By Stacy Mantle
There are cozies for every topic, and that includes baby boomers. Award-winning author Susan Santangelo is the master of taking a lighthearted look at the issues facing the seventy-six million members of the fastest growing market segment in the country: the baby boomers.
Santangelo is a baby boomer herself and has worked as a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for publications throughout New York. Retirement Can Be Murder, the first in the Baby Boomer series, was released in 2009 and she has averaged a new novel in the series each year. Her third novel in the series, Marriage Can Be Murder, was selected as one of Suspense Magazine’s Best Mysteries of 2012.
On top of being an acclaimed author, she is also a breast cancer survivor. Santangelo devotes a percentage of sales of all books to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a nonprofit organization she co-founded in 1999 to provide post-treatment education and support for cancer survivors.
THE BIG THRILL had the opportunity to connect with her about her newest popular release, FUNERALS CAN BE MURDER.
Most of your books are focused on the baby boomer generation. What is it that fascinates you most about this demographic?
I’m an early member of the baby boomer generation myself. As my husband and I were approaching our own “milestone” years, I began to focus on what issues we were going to have to deal with. Everything I read focused on financial planning for retirement and beyond. But nobody seemed to be dealing with the emotional impact of retirement, particularly as it impacts a marriage. I’ve written for years for magazines and newspapers, and always loved the mystery genre. So I decided to combine retirement with a funny mystery and wrote “Retirement Can Be Murder,” the first in what has morphed into the Baby Boomer mystery series.
You were once a drama critic. How did that experience impact your writing?
I think because I was a drama critic, and now I review mysteries for Suspense Magazine, I’ve realized that critiquing anything is such a personal experience. It’s made me accept criticism for my own work, because I know I can’t please everybody.
What type of research do you engage in prior to beginning a novel?
I’ve been told that there basically are two types of writers: the ones who do research and outline their plots and characters, and the ones who are more “seat of the pants” types. I definitely fall into the latter category. I begin with focusing on what issue I want to deal with (retirement, moving, class reunions et cetera), which leads me to the book title, and then I start the story. I’m always surprised when I’m writing the first draft. I love that!
How did you know that you were meant to be an author?
I’ve been writing since I was in high school. My first paying job was at a weekly newspaper while I was in school, writing a column on local school events. And one thing, as the old saying goes, led to another.
What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?
Write. Write. Write. Every day. The same time every day. Writing is a discipline. Sometimes it’s wonderful. And sometimes it’s hard. But the most important thing is to write for yourself first.
Tell us what a typical day is like for you—when do you find time to write?
I write first thing every morning, right after my coffee. It’s the way I start my day. Some people like to start their day with physical exercise. I start my day by exercising my imagination.
Tell us a little about FUNERALS CAN BE MURDER. Is it part of a series? Does it feature recurring characters? Based on a true story? (We hope not!)
FUNERALS CAN BE MURDER is the fifth in the Baby Boomer mystery series. Like the others in the series, it features chief protagonist Carol Andrews and her longtime husband, Jim, her three best friends (Claire, Nancy, and Mary Alice), her two adult children (Jenny and Mike), and the two most important characters of all—two English cocker spaniels, Lucy and Ethel. Funny you should ask if it’s based on a true story, because part of it is. But I’m not telling which part!
You’re an active member of the ITW as well as Sisters In Crime. How has being involved in these groups impacted your writing?
It’s so wonderful to be part of organizations that promote and nurture the mystery genre. Both groups have allowed me opportunities to improve myself as a writer.
An early member of the Baby Boomer generation, Susan Santangelo has been a feature writer, drama critic, and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the New York metropolitan area, including a stint at Cosmopolitan magazine. Susan divides her time between Cape Cod MA and the Connecticut shoreline. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Cape Cod Writers Center, and also reviews mysteries for Suspense Magazine. Funerals Can Be Murder is the fifth in her Baby Boomer mystery series. The other titles are: Retirement Can Be Murder (2009), Moving Cab Be Murder (2011), Marriage Can Be Murder (2012), and Class Reunions Can Be Murder (2013). A portion of the sales from te books is donated to the Breast Cancer Survival Center, a Connecticut-based non-profit organization Susan founded in 1999 after being diagnosed with cancer herself.
To learn more about Susan, please visit her website.