Mystery Books News is thrilled to welcome Eleanor Sullo as our guest blogger. Eleanor is the author the Menopause Murders mysteries, the second of which, Harem (Wings ePress: Trade Paperback, 978-1-59705-521-5; Electronic edition, 978-1-59705-495-9) is published next month.
Today, Eleanor writes about her midlife career switch, which led to her new series of mysteries. And she's also providing our readers with an opportunity to win a copy of her new book. Visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Eleanor Sullo: Harem" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (1633) for a chance to win! (One entry per person; contest ends August 11, 2010.)
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Photo provided courtesy of Eleanor Sullo
Around the time I sat myself down in my spanking new ergonomic desk chair fifteen years ago, I knew it was time to take the plunge. For three years, after a midlife career switch, I’d held my own sending out and selling non-fiction articles, short stories and even poetry with reasonable success. Now I felt it in my bones—the desire to follow story characters through thick and thin, heat and cold, hunger and satisfaction. In short, I needed to write a novel.
What to write about?
Accomplished author friends and writing teachers all gave the same advice: write about that which you know. I’d been a happy wife and mother, now grandmother for quite a few years. That was what I knew pretty deeply. Did anybody want to hear about my parenting skills, my cooking or gardening or decorating ideas? I doubted it. But there was something else I knew plenty about, something in which for decades I’d experienced the downs and ups, the struggles and pretty blissful heights—the subject of love.
So I decided to write love stories, romance, romantic suspense. What could be more relatable or happier to read about than a man and woman who fall in love, fight for what they want, and get it—life happily ever after. Most of us aim in that direction all our lives. So I created romances with strong heroines and near-perfect heroes and let them take me on their journeys.
I could relate to my youngish heroines with their slightly feminist notions, their determination to prove themselves yet win the love of their lives. Four of those love stories got published. But after a few years I couldn’t quite relate to my star struck heroines, imagine myself racing across the English cliffs to avoid a ghost or save a loved ones life (Moonrakers), or jetting around New York city trailed by the mob while I made a career and battled with the man who loved me (Emerald Eye), or zooming around the desert on a Harley chasing old dreams as the sexiest air-conditioning servicewoman in Arizona (Too Damned Hot).
What I needed was new heroines: heroines who’d been through life and back. Heroines who, like me, were growing older, hopefully wiser, a bit more physically imperfect. But who could prove themselves nonetheless. Who, bonded with others like them, would be glad to let their unique, sometimes bizarre, characteristics shine through, as they did the near impossible—solve horrendous crimes right in their own neighborhoods and even in the far corners of the world.
From all the bright, challenging and outspoken women’s groups I’d been part of, I saw faces, feelings, strengths and surprises. These middle-aged women I knew were alive and well and full of stories. I tossed them together in my head and came up with a rough work-in-progress: Women on Fire, a group of six mature women who refused to let menopausal hot flashes, confusion and insomnia melt their resolve, their initiative, and their endless yen for romance.
As their stories came to me, I saw how these incredible women, just by being themselves, would help one another through near disasters, fall in love and renew old loves, and solve murders from their hometown to Italy, Britain and Bosnia. Each one would be featured as the heroine in one of the six-part series, which I now call Menopause Murders. The series is set in an upscale suburb of Connecticut, and features widows, divorcees and happily married middle-agers on the brink of a new, dangerous and exciting life. It’s not your mother’s Cabot Cove, but I’m guessing you’ll relate.
There’s Hannah, heroine of Hostage, Book One, who’s lost her job as a journalist because she won’t, can’t, fly since she lost a young husband in a plane crash. She’s sharp, a little brusque, afraid of her feelings, and about to fall hopelessly in love as her world, and she, change. And now in Harem, Book Two, there’s Lucia, the mothering, big-hearted, class act cook of the group who suffered a painful event at age seventeen, and needs to heal, stretch the stage of her life and renew her lifelong love—or lose it. Her story, available from the publishers in August, features the rollicking romps revealed in an old-age home where a good-looking, streaking stud has the women in a turmoil, and unexplainable death can happen in the night.
As I’ve gotten to know my Women on Fire, I’m more and more intrigued. Each has a peculiar way of saying what they want to say and doing what they want to do. If I get it wrong, they let me know. They remind me of friends, of enemies, of myself. And every so often I have to “interview” one on paper, to be sure I understand who she is and where she’s going.
Reviewers claim they’ve “fallen in love” with my Menopause Murder heroines, and readers feel obliged let me know which one is their favorite. As the series continues, I expect they’ll draw even more interest and arouse more passions. Which is fine with me, because I find myself talking with them, feeling what they feel, traveling where they’re going to go, eating and cooking with them, caring for them as though they’re the best friends I ever had. And if I’m not careful, and don’t get more time away from the computer, their lives are certainly going to be a lot more interesting than mine!
Thank goodness for the family who calls me away at times for rituals and activities I wouldn’t miss for the world, for the garden that needs me from seeds to weeds to harvest, for the colleagues who gather to compare covers and titles and editors, for the near-and-faraway trips on the horizon with my own significant other, and for the very next plot I’m thinking up for the Women on Fire or, beyond them, possibly for the next generation of bold and sassy, bright and beautiful women on my canvas. And maybe a few unbeatable men.
I’ll keep you posted.
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Romance author Eleanor Sullo is currently completing a six-book mystery series about a group of mature but feisty women who refuse to grow old gracefully. The series is called Menopause Murders, and Book Two in the series, Harem, will hit the shelves in August.
Ms. Sullo has also written a spiritual memoir, Seasons of Love: A Journey of Faith, Family and Community, the story of her extended family’s move to the country over thirty years ago and published under the pen name, Eleanor Sampeck. She has taught English at the high school and college levels, and also has served as a Pastoral Minister in parish and Diocesan positions. She began writing fulltime eighteen years ago to fulfill her childhood dreams. Family life, frequent travel, organic gardening and ethnic cooking keep her happily occupied between manuscripts. Visit her website at EleanorSullo.com.
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About Harem: When her mother-in-law reports the suspicious death of her roommate at the Golden Age Home, menopausal and overheated Lucia Catamonte is skeptical. After all, Nonna is lucid only a few days a week. Lucia assumes staff negligence must be to blame, and that the nursing home residents need cheering up. With suspicions growing about a possibly wandering husband, who is suddenly encouraging her to start up the restaurant she’s always longed to run, providing recreation at Golden Age is a helpful distraction.
But a streaking senior stud with ogling admirers complicates matters. Trying to deal with him and calm down her often confused mother-in-law, Lu fears she’ll never get to open the restaurant of her dreams, and her happy marriage may be on the deadliest of rocks. Can Women on Fire help solve this one, and will the storied marriage last?
A hurried trip to Italy, a disastrous tea dance, and secrets revealed in the corridors of Golden Age will have to come first.
For a chance to win a copy of Harem, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Eleanor Sullo: Harem" contest link, and enter your name, e-mail address, and this code (1633) in the entry form. (One entry per person; contest ends August 11, 2010.)