Sunday, November 9, 2014

The Most Mysterious Susan Finlay

Image of Susan FinlayMy guest today is mystery writer Susan Finlay who loves photography and traveling. A surprising fact is that she was born in Germany, but grew up in the U.S. A mother of two grown children, she lives in Missouri with her husband and their cats. Before becoming an author, Susan earned an Associates Degree in business and worked as a bank auditor. She’s published four novels. The first two in her Outsiders series—In the Shadows and Where Secrets Reside; the first in her Project Chameleon series—Liars’ Games; and the first in her Bavarian Woods series, Inherit the Past.

Everything about your books screams intrigue and adventure, especially your terrific book covers. You have gypsies, detectives, a French village and hiding with lies. Does writing these kinds of mysteries keep you awake at night?

No. Well, not exactly. I often stay awake thinking about new book plots and characters. It’s sometimes difficult to shut off my brain.

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Book four was released Saturday. Tell us a little about Inherit the Past.

I think it’s my favorite book so far. That’s because it’s set in Bavaria in and around a fictitious town with a medieval wall and sentry walk. I was born in Germany and I've actually been to that area (though it was many years ago). My son lives in Bavaria now, and he and his German girlfriend helped with a little of the research, especially the historical part because the characters travel back to the late eighteenth century.

I wrote a very different version of the book years ago. At that time, it was more of a time travel romance. Since then, I've added three characters and completely rewrote it. It still has a romance, but that’s now more of a subplot. The main plot revolves around the protagonist Max, his relationships with his son, mother, and grandfather, and a murder mystery.

Here’s a little taste of the book.

When laid-off California architect, Max Hollander, inherits his grandparents’ house in Bavaria, it seems like the perfect opportunity to start over. If all goes well, he’ll sell it and make enough money to tide him over. More importantly, he hopes taking his antagonistic son Ryan on the trip will help rebuild their trust in each other and maybe even give them a chance to investigate a longstanding mystery that has haunted their family.

Twenty years ago while Max’s mother was staying at her parents’ house in Riesen, Germany, she and her father disappeared, never to be heard from again. Now, as they search unsuccessfully for that same house, Max and Ryan become lost until they serendipitous meet three Germans who help them find it. But their luck is short-lived: before day’s end they will get swept back in time . . . with no way to return to the present.

Realizing the same thing may have happened to his missing relatives, Max and companions set out to find them. Their quest soon embroils the hapless group in a murder investigation that widens the rift between father and son and places both lives in danger. Inherit the Past is a story of family, love/relationships, guilt, and redemption.

You are a full time author now it seems. What does your work day look like?

It varies. I rarely write on the weekend anymore. I guess I need to take a break and rejuvenate on weekends. During the week, I write as often as I can. Sometimes I take my laptop to coffee shops and work there, but most of the time I work at home in my little office.

Your books have a very wonderful flavor. How much research goes on before you put pen to paper?

I do quite a bit of research for every book. I’ll start out researching online and reading books about whatever subject I need. I have a bookcase full of research books. One shelf has books on child prodigies, school administration, school safety, body language, morality of truth vs. lies, etc. for my novel, Liars’ Games. I have another shelf of books about France and England for my Outsiders series, and a shelf about Germany and about time travel for Inherit the Past. I already have a shelf about gold mining and the gold rush for a book that I am planning.

I also have many books on writing, grammar/punctuation, and on forensics (since I usually have a murder investigation in my books).

After I start writing—and even while I’m editing—I do research. At times something will come up in the story that requires more details and then I’ll dig into one of my research books or head to the library or book store or internet.

I know that you are involved in a very special community project to get authors to come to your town. Can you tell us about that?

I began blogging in October 2013 and write an interview series called, "Meet the Author".  In August 2014 I began co-producing a 'Meet the Author' Book Talk series at the Boone County Historical Society in Columbia, Missouri. For the series, we are bringing in authors from all over Missouri, as well as from other states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas, to speak to book lovers in and around Columbia.

This book talk series is the second series to be held in the historical society. A few years ago, Kit and Cathy Salter started a ‘Saturday Morning Book Talk’ series there and it has become very popular. They moved the book talks to a new location in January 2014.
With a major university and several colleges in town, Columbia’s population is highly educated and literary-minded. We figured there was room for more book talk venues here. We’re slowly developing a following for the new book talk series. The hardest part is getting the word out to the residents. Each book talk is different, but one thing they have in common is that they are enjoyable and inspiring.

Be sure to contact Susan if you'd like to be a speaker for the book talk series. Contact information is below. Don't forget to pick up a copy of one of her books for yourself or Christmas gift.  I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to inform readers about your work. 

Contact Susan!


  1. Always a thrill to read what you are doing Susan and how you go about it. I love the cover of your latest book. I voted for the clock and the rails. I have an ever growing TBR pile and this is about to join Where Secrets Reside. Oh for more hours in a day...but I shall get there soon. Wishing you much success Susan. You deserve it. :)

  2. That's interesting that you write during the week and generally take weekends off. Those of us who are further behind the curve can write only on weekends because we have our day jobs during the week. You answered my question as to whether or not writers take days off from writing.