From Theater to Fiction – Suzanne Trauth Chats About Murder and Maintaining Order
I invited Suzanne Trauth, playwright and author, to visit for a chat about her new book. I’ve brewed four flavors of tea (can you guess the flavors?), so join us as we talk about writing, plays, and other murderous things.
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Thank you for visiting. I have four teas here – help yourself and settle in! Did I guess your favorite?
My favorite tea is peppermint… I love the perkiness. But when I want to calm down there is nothing like a cup of soothing chamomile. I always drink decaffeinated teas… I’m already too hyper!
I’m so thrilled to have a fellow playwright here. So considering your theatre background, did you incorporate any theatrical aspects into your novel?
Yes! Each novel in the Dodie O’Dell Mystery Series features a play being produced by the Etonville Little Theatre. In Show Time it was Romeo and Juliet, in Time Out it is Arsenic and Old Lace. The antics of the community theatre provide a backdrop (no pun intended!) against which Dodie solves the murder mysteries, which always have a connection to the theatre and its personnel. In addition, Dodie visits rehearsals to provide moral support for her good friend Lola, the artistic director of the theatre. Dodie is learning theatre lingo and getting familiar with the ins and outs of technical rehearsals, warm-up exercises, and curtain calls.
So tell us about your main character and how you brought her to the page.
After Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore in 2012, Dodie, whose house and the restaurant she managed were damaged, moved to northern New Jersey—Etonville—where she got a job managing the Windjammer restaurant. She is ambitious, smart, impulsive, and very organized: knows management and business and food! She has a terrific sense of humor…and is currently having an almost-relationship with hunky police chief Bill Thompson. She is good at solving mysteries because she thinks analytically and trusts her instincts!
What is your favorite aspect of your character – her strongest trait, etc.
Dodie is relentless! When she has a goal she doesn’t give up until she reaches it or has done everything she possibly can to reach it. This character trait comes in handy when she is pursuing the perpetrator of the murder. Also, she is adventurous and daring! She likes taking risks…
Which of Aristotle’s six elements (plot, character, thought, language, melody, spectacle) do you feel is your strongest and why?
I would say my strongest are: character, plot, and language, or dialogue. My theatre background has given me a foundation in creating dialogue and my early work writing screenplays taught me how to fashion plot points succinctly and specifically. But both plays and screenplays depend on well-developed characters to generate emotional responses and I am big on emotional responses, even in a mystery series!
If your main character were dropped off at the cinema, what movie would she choose?
Oh boy, Dodie loves movies and has a range of film interests. Sleepless in Seattle and Casablanca because she has a romantic side to her; but Dodie is also into mysteries – books and movies – and would see any Hitchcock (especially Rear Window and North by Northwest) and contemporary thrillers such as Girl on the Train. She’s a sucker for epics: Gone With The Wind!
I have oatmeal, peanut butter, and raisin cookies. Help yourself!
Thanks! I love mixing oatmeal and raisins in cookies… I can eat peanut butter right out of the jar!
Is that a gift you brought for me? You are so sweet!
Yes… I thought you’d like a gift certificate for dinner at the Windjammer restaurant and two tickets to the next ELT production. Arsenic and Old Lace…a night out on the town in Etonville, New Jersey!
I love it! I hope Windjammer has vegan options. And I’ve always wanted to see Arsenic and Old Lace. A few last questions for you. How does your main character’s goal conflict with your antagonist’s goal?
Dodie’s goal is always to maintain order in her universe: managing the restaurant, helping to organize the Etonville Little Theatre, solving the murder mystery. Her antagonists are constantly upsetting the status quo: upstaging the Windjammer menus, creating chaos at rehearsals, generating murder victims!
Who is your favorite playwright and why? Please, do feel free to mention someone other than me…
My favorite playwright is Shakespeare because his stories are so rich, his characters are psychologically complicated and human, and he meshes comedy and tragedy beautifully. His poetry is gorgeous!
What aspect of that writer do you try to incorporate into your own craft?
I hope I am injecting a measure of humanity into my characters, giving them flaws but also lots of positive assets. I also hope I am writing engaging stories that hold the interest of the reader from page one to the end.
What advice would you’d give other authors as they settle in for a second draft.
Take the time to seek out editors (YES!) or readers whose opinions you trust. Someone who can honestly offer guidance as you prepare to tackle the next round of revisions. And write what you want; the love will come through on the page!
Thank you so much for visiting ePen! Come back anytime and share your latest book news!
Thanks so much for having me. It’s been fun!
I boxed up the remaining cookies and handed them over to Suzanne as she headed out the door. I hope she comes back soon!
Time Out (A Dodie O’Dell Mystery)
Cozy Mystery, 2nd in Series
Publisher: Lyrical Underground (January 17, 2017)
E-Book ASIN: B01EQ2N1W6
The amateur actors at the Etonville Little Theatre may be known for chewing the scenery, but restaurant manager Dodie O’Dell has something more appetizing for them to sink their teeth into. She’s been taking bows in her small New Jersey town for her theme menus, designed to complement the local productions. This fall, the community theatre is staging Arsenic and Old Lace, set in 1940s Brooklyn, so Dodie is serving up hot dogs, Italian ices, egg creams, and knishes at the weekend food festival. All is going well until Antonio Digenza, the ex-Off-Off-Broadway director of the show, dies dramatically while noshing on a knish. As rumors of food poisoning quickly spread, Dodie scrambles to rescue the Windjammer restaurant’s reputation. But when clues point to foul play, she’s faced with a cast of suspects all auditioning for the part of DiGenza’s murderer. She’ll need to act fast to shine a spotlight on the killer—before it’s curtains for another victim . . .
About The Author
Suzanne Trauth is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and a former university theatre professor. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Dramatists Guild. When she is not writing, Suzanne coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing wedding ceremonies. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey. Readers can visit her website at www.suzannetrauth.com.