June 19, 2021

Susie Black

Susie Black

In this episode, Linda Hengerer and Susie Black talk about her debut novel Death by Sample Size, the garment industry, writing, and basing fiction on real life.


In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Susie Black.

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries. 

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

Looking for more? She loves to hear from readers, who can email her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com. The first book in the series, and Susie’s debut novel, is Death by Sample Size.

I'll update with Susie's website after it goes live.

Get to know Susie - The Tart Words Baker's Dozen:

1.   Plotter or Pantser? Combo? SUSIE: Combo. I plot the beginning and the end but let the story and the characters take me through the middle to the end. 

2.   Tea or Coffee? SUSIE: Coffee, lots of it. Without me, the Columbian economy would collapse. If I’m drinking tea? Better stay clear of me as that’s the first clue I am under the weather. 

3.   Beer, Wine, or Cocktails? SUSIE: Wine with dinner. Since I don’t like the taste of most liquors, the only ones I drink are disguised in one of those fruity concoctions you drink at a tropical resort. 

4.   Snacks: Sweet or Savory? SUSIE: Both. I am a non-discriminatory nosher.  

5.   Indie Published, Traditionally Published, or Hybrid? SUSIE: Traditionally published. 

6.   Strict Writing Schedule: Yes or No: SUSIE: No. I’d never follow one so there’d be no point. 

7.    Strictly Computer or Mix It Up? SUSIE: Strictly computer. 

8.    Daily Goal: Yes or No SUSIE: Nope. See question 6 for the reason. 

9.    Formal Track Progress: Yes or no SUSIE: No. See question 6 again. 

10.  Special Writing Spot? SUSIE: Yes. Two: On the forward deck of my houseboat or in my home office facing the golf course. 

11.   Writer’s Block? SUSIE: So far, thank goodness, no.

12.   File of Ideas: Yes or No SUSIE: Yes. I have so many I’d have to live to be 150 to write them all.

13. Favorite author(s)? The late, great Joan Hess, and Carolyn Haines.

 

Like this episode? Leave a review or rating! 

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai; Lightly edited by Linda. Please forgive typos or grammar errors J

Episode 229 - Susie Black

18:26

Linda 00:00

Welcome to Tart Words. I'm your host, Linda Hengerer. And I'm a writer, a reader and a baker. I talk to writers about their latest book and what inspires them, chat with fellow author Suzanne Fox about what writers can learn from reading their favorite authors, and share fast and easy recipes for anyone looking for a sweet treat. Join me as I share Tart Bites, Tart Thoughts, and Tart Words. In this episode, Linda Hengerer talks with Susie Black. 

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries. 

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

Looking for more? She loves to hear from readers, who can email her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com. The first book in the series, and Susie’s debut novel, is Death by Sample Size.

Hi, Susie, welcome to the podcast. I'm looking forward to hearing about your debut novel. 

Susie

Thank you, Linda. It's lovely to be here with you. 

Linda

Tell me about your latest book – well, your first book.

Susie

My debut book, Death by Sample Size, is a humorous, cozy mystery that takes place in the Los Angeles Garment Center, downtown LA. It is a story about a terrible woman who was really despised by everyone in the industry. And the protagonist in my story discovers the corpse of this woman in the elevator of the mart and she is trussed up with shipping tape and has a bikini stuffed down her throat. The premise of the story is that a very close colleague of mine…or actually mine, there you go. There's a Freudian slip. The protagonist’s very, very close friend is accused of the murder and she jumps into action to clear her friend's name. 

Linda

And what is her name? 

Susie

The protagonist is Holly Schlivnik.

Linda

Did you base this on anyone, you know, did you work in the fashion industry? 

Susie

Just between us? It's based on me. You know that is the first rule of writing. If you don't know it, don't write it. And I have had a very nice run as a sales executive in the lady's swimwear business. And I have kept a journal every day from the start of my career. And the journal entries are the foundation of my writing. 

Linda

I like that. Based on what you know, but presumably, you never came across a dead person with a bikini stuffed down there. 

Susie

No, but I will tell you, it's quite cathartic to be writing about it, because you get to murder people and you don't go to jail. There were a few of them that I've written about that I wouldn't have minded seeing them get knocked off and boom, here they go. 

Linda

I know – it’s one of the best things about writing mystery fiction, is that you can vicariously do away or see that justice is done to people who really need to have a little bit of that in their lives. 

Susie

I would agree with that. My son is a psychologist and I have suggested that he incorporate what I do into some of his therapies – it’s very cathartic. 

Linda

Just putting it out on paper, just getting it off your mind. Whether you're dictating it or writing it on paper really helps to let the catharsis come.

Susie

You could not have said it better. 

Linda

On that note, let's move on to the next part which is, is this book the first book in a series? 

Susie

Yes, it is the first book in the series. I actually have six of them written and the second book in the series is being edited right now. And again, it is a murder of somebody I knew that at least the basis of the story is somebody that I knew, of course, I've taken a fair amount of poetic license to make it a little bit more interesting. 

Linda

More interesting, less actionable in the legal system. 

Susie

Yes, exactly. I'm only four foot nine. I would look terrible in horizontal stripes. 

Linda

The idea for your main character is basically based on you. 

Susie

Correct.

Linda

What about her is not based on you?

Susie 05:00

Well, physically she is based on me. Age-wise, she's me at the beginning of my career rather than you know where I am now. Where she lives, what she drives, is based on things that I have experienced in my life. Holly lives on a houseboat in Marina Del Rey and I did it one time. Holly drives a bubblegum pink Mustang convertible, a vintage, and I did it one time. So there is a lot of me in the story. And one nice thing that I have been told over and over again, and it didn't seem to matter whether it was somebody who knew me well or somebody who didn't know me at all, that the story has my voice through it, that it has a very clear point of view, it has a very clear way of saying things. 

Linda

That's the way it should be. I mean, that's the author's voice. And whether it's yours or being the voice of the character that you're writing in, its distinctive, that's what you're looking for. 

Susie

Correct. The main characters are all very strong, forthright, females who have been in a, candidly, a male-dominated industry and have managed to break a lot of glass ceilings amongst themselves in all of the things that they have done. One of the foundations of the story is a group of the characters that get together every day for coffee, they're called the Yentas. They solve a lot of the world's problems, they solve a lot of their own problems, but they are extraordinarily supportive of one another. And it was a point that I really wanted to get across to all the readers just to show the female support. 

Linda

No one else knows what they're going through like they do. 

Susie

Absolutely true. It's wonderful to be in love. It's wonderful to have a spouse, but there's nothing like girlfriends.

Linda

That's the truth. You said you've got six books in this series written so far. When does the second book come out? 

Susie

You know, fingers crossed, the way publishing works, and it is a slow and extraordinarily arduous process, I'm hoping by the end of the year. It has been a very interesting transition, because the lane that I have always driven in in the apparel industry is a much faster pace, is boom, boom, boom, you don't get it out on time, you might as well not get it out. But in the publishing lane, it is a much more pedantic, slower process, and I've really had to adapt to it. 

Linda

Yeah, I think that surprises people that are new to the industry, that it is slow. I think it was driven initially because books needed time to be printed and distributed. And even though the technology has changed, where an ebook can be produced much faster, when it's tied to a print book coming from a traditional publisher, they're still held to the printing and distribution schedules. 

Susie

Well, that was my experience. And I was really a little taken aback in my mind, you know, Alright, here's the book, it's been edited, let's go and golly, gosh, that was not the case. The publishing company did a fine job, they certainly went absolutely backwards and making sure that we both were happy with the end product, there was a lot of vetting a lot of going through the galleys, which I was extraordinarily happy about. But at the same time, it did take a little bit longer. I signed my contract last summer, and the book just got released. 

Linda

And that's actually faster than a lot of times in years past, it might have been two years from the time you signed a contract to when the book came out. 

Susie

Good grief!

Linda

Quite a difference from the fashion industry, as you said, which is much more of the moment. There are seasons in the lines, the seasons don't last very long. And if you are not out with it on time, you're on to the next one.

Susie

You're absolutely right, and being in swimwear, it really is a very time-driven industry. This was a major accomplishment on my part, because I'm not known to be the most patient human being on this planet to begin with. This was a very good lesson in having to adapt. 

Linda

Do you have a writing routine or schedule? 

Susie

Nope, I don't. I try to but I, you know, can be if I have to say alright, from 10:30 to 11:30 every morning, now's the time you're going to sit and write, well, life doesn't work that way. This stuff happens. I find that I am much better off writing when it strikes me. I can rearrange things if I want to write, I can rearrange things, but I don't honestly have a set schedule. 

Linda

You've written six books in this series so far. 

Susie 10:00

Yes. Plus a prequel and the prequel is called Rag Lady. Rag Lady is the fictionalized version of how I got into the apparel industry to begin with. If I do say so myself, it was an interesting story. My dad was a manufacturer's representative in the apparel industry, and I had graduated from college, visiting my family, and I get a phone call from my dad who was at a trade show that there was a family health emergency. Nobody else could help him and could I please fly to Atlanta to help him, and I burst out laughing. I said, Me, I don't even go to your showroom. But it was my dad, he needed help. And he gave me 45 minutes of how to be a salesperson and left for three days. And when he came back, I had this gigantic stack of orders. And he offered me a job. I remember chatting with my grandmother, and she said, Well, you know, what's the worst that could happen? You don't like it, you won't do it. Graduate School will always be there, the school isn't going to burn down if you don't go.

Linda

How many years did you spend in that industry? 

Susie 10:49

Decades. It was very good to me. And honestly, it despite the fact that it is a male-dominated industry in many ways, in sales, it really was a level playing field: You got the order, you got paid. And it is a lesson that other industries could learn from the apparel industry. 

Linda

I agree with you about that. Do you outline? Or do you write with an idea in mind and go with the idea?

Susie

I am like a Chinese restaurant, one from column A and one from column B, I am a combination plate. I outline the beginning and I outline the end, but I let the character and the story lead me through the middle to get to the end. 

Linda

I like that. So you have a beginning and a destination and how you get there can vary. 

Susie

Exactly. 

Linda

Now, is there a creative outlet that you have that plays into your writing, or that keeps you fresh for the writing and gives you a little respite? 

Susie

You know, I am not one of those writers, thank god so far that has ever had writer's block or doesn't know what to do next. I have so many ideas in my files of books that haven't been written yet. The experience that I had in the apparel industry was so interesting. People are the best stories. I mean, if you just talk to people, you get the best stories. I mean, my son laughs that if we were in the middle of the jungle and Africa, somehow somebody would be at the other end. And I would say, Oh, look, that person went to Sequoia Junior High School with me. Let's go talk to them. I just get all of my ideas from my life. 

Linda

I think that's great. And then you have an idea of how it actually went and how you can tweak it for a story. 

Susie

Correct. 

Linda

And getting back to Rag Lady, is that published? Or will it be published? 

Susie

You know, I've never even submitted it. It was so personal. The first time I wrote it, I thought oh my god, if somebody hates it, it's like they would hate my kid’s music recital. Now that I have some perspective, I'm not looking at it as my firstborn. I'm going to consider submitting it for consideration. I've had a lot of positive feedback from people who I really do respect, who think that it would be really charming way to introduce Holly Schlivnik.

Linda

Do you have an email list or a website that people can find out more about you? 

Susie

Okay, try not to laugh. You are speaking to the world's most incapable technologically oriented person on this planet. I am embarrassed to say that I am working on the website and I don't have it done yet. Technology and I are not best friends. But it's going to have about another two days or so. And if I can't do it myself, I'm going to throw in the towel and hire somebody. But no, I don't have a website yet. But I do have an email address. It is available if somebody actually looks in the back of the book. It's in there but it's mysteries_@authorSusieBlack.com. Remarkably, I've had a lot of people write me that they have just bought the book and they've enjoyed it. I've been very, very fortunate. I've had some absolutely fabulous reviews so far. I didn't know what to expect, but boy, it's been pretty nice. 

Linda

I know. Nancy Cohen mentioned you to me, and she said that she really loved your book. So I'm gathering that she was one of your early readers. 

Susie

She was. Nancy and I are the poster children of it is a small world. Her uncle was a sales rep in the Miami market at the same time as my dad and they were very good friends. Nancy told me that she used to come to the mart all the time to buy samples and I said my Dad’s showroom and Nancy's uncle's showroom were literally down the hall from each other. We were in each other's rooms all the time. And I said you know Nancy, we probably bumped into each other just didn't know it. We just laugh about it all the time that how small a world it can actually be. 

Linda

It really is and I'll have your email address in the show notes as well and also a link to your website when it goes live. So just keep me posted and I will update the show notes as needed. 

Susie 15:00

I will. I have to say I didn't know what to expect in a book being published. Other than my college graduation, my wedding day and the birth of my child, I have to say this was probably one of the most exciting days of my entire life. 

Linda

It really is exciting. It's exciting to see something that you wrote available. And it's really exciting when someone you don't know buys it, not that you expect your family to…

Susie

The heck I don't!

Linda

Well, often they buy it because they know you, not because they want to read the book, per se, but a stranger buys it, then you know that they want to read the story. They're not coming for you, because they don't know you. 

Susie

Absolutely true. The night before I didn't sleep very well. And it was sort of like the night before going to the first day of high school. I was a nervous wreck. I got into bed. I fell asleep. I woke up like an hour later. And that was it. I am usually a pretty calm, cool collective person. And boy, I have to tell you, Linda, I was, I was a wreck. 

Linda

It's nerve-wracking to put something so personal out there, whether they know it's personal or not, and to be one of the millions of books that are available and to have people find it and buy it. It's really thrilling. I'm very happy for you. Congratulations. 

Susie

Thank you. Well you know, it's been interesting, I can't tell you that I knew what I was doing. But in reaching out to several pretty well known authors that I'm a fan of, including Nancy, they have been very, very supportive. One put out my book in her newsletter, and it only featured Death by Sample Size. It was remarkable. I have learned so much from these authors. And I will say that I have found that the family and community of authors is one of the kindest, most generous, open group of people I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. So helpful, so ready to give information. It's been really fantastic. 

Linda

I agree with you. Do you belong to Mystery Writers of America or Sisters in Crime

Susie

I have just found out about them. To tell you the truth, I thought I had to wait until I was a published author. And apparently, that is not the case. But I have applied and I hope that I will be accepted soon.

Linda

I've enjoyed talking with you today. And best of luck with the new book and all the books to come. 

Susie

Well, thank you. I will absolutely keep you posted. I can't thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to introduce myself and Death by Sample Size and my whole concept of writing to your followers. I am very, very grateful. Thank you for this opportunity. 

Linda

You're quite welcome. 

Thank you for joining me this week. To view the complete show notes and the links mentioned in today's episode, visit tartwords.com/tart229. Before you go, Follow or Subscribe for free to the podcast to receive new episodes when they're released. Follow now in the app you're using to listen to this podcast or sign up for email alerts through an easy signup form for Bakers, Readers, and/or Writers at tartwords.com/about. Thank you again for joining me, Linda Hengerer, for this episode of Tart Words.

 

Susie Black

Guest

Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.
She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.
Looking for more? Email her at mysteries_@authorsusieblack.com. The first book in the series, and Susie's debut novel, is Death by Sample Size.