An Interview with Sue Ann Jaffarian

We are pleased to have with us author and paralegal Sue Ann Jaffarian. Sue Ann is the author of two series–the Odelia Grey mysteries and Granny Apples mysteries. She is also a motivational speaker and has performed as a professional stand-up comic.

Welcome Sue Ann!

With four Odelia Grey mysteries under your belt, you’ve turned to writing a new sub-genre—paranormal mysteries.

In the first book, “Ghost a la Mode”, Granny Apples convinces her three-times great granddaughter, Emma Whitecastle, to solve an old murder—Granny’s. Will Granny Apples figure as prominently in the future books? And who would you consider the main character, Granny Apples or Emma Whitecastle?

Granny will be in all of the future books. After all, it is her series, even if the main protagonist really is Emma. But they are definitely a team.

Was it difficult to make an otherworldly figure like Granny Apples believable?

It was my goal from the outset to make Granny Apples and all the ghosts in the books as believable as possible. That is one of the reasons why Emma is the main sleuth. I thought it would be more realistic if the living part of the team actually did the investigation, aided by the ghost. Basically, I write the ghosts as if they are still alive, but with modifications to allow for the fact that they are not. They don’t have superpowers and retain the personalities they had when alive.

With two different series on your plate (not to mention a full time job), how do you keep up the pace? Do you work on both series at the same time, or finish one book and then “change hats”?

I’m able to keep up by sticking to a writing schedule. That’s the key – making a schedule and sticking to it. I write almost everyday, mostly in the mornings. I often work on two projects at a time, but one is always the main focus and usually that’s the book with the upcoming deadline. I like to carve out some time in the week to work on the other project, like one designated evening. That way, it continues to move along even though my main focus is on a different manuscript. When the main book is done and off to my publisher, I’m not starting from scratch on the next book when it becomes the main project. So far, that has worked well for me and it’s surprising how much I get done on that one designated evening.

Many mystery heroines include descriptions such as petite, bountiful red hair, and leggy. It’s obvious from the Odelia Grey series’ success that your heroine appeals to readers, but was a plus-sized paralegal a hard sell to publishers?

Yes, in some ways it was. My agent and I received quite a few rejections before Midnight Ink picked it up. Publishers often felt it wouldn’t appeal to enough readers, and one said they’d already had a plus size series and it didn’t do well. Midnight, though, was willing to take a chance on Odelia and it has paid off for both of us.

You self-published your first Odelia Grey and then marketed the heck out of it, catching the eye of publishers. Would you recommend this route to other writers?

No, I would not. It was a very difficult road to take and the climate towards self-published novels has definitely taken a turn in a more negative direction. And it almost did not work for me. In fact, it nearly tanked my series. Several publishers were not interested in my Odelia Grey series because it had been previously self-published. Who knows, they might have bought it had it not been.

Marketing seems to be your middle name, an advantage as publisher’s publicity budgets shrink. Would you offer other authors advice on how to get their books out to the buying public?

Wow, there are so many ways to reach readers these days, but the most cost effective seems to be having an internet presence. That was how I marketed my self-published books. Social networks like Facebook are invaluable for directing people to your personal blog and books, but there’s a fine line between good promotion and being obnoxious about it. There are so many authors, mostly first timers, on these networks who need to take a course is networking courtesy. Bombarding people with your books is a sure fire way to alienate readers, not gain them. These networks should be used to help people get to know you and your work, not be hit over the head with constant sales pitches.

Another great way to market a book, which also worked for me, is to find a special niche and contact groups dedicated to that niche. For example, I do a lot of public speaking to paralegals, legal secretaries, etc. Odelia and I are both paralegals, so that is a natural group for me to contact. It has been very successful.

Odelia is married by the fourth book in the series. I remember how the television series “Moonlighting” went downhill once Dave and Maddie got together. Did you worry that tying Odelia to one man would disappoint readers looking for sexual tension and romance?

In Odelia’s case, no. Most of my readers love that Odelia married Greg. At first, I thought about dragging the sexual tension and love triangle out for several books, but I don’t always enjoy that in other series I’ve read, so didn’t want to follow that usual pattern. It can seem forced and unnatural if taken too far. When Odelia started dating Greg Stevens, she was in her late forties. In real life, a woman of that age would not normally play the field and juggle a couple of suitors, and Odelia wasn’t the sort to bed hop. A few books into the series she would have to make a decision, Greg or Dev or neither.

Will the Granny Apples series appeal to readers who are already fans of the Odelia Grey mysteries?

I believe so and it seems they have already embraced Granny and Emma. Some think it’s better than the Odelia books and others think the Odelia books are better, but most seem to be enjoying both series, which pleases me a great deal. Also, there are now many paranormal mystery readers who are discovering Odelia and enjoying her adventures. I enjoy giving my readers a variety without tampering with the first series. And it allows me to stretch my wings a bit.

What’s next for Sue Ann Jaffarian?

More stretching of my wings. I have been developing a vampire mystery series and have been offered a 3-book deal on it. Negotiations are currently underway and, if all goes well, I will be releasing a vampire mystery series in the fall of 2011.

I never thought in a million years that I’d write a vampire series. I mean, so many others already do it so well. But I had an idea for a different spin on the genre and ran it past my agent and a few others. They absolutely loved my idea, so I developed a proposal and several sample chapters and it sparked a lot of interest.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

You can order Ghost a la Mode or preorder Corpse on the Cob from Amazon.com. You can also visit Sue Ann at her website.

Reviews of "Ghost a la Mode" and "Booby Trap"

GHOST A LA MODE, A Ghost of Granny Apples Mystery

by Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, September 2009, $14.95
Review by Jackie Houchin
With four successful Odelia Grey mysteries on the shelves, Sue Ann Jaffarian has turned from the paralegal to the paranormal mystery in her new Ghost of Granny Apples series. And while her characters are fresh and unusual, they are every bit as fascinating and likable.

With her divorce nearly final and her daughter about to leave for college, forty-something Emma Whitecastle is at loose ends. So when an old girlfriend begs Emma to join her at a séance, as part of a research project, she accepts.

At the séance, Clairvoyant Milo Ravenscroft tells Emma that a ghost from her family’s past needs her help – a woman who was hanged for murder. At first Emma laughs at the idea, wondering what kind of scam the man is running.

But when she suddenly starts craving apple pie and her father admits that her three-times-great grandmother – executed for killing her husband – once lived in the apple-growing town of Julian, Emma is unnerved.

But it’s a visit from Granny Apples’ ghost – insisting that she’s innocent – that convinces Emma to investigate the murder. What she discovers as she digs into Julian’s history stirs up a hornet’s nest of ghosts and villains who want Emma dead and gone.

Jaffarian’s talent for writing intriguing plots and cliffhanger chapters excels in the new series, and her vivid scenes of ghostly appearances and conversations are imaginative and often hilarious. There’s even a touch of romance. Granny Apples is just what the doctor ordered.

***

BOOBY TRAP, by Sue Ann Jaffarian, Midnight Ink, 2009

–Jackie Houchin

Plus-sized paralegal and part-time sleuth, Odelia Grey has married the love of her life and settled down to domestic docility. Ha! Those familiar with the series know that Odelia can’t stay out of trouble, and that before chapter one ends, she’ll be knee deep in another murder mystery.

In Booby Trap, a serial killer – dubbed the “Blond Bomber” because he prefers his victims blond and beautiful – is terrorizing L.A. A famous plastic surgeon who specializes in breast enhancement is a suspect. At least his mother – who has a few naughty habits of her own – suspects him. She begs Odelia to disprove her suspicions before the police catch on.

Odelia promised her new hubby she wouldn’t get involved in another dangerous situation, but proving someone is NOT the killer is safe, right?

Jaffarian starts the book with a bang, throws in clues and red herrings galore, amps the suspense with multiple plot twists, then delivers a double high-five conclusion and a denouement that will leave readers eager for book five.