Thursday, October 17, 2019

Q&A with Cozy Mystery Author Susan McCormick

Susan McCormick writes cozy murder mysteries. She is also the author of GRANNY CAN’T REMEMBER ME, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease. She is a doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, DC and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. She served nine years in the military before settling in the Pacific Northwest. She is married and has two boys, plus a giant Newfoundland dog. Visit her website at
Connect with Susan on the web:

Find out more about THE FOG LADIES:

Tell us about your book! What is it about and what inspired you to write it?
THE FOG LADIES is a cozy murder mystery with a group of spunky older women and one overworked, overtired, overstressed medical intern who all live in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco where old ladies start to die. Mrs. Bridge falls off a stool cleaning bugs out of her kitchen light. Mrs. Talwin slips on bubbles in the bathtub and drowns. Are these deaths the natural consequences of growing old, or does evil lurk in their building?
Years ago, I lived in an apartment building similar to the one in the book, minus the murders, and I always thought it would make a good setting for a cozy. Tenants of all ages live together for years, providing the perfect cast of characters and cozy-type enclosed setting for a series of murders. 

Tell us about your publishing process. What was it like? Did you go indie or the traditional way?

The market for cozy murder mysteries is not enormous, and it is very hard to be published by the few big presses. I pitched, I queried, I received feedback, I revised, I pitched again. My traditional small press, The Wild Rose Press, is perfect for my cozy.

How did you choose the title for your book? Did it come to you right away, before you started writing it, or did it come later?
The name of the book and the idea for the group of women, THE FOG LADIES, came instantly, before anything else about the story. They call themselves the Fog Ladies because you can count on them like you can count on San Francisco early morning fog burning off by midday. I put them together in my elegant, idyllic apartment building and concocted the murders around them.

Tell us about the cover design process. Did you have a basic idea of what your book cover would be like?
I had an idea for a cover design, and was asked by the publisher to suggest three elements I wanted. Two of my three made it to the final cover, the Golden Gate Bridge and fog. Since the apartment building plays such a huge role in my story, my third idea, which didn’t make it to the final cover, was a picture or sketch of a typical San Francisco 1920s elegant apartment building.

Who is your cover designer and how did you find him/her?
My designer is Kristian Norris. My publisher, The Wild Rose Press, took care of everything. They have multiple cover designers, and I looked at the work of each and chose Kristian based on what I saw.

How was your experience working with the designer?
The first cover I saw was very exciting, a vibrant scene with apartment buildings, streets and a bridge. Unfortunately, it was the Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate Bridge, so Kris redid the whole thing and I am very happy with my current cover.

What has been the readers’ response to your cover?
Very positive. I think they like the bold letters, the intense colors and the spooky fog.

What tips would you give to authors who are looking for a cover designer?
Look at lots of covers, viewed in various forms, on the actual book, on the computer, on a mobile phone. Decide what is important to you, for instance, the font, the coloring, the clarity, the actual scene. Have flexibility because these professionals often know far more than we do.

Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
As an author, I imagined everything about my story, except when the characters I created took over and set off in ways I didn’t envision, like when one character wrote herself onto life support and then expected me, the author, to revive her. But my fingers typed the words, and some part of my brain wrote even that surprise twist. The cover, however, is pretty much out of our hands. We make suggestions, but the cover designer has ultimate creative power. Authors need to expect and accept this, and the hopefully the process will yield them as beautiful a cover as mine.

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