Join us on Thursday, June 21st @ 7:00 p.m. to discuss Real Murders by Charlaine Harris.
** Charlaine will be joining us by video conferencing!
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Susan assisted with determining our winner of this month’s Graphic Crime Scene Quiz (Janet!) who won her choice of one of Susan’s books.
We followed up the quiz with questions stemming from them. Talking about “Rhett” her golden retriever we asked what distinguishes today’s Southern gentlemen. Susan said they are still chivalrous, they are always good to their mothers – sort of a sign of how well they’ll treat their wives, and many of them are very handsome! She went on to say she wanted Liz be a modern “southern belle” so as a twist, she made Rhett Liz’s pet. She agreed with one member that Southern guys are more apt to be hunters as well.
Captures things that people say, snippets from restaurants, but also from family – especially her dad. He just does such funny things? LC Boneyard there’s a scene with rats where her father did the exact same thing when her sister brought home her boyfriend for the first time. (An observation that I’m sure will send all of us to check out the book!)
We went on to talk about the men in Liz’s life. She’s caught in at least three different relationships between this book and the first. We asked if there will be anyone else showing up in future books. Susan told us Michael shows up in future books, but not particularly as a love interest.
Susan went on to describe the creation of Stella Maris’s population. As the island is completely fictitious, she populated it with the buildings, functions and people that she felt suited the island and created a believable small town (Mayberry-esque) feel to it. She wanted this on a beach setting near Charleston.
Having the island population gives Liz a strong family-based setting for her personal life, and taking cases in Charleston as well as on the island, helps avoid “Cabot Cove” syndrome: where the setting becomes overwhelmed with dead bodies. Having established a fairly lengthy group of supporting characters on the island, Susan has found it works best for her to rotate groups of the characters in and out of a given novel’s story. So they are around – just not necessarily in every book. She feels this keeps readers from being overwhelmed with too many characters. We felt this made their existence even more believable, because you don’t see everyone you know or have relationships with every day.
We were pleased to hear that Calista and Liz remain friends, and that Calista does make appearances in other books. In talking about Calista, we asked if there might not be a little something going on with her and Blake, Liz’s brother and the town’s sheriff. Susan evaded our query but did relate that we will be getting more on Blake is succeeding books. She also said that readers are constantly writing to her to say that Blake needs a good woman in his life, and of course, Liz’s mother is thinking the same, being eager for grandchildren.
We also appreciated learning more about the actual Marilyn Monroe, especially talking about the ongoing questions surrounding her death, and the fact that Susan’s research pointed out that she was actually at a very happy time in her life, and was considering re-marrying Joe DiMaggio. She especially recommended the one by Donald Spoto. Patricia mentioned that we are in the process of getting this biography for the Lisle Library collection. You can go to the “On Order” record for it in our catalog by clicking here. Without getting into details, we also agreed with Susan that someone who was suicidal would kill themselves in the way it was done. It could have been intentional murder or a total accident, but it was definitively not a suicide. We also talked about Susan’s love of the Lowcountry area. She has lived there and grew up going to the SC coast on vacations. She goes there frequently, and last spring went to a condo on Isle of Palms. We learned that in creating her own island, she stole the name Stella Maris from a Catholic church. The author Dorothea Benton Frank went to a school named Stella Maris as a child.
DeWees Island, occupies the space where she has put Stella Maris, and it is a very different type of island. It is small, you can only get to it by car ferry AND you must be on the approved list to even get on the ferry! You either are on the list because you own property there, or someone there has put you on the list for visiting. Most people can’t just get on the ferry and go there. She especially likes the fact that people have to take a ferry to Stella Maris as well. She thinks it takes the reader to a different place, one that says “things are different here”. Almost a step back in time, to a place apart. In talking about the island we also discussed the way Susan includes timely issues such as what’s happening there ecologically.
Susan related how friends on Daniel Island are very concerned about the fact that there is only one road off that island, and in a storm, with the amount of traffic that tends to back up, they might not be able to get off the island. She also mentioned a friend who says that 45 new people move to Charleston County every day, and that it is almost impossible to plan adequately for that.
We brought up Susan’s concentration on family, and how in this story we see that (despite their quirks!) Liz has a happy, loving family while Calista’s has been a dysfunctional disaster. Bev asked about the potential for a relationship between Liz’s brother Blake and restaurant owner Moon Unit. Susan acknowledged that, at least on Moon Unit’s part, she’s had a crush on Blake for years. She also hinted that something may be coming up for Blake as their Mamma is getting anxious for grandchildren – and she knows better than to rely on either Liz or Merry!
For her research on private eyes, she found a textbook on how to become a private eye and has taken copious notes and highlighted points she could use in her stories. We also shared how we loved the dancing scene in the book, and Susan shared that this helped to show where Nate and Liz are at with testing the boundaries of their emerging relationship.
This book’s original titles was going to be Lowcountry Blonde but her “better half” suggested Lowcountry Bombshell – which became not only the title for our book, but the one that established a pattern for her title where the second word always starts with “bo”. When her editor called to ask if she had synopses for books 3 & 4, Susan said no – but with help from the dictionary found two “bo” titles, which became Lowcountry Boneyard and Lowcountry Bordello. She went on to share a very funny story about how the house she uses for the bordello in the second book was owned by a cousin in an exclusive part of Charleston. Then the cousin sold the house. Susan quickly contacted the new owner who got a kick out of the idea that her house’s genealogy included a spin as a bordello!
We ended the meeting with the traditional Staking of the Cake – which Susan performed with aplomb (and a laugh).
Obviously, we had a most enjoyable and amusing time with both Susan and her husband – and we hope to have them back again to share further tales and chuckles.
There are more pix from our visit with Susan on our LLD Flicker page!
Believe it or not these are simply some of the highlights from our discussion. Feel free to leave additional thoughts on Lowcountry Bombshell and our visit with Susan Boyer in the comments section below