Susan and I have been Sisters in Crime on the New England mystery scene for years, but I first really got to spend time with Susan at Bouchercon 2016, in New Orleans. Maybe it was the heat and the humidity. Maybe it was the panels… maybe it was the beignets. Whatever, I’m so thrilled to be able to host her here today as she launches a new book and a new series with Below the Tree Line (Midnight Ink).

How does a book start for you?

My first impressions are usually hazy, but I let the images get sharper until I see a character doing something and then I have a feeling about the entire thing. Of course what I end up with when I start writing could be something entirely different, but I begin with a sense that I already know the story and just start writing.

Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?

The protagonist, Felicity O’Brien, has been seeing a man for about twenty years, and is close to his family. I wasn’t expecting much but her putative mother-in-law turned out to be the one character ready to take on anyone. She drank, smoked, swore, and argued about everything. I loved writing about her.

When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?

The series is set in the Pioneer Valley, which is central Massachusetts, near where my parents had a farm. They bought this for their retirement, and loved returning to the countryside. There wasn’t much farming going on, but living in a farm community again made them both very happy.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on a series of short stories set in rural areas where I’ve lived or worked, and will now turn to reviewing the Beta reader’s comments on the second in the Pioneer Valley series.

Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have? 

You didn’t ask what makes my protagonist special. Felicity O’Brien has inherited her family farm now that her father is too ill to manage, but she is also a healer, the most recent daughter in a long line of what we now call faith healers stretching back centuries. This wasn’t something I’d planned originally but the idea grew and developed and now it’s one of the most fun features of the stories.

Susan Oleksiw is the author of three series, beginning with the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva followed by the Anita Ray series set in South India. BELOW THE TREE LINE, the first in the new Pioneer Valley series, brings readers back to central Massachusetts and the world of crime in rural America.