Canadian History, Second Careers and Bucket Lists with Susanne Matthews

Today I'm talking to Author Susanne Mathews about Canadian history, her writing career, list of novels and latest work, an early French Canadian historical romance title, The Price of Honor, recently released by Solstice Publishing. 

Before we get into your latest release, I noticed one of your books is called Holiday Magic and since 'Tis the season to buy stocking stuffers, I thought this might appeal to some of my readers this week? I've actually got three Christmas books out. Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice are stories written concurrently, both ending on Christmas Day. The main characters in the book are Georgia and Eleni Baxter, twin sisters who find love, in different ways, at Christmas. The interesting thing is that some of the same events take place in each book but from the other sister's point of view. 

Perfect. Now let's talk about, The Price of Honor. I can't tell you how nice it is to see fiction set in Canadian history. Was there a personal connection for you on why you chose this time and place?
There are not a lot of novels out there, written in English, that explain some of what early New France went through. Canada's history is very different from early American history. Like Louisiana, Canada was originally a French colony, and we passed into British hands as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1763. One of my father’s ancestors was among the first 6,000 people to make New France home. He emigrated here form Paris in 1664 as part of the Carrignan-Saliere regiment, sent by King Louis XIV to quell a Mohawk uprising that threatened the colony. Once the job was done, the regiment was disbanded and the soldiers had a choice. They could remain in New France, L’Ile Royale, or one of the other French colonies in what’s now Canada, or return to France. If they stayed, they were given land and what they’d need to become successful colonists. The catch was they had to marry within the year to keep the land or get more.

That seems like an easy enough task however, I happened to know a little bit about Canadian history myself and I believe there was a shortage of women in the colony, am I right? Yes, aside from missionary nuns. So Colbert and the king decided to send reputable women to New France to be wives—sort of a large scale mail-order bride idea. The women were called Filles du roi, the King’s Wards, and his majesty provided them with a trousseau and a diary. They’d leave France and their families and cross the oceans under horrendous conditions to marry a stranger and provide babies to grow the colony. Almost a third of those who left France died before reaching the colony.

I love to blend my imagination with history? Are your main characters based on real historical characters? Isabelle and Guy as well as those around them on the ship are fictitious, the historical figures who played a role in the drama are real, the facts verified, and the information about the Mohawk and the Mohawk words used are authentic. I did improve her conditions at sea, but much of what would have taken place aboard the vessel is accurate.

Was there a larger message you wanted to send with this book? The Price of Honor is more than a historical romance. It’s a glimpse into some of the problems early French settlers faced not only from their enemies in the new world but back in France where getting rich off the colonies was the name of the game.

Now it looks like you've switched gears somewhere along the line. Your debut novel, Fire Angel was about an unlikely investigative pair hunting down a malicious serial killer who is out for revenge in Paradise. I love mystery and suspense. Did you writing enjoy this genre? Writing Fire Angel was an incredible experience for me. I'm a big suspense fan-- I love Castle, Bones, and Criminal Minds, and rarely miss an episode of Blood Bloods and Hawaii Five-O. Last year, I got into watching Motive as well. What was interesting is that you knew who the killer was at the beginning of the show. This year, I've added Stalker to my repertoire. I wanted Fire Angel to be different from the others in its genre. I wanted to give it an edge. I decided to work with imperfect characters because to me they were more realistic. Life hasn't been easy for Alexis or Jake. They've both been betrayed by those closest to them, and they've managed to rise above their situation, but each is still afraid to let go of that distrust, and without trust there can't be love. Each is an expert in his or her field, but it takes their combined skills to track down the Fire Angel, figure out what he does, and stop him. Discovering the killer's motive pulls everything together, but not until the end. 

What is your favourite scene in this book? There were a number of scenes I enjoyed writing, but probably the ones I found most challenging were the ones where Alexis uses her special talent to see how the fire behaved. I had to do a lot of research into fire to be able to understand it well enough to write those scenes without getting too technical, but being descriptive enough for the reader to visualize the scene. I taught grade 9 science. That's how I knew about dancing gummy bears. The other scene I enjoyed writing was the description the morning after the snowstorm. Setting the story in Northern Ontario was a risk, but it paid off. People who've visited the area comment on the realism of the descriptions. As a Canadian, I'm proud of my country and I've set a couple of my books in it.

What is your favourite genre? As far as my favorite genre goes, since I've sold five romance suspense manuscripts and am polishing up two more in the same genre,I'd say that's my preferred style. There's suspense in my two historical novels, and I try to slip in a few hair-raising scenes in my other novels as well.

Tell me a little about how you got into writing: When I finally retired completely from teaching in September 2012, I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill my days. I’d left teaching full time in June 2010 and had substituted throughout the following two school years, but when a third September came around, I really didn’t want to go back to the classroom. I wanted something else to fill my days. I wanted something I’d had on my bucket list since I was fifteen years old—I wanted to be an author.

In the 1990’s, I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of what it was like to be a paid writer. For a year, I wrote bi-monthly stories for the local newspaper, stories aimed at children in grades 4-6 as part of a Newspapers in the Classroom initiative, long before anyone realized how computer technology and cell phones would change the world. During the last few years of my teaching career, I had the opportunity to get “paid” for my writing again. I was seconded to the Ministry of Education for the province of Ontario to write curriculum for the new online courses the ministry had created. It was interesting and challenging. I wrote several English courses and two Fashion Arts courses, as well as a unit of a grade six Science, and edited several French courses and a grade twelve art course. I loved the opportunity to write, even if it was nothing but curriculum, and longed to do more.

Even before I retired, I spent a lot of my spare time reading and for Christmas, 2011, my husband bought me a KOBO e-reader, something that changed and revolutionized books. Prior to that I’d always read paperbacks, some I’m ashamed to admit, I purchased from garage sales and second hand used bookstores, never thinking about the royalties an author would never see. (I won’t do that anymore, and discourage those I know from doing it too.)

Since I didn’t own any e-books, I sought out various ones online, classics that were free as well as romance novels by my favorite authors. I came across free books from time to time and read voraciously, never even thinking of writing a review afterwards—something else that I no longer do—if I read it, I review it.

After a few purchases, I started getting newsletters from the publishers, and it was from one of these that I heard about the “So You Think You Can Write 2012”contest. Here was my chance to write something that might well get picked up by a publisher. I’d tried to write before, but other than a few poems, curriculum items for school and a few years’ worth of Sunday school lessons, I wasn’t able to get anything published, but I’m an intrepid soul and my old, nothing ventured, nothing gained philosophy convinced me to give this a try.

Feeling none too confident, I wrote chapter one of The Price of Honor. Needless to say, I didn’t win the contest, and probably the only things I kept from that early version were the basic plot and the opening lines: Treason, murder, destitution! What more could fate possibly throw at her? What did I learn from that early attempt to be an author—more than I ever imagined.

So, after your first attempt at being an author failed, what did you do? I realized after I’d written that first chapter that I really wanted to become an author, but I also understood I had a lot to learn. The first NaNoWriMo came along that year, and too worried about failing to participate overtly, I did my own NaNo thing and wrote another book. The Price of Honor, which I’d finished, sat in my computer, but after re-reading my effort, I knew it needed lots of work. I wasn’t ready to abandon it, but I thought maybe a historical wasn’t the best way to break onto the writing scene so I began work on a romantic suspense, one of the few books that I’ve started that sits unfinished in my computer. I was only part way through when an idea grabbed me that took precedence. I had a chance to pitch a story to an editor. I hooked up with a group of writers and we worked together honing our stories. I didn’t win that particular pitch, and I was ready to quit. A friend convinced me to submit to another publisher. I did, and I sold my first book, Fire Angel, which was released in April 2013. Since then, I‘ve written and sold 12 novels.

Are all your novels historical romances? While all my books fall in the category of romance, I write in several subgenres. I have 3 romance suspense novels, Fire Angel, In Plain Sight, and On His Watch, one paranormal romance suspense, Echoes of the Past, 3 contemporary romances, Just For The Weekend, Holiday Magic, and The Perfect Choice, and one other historical romance, The Captain’s Promise. A Christian suspense romance, All For Love, will be released in 2015. As well, I co-author under the name Misty Matthews. We have a novella out, Grand Slam, as well as the first of four novels in the series, Taking a Chance on Love. It’s called Coming Home. Book 2 is due out in the spring.

What’s next for you? I’m writing away, hoping the next book I write will make it to the bestseller list. I’m almost finished final edits on two more romance suspense, and I wrote a contemporary for NaNoWriMo 2014 which is finished and needs to be edited. I want to try my hand at a YA novel, and I’ve got a couple of stories started that need to be finished. I’m hoping to put the stories I wrote in the 90’s, properly edited, into an anthology. Until I get all the ideas out of my head, I’ll keep working my way through my bucket list. I’m looking forward to an Alaskan Cruise next spring.

Where can readers find you and your books? All of my books are available on Amazon through my author site:

Everything about me and other retailers for my books, including the Misty Matthews books, can be found on my website.

If your readers are interested, they can follow me on my blog as well.

People are welcome to follow me on twitter @jandsmatt And on Facebook


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