Pumpkin Seed Massacre was so well-received that Slater wrote a sequel. Yellow Lies has Ben investigating the murder of a trader who manufactured fake amber artifacts. Slater got the idea after reading about an amber scam. Thunderbird, the third book in the series, grew out of a story about Stealth bombers in New Mexico. In the novel, a Stealth fighter crashes on an Indian reservation leading Ben into a world of UFOs, aliens, and military cover-ups. Slater also wrote a novella included in a Christmas trilogy titled Crooks, Crimes and Christmas. A Way to the Manger centers around a Christmas Eve ritual in New Mexico pueblos.  After midnight mass, worshippers walk as a group to a house where a crèche has been set up. In the story, a real baby is discovered in the manger.

In 2003, Slater published Flash Flood, a novel that became the first in a new series. Based on the mysterious deaths of cattle in the southwest, it introduced insurance investigator Dan Mahoney, a character Publishers Weekly describes as “appealingly resilient… a welcome addition to the roster of sleuths that make the Southwest a hotbed of current mystery fiction.” While looking into the deaths of highly-insured prize calves at a New Mexico ranch, Mahoney uncovers small-town secrets that entangle him in a web of intrigue.

In Five O’Clock Shadow, Slater’s only stand-alone mystery, a young bride on her honeymoon watches helplessly as her husband plunges to his death in a hot air balloon ride gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the lies begin. Slater got the idea from a news article about a newlywed wife double-crossed by her husband.

Slater then decided to try her hand at women’s fiction with 0 to 60, a book she calls “seventy percent memoir.” It tells the story of Shelly Sinclair, a family matriarch whose husband of 35 years leaves her for a younger woman. The book has been optioned for a film.

Rollover, the much-anticipated 2nd book in the Mahoney mystery series received a starred review from Publishers Weekly (2014). Slater’s last book to be based in New Mexico, it  centers around the 1998 robbery of the Norwest Bank in Wagon Mound, New Mexico – a crime yet unsolved. While Slater admits it was a challenge to come up with a plausible solution to the mystery, she was recently approached at a book signing by an actual bank employee who thought Slater had inside information on the heist.

Dan Mahoney comes to Florida in Hair of the Dog when he investigates a fire at the Daytona Dog Track, (2015).  It’s obvious by the end of the book that Dan and Elaine are probably in Florida to stay for a while. Slater is working on the next Dan Mahoney, Epiphany, where relics are stolen from the basilica in St. Augustine and the trail leads to the work of a serial killer.

Taking a break from mysteries in 2016, Slater’s second stand-alone , The Caddis Man, is currently with her agent in New York. The novel  is a saga that traces the history of one family from the Depression to the sixties that all starts with a traveling salesman. In the meantime Slater is collaborating on a play, working title F.O.B.O. (Fear of Better Offer), based on on-line dating for seniors.

Slater has been a regular contributor to the local Pelican Post magazine this past year writing articles on everything from the Humane Society to the Florida Gopher Tortoise. She says that while non-fiction is fun to write, she hopes readers will enjoy the fiction she creates from reality. “I’d like readers to think I’ve given them characters to remember,” she says. “I also want to give them the challenge of solving something that isn’t easy and most of all, the enjoyment of reading a good book."
For more information, visit the author’s Amazon page at

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