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Interview with Suzanne Bratcher

Suzanne Bratcher always knew she wanted to be a writer. When she realized writing wouldn’t pay the rent, she opted for a long and well-respected career teaching others how to write. Suzanne continued to pursue her passion by creating short stories, poems, and even non-fiction. Yet, the longing to create book-length fiction never diminished. After decades helping others craft their words, she quit her job to give herself the time to create her own novels. Her debut novel came out in June of 2017. Today, she shares about the way location inspires her, her writing process, and the most interesting thing she has ever done in the name of research. Hint: she wore a hard hat.

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Congratulations on the release of your new book! Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Attending ACFW conferences. I began to see my writing as a journey toward publication rather than as a product ready for readers. The workshops introduced me to ways of improving my craft and gave me a glimpse into the business of publishing. I entered the Genesis contest several times to get the feedback of judges. The fourth time I entered, The Copper Box won first place in romantic suspense! It took two more years, but The Copper Box became my first published novel.

Did you always know you wanted to write mysteries, or have you written in other genres?
I’ve loved mysteries since my first encounter with Nancy Drew, but I started out writing short stories, poetry, and nonfiction. When I began writing novels, I wrote romantic suspense. Kathy Cretsinger at Mantle Rock Publishing reclassified The Copper Box as mystery when she offered me a contract for it. The change surprised me at first, but when I looked back at the story, I realized she was right. The romantic suspense element is strong, but the mystery drives the plot. Looking through my other (unpublished) romantic suspense stories, I saw every one of them revolved around a mystery. So I’ve begun describing my writing as “mystery shot with suspense, splashed with romance.”

Tell us a little about the setting for The Silver Lode. Jerome, Arizona is a real place, but how much of the discovery of the silver lode story is based on truth?
No one ever discovered a silver lode, a very rare formation, in the mines of Jerome. But wanting the story to be believable, I researched the geologic conditions required for a silver lode to occur. Then I studied the conditions that formed Mingus Mountain (where Jerome is located). The conditions were there, but a silver lode didn’t form. The most famous one, the Comstock Lode, was discovered in Virginia City, Nevada in 1859. In my novel the way the fictitious Jerome silver lode is discovered is based on facts about area mines I learned from visits to the Jerome State Historic Park. The street names are all factual, taken from a map of Jerome I kept on my wall. I invented the specific houses and businesses, but the descriptions are based on information I gleaned from old newspaper articles. I continue to be amazed at all the information available on the internet!

What is the most interesting thing you have done in the name of research?
A few years ago while I was living in Colorado, I became fascinated with mines. I went on several mine tours, but the most interesting one was the Old One Hundred Mine Tour in Silverton. Our guide took us in groups of four on an open elevator almost 2,000 feet down the main mine shaft. We walked through tunnels, saw antique mining equipment, and learned about the lives of miners. I relied on some of those experiences for the descriptions inside the mines in The Silver Lode.

What message do you hope readers take away from The Silver Lode?
That when our lives take a turn we weren’t expecting, if we can let go of our expectations and turn over control to God, the results can be amazing—different from what we wanted, but beyond anything we had hoped for. In The Silver Lode all the characters (including the villain) are walking paths they never expected to. All of them, like all of us, must decide whether to let God show them the way or whether to remain stubbornly on the path they’ve chosen.

What is your favorite part of the writing process—research, writing, editing, or something else?
Revision, without a doubt. Getting the first draft is tough for me, and it’s always a mess. But once I get something on paper (I have to print it out to get enough distance to really revise) I love reordering scenes, adding descriptions, and working on dialogue. I enjoy research, but I have to curtail it, or I’ll never get to that first draft that needs to be revised!

How do you create your characters?
I start with setting. The Silver Lode is a stand-alone mystery, but it continues with the same characters that solve the mystery in The Copper Box. Jerome describes itself two ways. As you turn to drive up the mountain, you pass a sign that says, “Welcome to Jerome, the largest ghost town in America.” When you get to the top of the hill to the turn-off to the Jerome Historic State Park, you see a sign that says, “Welcome to Jerome, billion-dollar copper camp.” I created antiques expert Marty Greenlaw and historian Paul Russell from Jerome’s ghost town side. They have each come there to lay to rest a ghost of their own past. Their careers both spring from an interest in history, which is what Jerome is all about. In The Silver Lode, the focus shifts to Jerome’s mining camp side, and Paul’s interest in oral history pulls them into the second mystery.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as an author?
I live in a small town in Arkansas. Maybe sixty per cent of the residents are retired, so lots of folks write books they’ve always wanted to. After The Copper Box was published, several friends stopped me to tell me they’d read my book. Then with an expression of utter astonishment, they said, “I liked it! Once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.” I had to wait until later to laugh, of course, but it was clear they’d picked up the book out of duty and hadn’t expected a fun story. The surprise delighted me every time because I knew the compliment was genuine.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I start with setting, not only for characters, but also for plots. My family lived in Kentucky, Texas, Kansas, and Virginia while I was growing up. I was a kid who loved to be outdoors, so I soaked up four very different landscapes. Another experience that led to my fascination with setting was our family vacations. My dad usually chose a National Park as far from our home as we could drive to in half our time. On the way to our destination we stopped at other National Parks. We’d come home by a different route, stopping at more parks. Those visits gave me a glimpse into how different places can be.

Now when I’m visiting somewhere, I start thinking about treasures or conflicts that might occur in that place that wouldn’t ordinarily be found somewhere else. Then I ask myself what people might be interested in that treasure or conflict and develop the characters. That style of storytelling is different, but it’s certainly not unique because other authors tell stories this way. When I was in high school, I loved Mary Stewart’s romantic suspense novels, which all revolve around setting. Now Colleen Coble is one of my favorite authors because setting is so integral to her stories. I think this style of storytelling keeps each of my stories unique.

Thank you for sharing with us today!


Jody Stinson believes every story deserves a happy ending—even if she has to write one herself. After an international upbringing, she continues to travel whenever she can. Her goal is to take her readers somewhere new, make them smile, and give them hope through Christ. She currently writes freelance including articles, devotionals, commercials, and even a client's wedding toast.

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