Art heists, murder and revenge! A ruthless man wants Natalie to steal priceless paintings from Boston’s Gardner Museum. After the heist he intends to kill her, and NOPD Detective Frank Renzi is hot on her trail. Will Natalie escape?
Susan Fleet joins me today to discuss the treacherous escapade of Natalie’s Revenge. Susan, thanks for joining me today. Can you start today’s interview by giving us an insight on where the idea for Natalie’s Art originated?
It began with the actual theft of paintings worth $500 million from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. The paintings have never been recovered.
I’m going to assume that you haven’t been inspired enough to actually steal art, so how did you tackle getting the details of the art and crime worlds correct?
A huge amount of research, including books about art thefts, specific paintings that have been stolen and the museums in Europe. My Masters degree is in Fine Arts and I’ve taken several art history courses. Also, I often visit places where specific scenes take place, in this book, a train station outside of Boston.
Have you visited the art at the Gardner Museum?
Yes, I have been to the Gardner Museum many times.
Natalie’s Art is one of the novels from your Frank Renzi series, and this is not Natalie’s first literary outing?
Yes, Natalie is a continuing character in the series.
What is she up to this time?
In Natalie’s Revenge, she set out to avenge the murder of her mother when Natalie was ten. It takes her twenty years to find the killer.
How did Natalie’s character initially develop for you?
While teaching at Berklee College of Music in Boston, I had many Asian students. I decided to make Natalie half Vietnamese because I love researching other cultures.
And then there’s Frank. Tell us a bit about him.
Frank Renzi, my series protagonist, is a dedicated homicide detective willing to break the rules to put criminals in jail.
It’s good to see Frank out and about again. Would you socialise with him if he came to life?
I’d definitely like to have a beer with Frank Renzi! He loves jazz and off-beat films so I’m sure we’d have plenty to talk about.
And was your favourite character to write Frank, or did you favour someone else?
Two of the villains. Gregor, a psychologically twisted man due to his father’s abuse, and Pym, the mastermind of the heist. If villains are all bad, they become one dimensional. I always know the backstories of my main characters and incorporate a bit of them in the novel.
Do you ever dream about your characters?
Only when I’m awake. :)
Was working with the mystery or interacting with the characters the most enjoyable aspects of working on this novel for you?
Shining a spotlight on the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, one of my favorite art museums, and expanding on the Natalie character, a good girl turned bad who tries to escape her life of crime.
Without spoiling anything major, are you working on Frank’s next investigation?
Yes, The sequel to Natalie’s Art!
Good luck! I will be looking out for it in the future. As you are back writing a sequel, can I ask what techniques do you use to keep yourself writing?
I write six days a week, usually in the afternoon, often after I swim a mile in a pool. For me, swimming laps is the best place to solve creative problems.
Do you write at the pool too?
I jot notes by hand, but I write the novel on a computer.
And does editing follow a similar creative path for you?
I do many revisions, but I have an editor who gives me feedback on certain issues, and I also use a proofreader.
Those are some solid editing techniques there. Were you also creatively involved in the cover design?
I designed the cover and the book trailer myself. The background photo was taken by a friend of mine in New Orleans. The credits to use the photos from Fotalia, and the background music from Neosounds.
So from start to end including design time how long did it take for you to complete this book?
From first conception to final revision, about a year.
That’s pretty good. And was it positively received when it hit the metaphorical shelves?
Premier Book Awards named my first novel, Absolution, Best Mystery-Suspense-Thriller of 2009. Fabulous!
That is fantastic. Do you have any top tips for authors hoping to become a successful author?
Write the best book you possibly can. Get feedback from others. Never give up!
That’s great advice. In addition to this nugget of wisdom do you think that your favourite authors have also positively affected your writing? And who are you favourite authors?
Elmore Leonard, Lisa Gardner, John Sandford and Don DeLillo. They influenced my writing style in different ways. Elmore is the master of character revelation. Lisa Gardner and John Sandford write gritty crime novels that constantly inspire me. Don DeLillo is an all-around stunning writer.
What are you currently reading?
The Cairo Affair, by Olen Steinhauer, about an international spy ring.
That sounds like it could be seeding some new ideas for Frank to investigate. Outside of your own literary universe, who is your favourite literary character?
The protagonist in Water For Elephants.
Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
No, but I greatly admire The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins.
I haven’t read that one, but I will take it under advisement. Now we’ve reached my favourite section of the interview, the quick fire round. Hold onto your hat and let us know:
What is your favourite quote?
I’ll think about it tomorrow.
What is your zodiac sign?
If you could steal one thing without consequence what would it be?
The lions that guard the entrance to the NY Public Library.
Good choice. Do you have any philosophies that you live by?
Enjoy every day. Tomorrow’s not guaranteed!
What was your favourite book as a child?
Okay, don’t laugh … Mickey Never Fails. Yes, I’m talking Mickey Mouse!
Mickey is cool and no laughing matter. More people should choose him :). Can you curl your tongue?
You bet. I can also triple-tongue. That’s a trumpet technique to spit out a lot of notes really fast.
What is your favourite quote from another author?
This gun is not a gun. Single & Single, John LeCarre
What is your favourite word?
What is your favourite line, quote or statement from your book?
One night my mother didn’t come home.
There’s a nice temptation of intrigue there. I like it. Before I let you do, is there anything that you think we missed covering today?
My musical background. Prior to writing crime fiction, I was a professional trumpeter in the Boston area and taught music at several colleges, including Brown University, Wheaton College and Berklee College of Music. It greatly influences my writing, often in ways you might not expect. Structure: My novels are like symphonies, in four movements. Pace and tension. One reviewer called it “relentless tempo.” And dialogue of course. I hear it in my head without reading it aloud.
That’s a very tantalising way to look at your writing, and I’m glad that you thought to share it with us. Susan, it’s been wonderful to talk with you today and I wish you the best of luck for your promotion of this book and with Natalie’s new tale.
Want to connect with Susan? You can find her here: