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The Sirens of Suspense

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ABOUT SUZANNE ARRUDA:

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Today Pro-Files features Suzanne Arruda, frequent Guest Siren and author of the Jade del Cameron mystery series. Her books are set in 1920s Africa, and follow the story of a strong-willed American adventurer and wild animal lover. TREASURE OF THE GOLDEN CHEETAH, the fifth book in the series, is now available in hardcover, and THE CROCODILE’S LAST EMBRACE will be available in September, 2010.

Find Suzanne on Facebook and Twitter

http://www.suzannearruda.com/

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As are many of our protagonists, Suzanne’s Jade is a version of herself, as she would like to be. “Jade and I are like twin sisters except she's slender and I'm a bit on the dumpy side and she had black wavy hair and mine is brown and she has green eyes and mine are (wait for it) brown. She's adventuresome and I'm a hermit...” She blames her passion for wildlife and the creation of Jade on being the little sister of two brothers who “lived, breathed, played, watched & read all things Tarzan.” She read all of Tarzan (contrary to the wishes of her local librarian), plus African missionary stories, and tales of women adventurers of the time which fostered her love for tales of adventure and conflict.

Suzanne’s background, though eclectic, has centered around her love of wildlife and the outdoors. She holds a masters degree in Wildlife Ecology, has worked as a zookeeper, laboratory technician (she left because it didn’t involve animals), university biology professor and high school science teacher. She never thought of herself as a writer, but a READER (emphasis is Suzanne’s), until after her sons were born, and she began writing biographies for young readers. Researching fascinating individuals reminded her of the adventuresome women she used to read about as a child, and out popped Jade, a heroine who shares her love of the outdoors (but little else).

Writing the series has expanded Suzanne’s horizons even further. She tries to learn all the skills Jade uses in the book - roping, shooting, archery, etc. - to help her gain insight to her character, and has travelled to Africa to research locations. (Attention writers: you can write off research trips, Suzanne does!) Of course, period writers can’t rely too much on what they see in these locations now. Suzanne and her husband travelled to Morocco in 2006 and found few traces of the Morocco of the 1920s - the Atlas Mountains remained the same, but otherwise bore little resemblance.

As do most writers, Suzanne has a particular soft spot for the first book in the series MARK OF THE LION, but revels in finding new perilous situations for her heroine (she loved using Jade as bait in a leopard cage in THE LEOPARD’S PREY). Part of the fun of writing a series is being able to explore and develop the character. The next installment of the Jade series finds she being stalked by a man who has been “ordered to break her”, and Suzanne was forced to explore Jade’s more vulnerable side, as well as her strength, to overcome obstacles (Suzanne says to watch out for the crocodiles!).

Unlike her heroine, who is an adventurer, Suzanne is a self-professed hermit, which makes the marketing side of writing hard for her, but as she says “It IS part of the job. Any new writer needs to realize that.” Publicists can only do so much, and Suzanne suggests writers form relationships with independent booksellers - they love helping out new writers, and aren’t beholden to corporate headquarters like larger bookstore chains. Send them bookmarks, postcards, and e-mails letting them know what you write (even a galley if one is available). Despite her solitary nature she manages to blog once a week about life in 1920s Africa, and maintains an active twitter account.

Internet self-promotion has the capacity to get in the way of writing, although according to Suzanne, so does solitaire! Her parting words about writing were brilliant in their simplicity: “It’s all about discipline!"

 

 

QUESTION FOR SUZANNE? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask her here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page.

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QUICKIES WITH SUZANNE:

Suzanne’s writing ambience: Messy computer desk near chilly outer wall in her front room. No music (can't hear Jade). Trying NOT to eat. Summer distractions = garden. Year round distraction = kitty.

What Suzanne is reading now: Books about Zanzibar.

Suzanne’s favorite protagonist (other than her own): Jim Hawkins (Treasure Island) and Alan Quartermain (many H. Rider Haggard novels).

Who Suzanne would like to see play Jade onscreen: My sons wanted Angelina Jolie but... anymore, I'd say someone as yet undiscovered.

Suzanne’s ideal vacation spot: A cabin in the forest surrounded by frolicking chipmunks.

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