Monday, October 15th, 2012
Join me in welcoming Susanne Lakin to Highlighted Author.
Susanne Lakin is novelist and writing coach who spends her time divided between developing new book ideas and helping writers polish theirs. She is the author of twelve novels – six contemporary and six in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Whether she is exploring the depths of the human psyche and pushing her characters to the edge of desperation, or embellishing an imaginary world replete with talking pigs and ancient magical curses, she is doing what she loves best – using her creativity and skills to inspire and affect her readers.
Susan grew up in the “Big Orange,” when there were still orange groves in the Los Angeles basin. Her first novel, A Rip in the Redwood Curtain, was picked up by the first agent who read it, Ben Kamsler – Elmore Leonard’s agent at the time.
Among her publications are A Rip in the Redwood Curtain, Innocent Little Crimes, Thin Film of Lies, The Wolf Of Tebron, The Map Across Time, Someone to Blame, The Land of Darkness, Time Sniffers, Conundrum, The Unravelling of Wentwater, Intended For Harm, and The Crystal Scepter.
She comes from a family of successful writers, and I landed her first fiction contract by winning the Zondervan First Novel contest at Mount Hermon in April 2009.
Welcome, Susanne. Please tell us about your featured book.
Innocent Little Crimes actually came from a screenplay my mother had written back in the sixties. At the time it was about to be filmed as a “movie of the week,” I was about twelve years old. I used to love sitting and reading all my mother’s scripts that lay around her office. I especially loved the TV movies she wrote, and my first job was to collate her copies of scripts she had to send to NY when she wrote for the soap The Doctors. Back then, there were no copy machines or Kinko’s. To make four copies of a script, my mother would have to type with four sheets of paper with four sheets of carbon paper inserted between the white paper. Then when she had everything typed (and if she made a mistake, there was no “cut and paste” feature on those old typewriters! She would have to retype the page), I would pull out all the carbon papers and stack the four copies in neat order. We’ve sure come a long way with computers—and for that I’m grateful as it makes writing novels that much easier!
Years later, when in my thirties, I got the idea to take the screenplay my mother had written and which never did get filmed (it made it to day one, but the director died of a heart attack on the set, so with that inauspicious beginning to the movie, the project was canned). I wrote Innocent Little Crimes (called Wolves! at the time), and it’s gone through a number of revisions over the years. I completely redid the story, though, brought in different characters and created a rich back story that told of Lila’s oppressive childhood. My idea was to make this more a psychological spin-off of Agatha Christie’s most famous mystery: “Ten Little Indians.” In my novels, I don’t usually kill characters off literally. With psychological suspense, it’s more fun to push them to the edge of desperation and “kill them off” figuratively. I am fascinated with human motivation, and love shows like The Closer, in which ordinary people end up committing crimes because they are pushed past the point of being able to hold back.
I’m excited by this new official release in print and eBook with Imajin Books. Innocent Little Crimes has already gotten great reviews, and it made the top 100 finals (out of 5,000 entries) in the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, which is held once a year. Publisher’s Weekly calls it “A page-turning thrill ride that will have readers holding their breath the whole way through.” I hope you enjoy it!
Innocent Little Crimes
Six flattered guests. A deadly game of “Wolves.” Revenge served cold. A recipe for disaster . . .
Lila Carmichael may be a rich and famous comedienne, but she’s hidden her greatest talent from her adoring fans—her ability to simmer, spice, and dole out a dish of revenge, a carefully constructed tour de force that she plans to serve death-cold at a cozy reunion on her private island in the Pacific Northwest.
Her six unsuspecting guests have no idea what’s on the menu, having forgotten the nasty trick they played on poor, unsuspecting Lila fifteen years ago in college. Unaware that Lila has been orchestrating their downfall, all are teetering on the brink of ruin, hoping the famous Lila will come to their rescue. And their desperation plays them right into her hand.
Lila forces them to play a vicious parlor game called Wolves, where one by one her guests are figuratively killed off. To their horror, her guests realize she holds their fate in her hands. But deliverance is only a favor away, as she sends them out like a pack of wolves to execute her plan. Yet, revenge turns bittersweet when the weekend is over and one guest is dead.
With the motor at a putter, Mac Dobson steered his trawler through the clammy fog, stretching his neck to spot jutting rocks before they punched holes in his hull. Even though he’d maneuvered through this maze of islands for over thirty years, he knew to keep his confidence in check. Forceful waves slapped the bow, splashing salt water into his beard. Tree branches tumbled and bobbed in the churning water, debris from the weekend storm littering the narrow channel. Sherpa whined, pressing against Mac’s legs.
“We’ll be there soon, ol’ boy. Then a bowl of hot soup for the both of us.” Mac pulled the yellow rain slicker tighter to stave off the wind, then dodged a hefty limb with the jerk of the wheel. He gave Sherpa a brusque pat on the head as the dog sought purchase with his paws on the slick deck. “Folks must be crazy to be vacationing this time of year.”
Through the drifts of gray, he could make out the island a dozen yards to starboard. The soughing of the surf as it pounded the beach rolled toward him, growing in pitch. As in a dream, the pier and moorings materialized, then the flag pole jutting from the sand.
A shiver raced across the back of his neck at the sight.
Someone had raised the signal flag; it flapped in the wind, smacking the pole. The pulley clanged against metal, tolling like a bell in a churchyard. As the boat nosed to shore, Mac made out a small group on the beach standing solemn and still, a curious contrast to their excited manner two days ago when he dropped them off.
But dream turned nightmare when his gaze followed theirs to the ground. A bulky shape lay at their feet, wrapped in a gray canvas tarp. Mac tossed the line over the post at the dock and whistled under his breath as the prow nudged the pilings. He didn’t need to take a mental count to know someone was missing.
Bel Air, California
Lila Carmichael’s massive face, frozen in Living Technicolor, bore down on them from the eight-foot-wide plasma TV mounted on the wall.
“Ugh—I’ve got a voice that grates cheese.”
Lila tossed sandwich crusts into her mouth as she half-heartedly trotted on the treadmill. “I’m not that funny, you know. People think a fat broad with a big mouth is an easy target.”
She narrowed her eyes at the screen. Her short, thick, carrot-red hair flared out around her face—a pretty-enough face, but overpowered by bulging cheeks and a double chin. Her beady brown eyes resembled raisins pushed into a blob of dough.
She turned to Peter, her lithe assistant. “Here’s what I think. They laugh at me because no matter how rotten their life is, they can look in the mirror and say, ‘I may be a loser, but thank God I don’t look like Lila Carmichael.’ She looked again at her image. “Sheesh, what an ugly mug.”
“A face the whole world loves, sweets.” Peter helped her climb off the treadmill. “And pays plenty to watch.”
Lila stepped onto the scale and squinted at numbers that flashed her weight in both pounds and kilos. Neither number flattered her. With a disgusted grunt, she pasted a piece of lettuce over the digital readout.
Her head throbbed from last night’s New Year’s bash, an event she barely remembered attending. She surveyed the room she liked to call her “fat farm.” Garish-green walls with floor-to-ceiling mirrors reflected back her sizable body from the ceilings and domed archways. More like a fun house sideshow than a fancy French chateau sequestered in Beverly Hills. Just who was she fooling with all this exercise equipment and indoor lap pool? She was never going to get in shape unless that shape was round. Her sixteen-million-dollar estate—her little “tear-down”—boasted spacious rose gardens, closed-circuit security cameras, and privet hedges galore. All designed to induce peace of mind. But Lila felt constrained, like a restless lion in a tight cage.
She fell back into an overstuffed chair with a sigh and wiggled a finger at the screen. “Play the DVD again.”
“Darling, it’s great. You’ve watched it a thousand times. Why torture yourself? You got rave reviews. You always do.”
“Shut up, Peter, please, and obey.” She shot him a saccharine-sweet smile.
He was right, though. She did torture herself. She did get rave reviews. This time. This week. You could never be sure when your little kingdom would topple and the crown would be yanked out of your greedy hands. There were plenty of wolves clawing their way to the top, with the bodies of half-chewed has-beens littered along the wayside.
Peter picked up the remote. Garrett came in, three poodles trailing like coifed models on a runway.
“Meeting’s all set. Three tomorrow. Oh, and by the way, they’re sweating over at NBC. They’re afraid you might go to one of the other networks.”
“Make them sweat. Now call them back and cancel the meeting. Tell them something’s come up and change it to Monday.”
“They’ll be furious.”
Lila shrugged. “What do I care? It’s just an act. They know they’ll have to meet my price in the end.”
“Are you really thinking about breaking from Cable?” Peter asked. “The nets will demand you clean up your act.”
“When they clean up theirs, I’ll clean up mine. They should talk. Besides, it’s only money” Lila turned back to Garrett. “Ring my manicurist, and tell the cook to go easy on the garlic. My stomach’s been a mess all day.”
Garrett nodded and left the room, with poodles’ toenails clicking on the pristine marble floor.
Peter pressed the remote and stood off to the side. Lila watched the screen, then sat up abruptly. “Hey now, what about those invitations?”
“Sent them all out this morning.”
She clapped her hands. “Ah, the game’s afoot.”
Peter smirked. “Wait till they open their mail. The look on their faces. Ooh . . . think they’ll all come?”
“They wouldn’t dare turn me down. Not a frigging chance they’d miss a weekend with the rich and famous Lila Carmichael.”
Peter exaggerated a sigh. “I’d give my right kidney to be a fly on the wall that weekend.”
“I’ll do you one better. You can be my ‘escort.’ ”
Peter blushed. “Oh, Lila.”
“Cut the crap, Peter. We have a lot of work to do to get ready. This is not one of your run-of-the-mill, everyone sit around and gleefully reminisce about the good ol’ days—because they weren’t any. They’re going to wish they never came.”
Lila grew pensive, and then a smile inched up her face. “They just don’t know it yet.”
Brooklyn, New York
Snow pelted the window of Della Roman’s tiny room in the brownstone apartment on Montague Street. Della looked out on the neighborhood where snow piled in drifts and wind whipped the clouds in a frenzy. The street lamps cast an eerie glow onto the blanketed sidewalks. She squinted to read the illuminated numbers on her alarm clock. Three fifteen.
Her white cat lay curled in her lap as Della read and re-read the same page over and over. She brushed her cat’s fur with a small comb and lit another menthol cigarette.
It was no use—she couldn’t concentrate.
She threw down the book, Meditating With Purpose, and stumbled into the bathroom, cringing under the glaring light. Why did she persist in reading herself to sleep when it never worked?
She opened the mirrored cabinet to a dozen bottles of prescription medication, most of them empty. She popped open the Valium cap and shook out a tablet, then two. As she washed the pills down, she caught her gaze in the mirror.
Della forced herself to look at her reflection. Her face was deathly pale, with dark circles under her eyes from repeated bouts of insomnia. Her skin was taut and dry, her black hair greasy and unkempt. Mascara smeared her eyelids. Her looks reflected her life—a total mess.
How had she ended up like this? Living with her condescending brother and his annoying wife in the hoity-toity section of Brooklyn. Barbie and Ken, she called them behind their backs. Ever so right, ever so plastic. They lived by “the rules,” they liked to say. Della snorted. Let them drop dead with their rules. What joy did they get out of their absolutely eat-off-the-floor spotless house? They hardly dared sit on a chair for fear of mussing it.
And her niece and nephew. Sweet kids but so spoiled. She was sure they’d grow up exactly like their parents and just as dull. They all treated her like a slave. Della, be a honey, fix the lunches, pick up the kids, vacuum the rug. Her brother Edward encouraged her when she went on auditions, but she knew he pitied her.
Get your own copy of Innocent Little Crimes at Amazon!
Want more Susanne? Here’s where you can find her:
Author site: http://www.cslakin.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cslakin [@cslakin]
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/c.s.lakin.author [C. S. Lakin, Author, Editor]
Her blog for writers: http://www.livewritethrive.com