Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Authors Write- Susan Bernhardt

Today I'm excited to host fellow MuseItUp author Susan Bernhardt. Welcome Susan!

Thank you, Mary for giving me the opportunity to be on your blog today. 

Happy to have you come and visit. So, tell us a bit about what you write.

I write cozy mysteries. I am the author of The Ginseng Conspiracy which was published this year by MuseItUp Publishing. It is the first in the Kay Driscoll Mystery series. The second novel in this series, Murder Under the Tree has been accepted and will be out in autumn of this year. I am presently writing the third cozy.

Do you use 1st person, 3rd person, multiple POVs?
I write in first person, past tense.

How did you get started with your book- was it an idea, a character?
First I came up with the idea of writing about ginseng. Ninety-five percent of American cultivated ginseng is grown in Wisconsin where I live. Living close to a college, I decided that a professor who was researching the local ginseng crop, would discover some alarming findings in the analysis of the ginseng samples resulting in his murder. [I had no idea ginseng was grown in Wisconsin. I always thought they did cheese there :-) What a great setting for a murder mystery!]

Do you draft quickly or are you more detailed in your draft?
I wrote the draft for The Ginseng Conspiracy using free writing. I sat down and wrote it from start to finish. It was probably about fifty pages long and took a couple of weeks. At the time, I wrote anything and everything I could think of for the story. Then it took years of revision to change it into a 300+ page manuscript.

I've done this with each of my novels, first getting the story down or what I think is the story at that time. It always changes. I don't worry about making it detailed, or having it be in perfect English. I just want to put the story down on paper. Something that I can revise. My goal is to write one novel in a year and that is when I am writing almost daily. [Great point- that first draft doesn't have to be perfect, you can always edit it once it's down, but if you don't get it down, there's nothing to edit!]

Do you do research before your first draft, during?
I don't do any research until after the first draft is complete. When writing a first draft, I'll make notes to myself in capital letters along the way as to what needs to be done or researched later in a revision, etc. But the first draft is all raw material, my gut feeling about everything.

Do you outline?
I don't outline. I have a timeline, in that each chapter in my novels are a day. [That's a neat tool, too!]

Do you name everything up front when you are drafting or do you leave comments for yourself to go back and fill in later so you don't lose the flow of what you are working on?
I usually have a name ready for many things, the characters etc., but I can always change anything. The whole idea of my writing a draft is to get everything down loosely on paper. I don't want to stop and do research, etc. I want to get the story down. Details can come later. [Great reminder!]

Do you work with CP's or Beta's? How soon into your draft do you let them see your work?
With The Ginseng Conspiracy, after I went through five revisions, I then gave my manuscript to two editors, my son and a friend. Then the novel went through additional revisions before submitting the manuscript to MuseItUp Publishing.

What books/websites have you found most helpful to helping you write your best?
When I decided to indeed write a cozy mystery series, I took several writing courses over two years and joined writing groups. I've read numerous books on how to write over the years and the one that comes to mind is "Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel" by Hallie Ephron. I usually get my "how to" writing books from the library and this one was so good, that I bought it. [I've read a few from the library too, and bought ones that I wanted to refer back to.]

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Probably If I had known how much time it took to do marketing, I may never have started writing. Just kidding! Right now I can't think of anything that I would rather do, then to write, outside of travelling, being with family and friends.

What do you have out now, or coming out? Any upcoming events? A website we can find you and your books at? An author photo? A booktrailer? Anything else you want to share?
The Ginseng Conspiracy is out. My second cozy in this Kay Driscoll Mystery series Murder Under the Tree will be published this autumn 2014. I am currently writing the third cozy in the series.

Book Blurb:
On her way to attend a Halloween Ball, Kay Driscoll, a newcomer to town, witnesses the murder of a local professor. When the official coroner's report rules the cause of death to be accidental and the community accepts the judgement, Kay decides to uncover the truth for herself. Through her personal investigations, Kay exposes a complex conspiracy, woven deep within the thriving local ginseng industry, that involves some of the more prominent figures and families of Sudbury Falls.

With her new friends, the free-spirited herbalist Deirdre and the untamed modern woman Elizabeth, Kay discusses new clues over tea and pastries at Sweet Marissa's Patisserie, their crime-fighting headquarters. As Kay gets closer to the heart of the conspiracy, additional murders happen in quick succession. Before long, Kay learns that the villains are gunning for her, too. Phil, her musically talented but preoccupied husband, determined to keep her safe, withholds from her the one thing she needs most: the truth.

Purchase Information:
The Ginseng Conspiracy by Susan Bernhardt can be purchased at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, MuseItUp PublishingiTunes, Kobo.

You can find Susan here:


  1. Thanks so much, Mary for having me on your blog today! I enjoyed answering your great questions about how I wrote my mystery novel, The Ginseng Conspiracy.


    1. You are so welcome! I enjoyed learning all about your writing process.

  2. Thanks for the great interview, Mary and Susan. I enjoyed learning more about your process, Susan. Though my process differs, I have to say that I like the idea of writing a 50-page treatment for a novel and then expanding upon it. I would think it allows you to see the crux of the story without getting bogged down in too many details, at least initially.

    1. This can be a great idea. I know a few other authors who employ this technique in the form of a synopsis.

  3. Thank you, Matt for visiting our interview and for your comment. I appreciate it. Everyone's writing process is different, but hey, whatever I enjoy free writing and I believe that's when the most creative ideas come out, when our internal editor is at rest.

    1. So true, Susan!

      Everyone has those little things that work for them. I find it interesting to see what they are and try a few of them here and there.

  4. Aloha Mary and Susan.

    Great interview! I could really relate to the your process Susan. I also free write. Actually I just tale dictation from the muses. Lol.

    But is enjoyed hearing about another who writes in an 'organic' way like I do. It was all very interesting.

    Good wishes with the new book. How exciting. Do you miss your characters if you're away from them or stop writing about them?

    Thanks and aloha Meg. :-)

    1. Thanks Meg!

      What a great question about characters. I find there are times I miss mine, and times I've spent too long with them and am happy for a break.

  5. Thanks, Meg for writing and your well wishes for my upcoming mystery novel. Your comments are always great.

    Yes, I miss my characters. In the third Kay Driscoll mystery that I am presently writing, I wrote out one of my characters and did so in a good way. After I did, I reread the chapter and started sobbing because I had been with this character for years, writing. I couldn't take ended writing her back into the story. So yes, I do get involved in my characters and miss them. :)

    1. Oh! I can imagine it was a hard decision to make to write out a character, and totally understand putting her back in.

  6. Hi Mary and Susan,
    This was a great interview, and Susan, your writing process is so different from mine ! But I think that's what makes us all writers, and good ones at that, in that we can process what we want to make into a story in so many different ways.
    Best of luck with your books, and I am so looking forward to your second one! (And this from someone who never before read a cozy mystery!)

    1. Thanks, Mikki for visiting our interview and for commenting. I agree, there are so many different ways and processes of writing. Whatever works is the way to go!

      Thank you so much for your comment about looking forward to the second Kay Driscoll mystery. This series has been incredibly fun to write. I truly enjoy my writing time and wish like every other author, that I had more of it. :)


  7. I like the idea of sketching out the first draft with free writing. You are smart to do it that way and not share it until you have done several revisions. I began writing my third book like this,but I shared it with my crit group and we got into brainstorming ideas that I forgot my focus on the main story. It's fun to brainstorm, but they gave such good suggestions..oh my. I've run down a lot of rabbit trails with this one! I'll check out that book you suggested. Thanks. Great interview.

    1. Thanks, JQ for visiting our interview and for your great comments. My first draft of a book is so raw, I'd be afraid to share it with anyone. It takes me many revisions to thrash things out. I just finished the second revision of my WIP, it's not anywhere near what I want and it probably won't be until I up to the fifth revision.

      Best wishes to you.

    2. Ah those rabbit trails we all chase! I totally understand where you're coming from there, JQ.


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