A Conversation with Author Susan McCormick

What inspired the idea for your book?

The name of The Fog Ladies book series and the idea for the group of women came to me instantly, before anything else about the story. The Fog Ladies bond as they grow older, losing their husbands and their hearing, meeting for volunteer projects, never realizing they are the actual project. You can count on them like you can count on early morning San Francisco fog burning off by midday. Years ago, I lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in The Fog Ladies, minus the murders, when I did medical training in San Francisco. Being a life-long cozy lover, I always thought the building would be the perfect setting for a mystery, with tenants of all ages living together for years, providing a cast of characters and a cozy-type enclosed setting ripe for a series of murders. That’s exactly what happens in Book 1. There is a killer afoot and nowhere to hide. This is Book 3, and the events are inspired by the Fog Ladies’ own volunteer project, which provides another enclosed space for murders and suspects, albeit not a traditional cozy setting but a soup kitchen. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

The brain works in mysterious ways, and anything that flies off my fingers onto the keyboard during the first draft, I follow. This has led the main character to put herself on life support and expect me, the author, to get her off. It’s led to prison inmates fighting over red bits of velvet during a quilt making session. In this book, a pile of black rags in the corner becomes a dog, and the dog goes on to play a big role in the final scene of the book.

If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?

I would love to be friends with seventy-six-year-old Frances Noonan, baker extraordinaire. She plies the other Fog Ladies with tasty treats, and, since I am not really a cook, I would love to spend time in her fragrant kitchen, benefiting from her talents (though not necessarily learning to bake myself, just eating).

What does it mean to you to be called an author?

It means when they search my computer and find “how to pith someone without it showing up on an autopsy,” they will chalk it up to my being an author and not to true criminal intent.

How do you define success as an author?

Being published was the first step. The second is connecting with readers and hearing the joy they get from The Fog Ladies, from fan mail to book clubs.  

Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

For most of my writing career, I was a mom and a doctor, and time was in short supply. I needed large chunks of time to write and could only find these on weekend mornings when I wasn’t on call. In Seattle, the summer sun shines in my bedroom window at 4:30 am, and I would get up and write, my giant, slobbery Newfoundland dog dutifully paddling downstairs with me, my constant silent writing companion. In winter it was harder, and I’d have to set an alarm, but those mornings were when I wrote. Now I’m retired and my kids are self-sufficient, but I still write best in the early morning hours. 

What was the defining moment that made you say to yourself, “Today, I am going to write a book that I will publish.”? 

The first “book” I ever wrote was at age nine, Death in the Cemetery. I was chosen by our elementary school to attend a Young Authors’ Conference, with workshops and local authors. The conference was on a Saturday, and I was so excited that I dreamed God allowed me to skip Friday. I woke up on Friday convinced it was Saturday and grew more and more desperate when my parents told me I had to go to school, it wasn’t Saturday yet. I was certain I was going to miss the conference. That’s how excited I was. Now I drag my son to these conferences, but he is not nearly as enthusiastic as I was. I decided as a kid that “someday” I would write a book that would be published. And I did.

What is an underrated author that you think everyone should read at least once?

Not underrated, but forgotten. As a teen, I enjoyed reading an award-winning British mystery author, Celia Fremlin. Her books were mysteries and psychological suspense, all about young families and new mothers not getting enough sleep. I recently reread one, The Hours Before Dawn, and enjoyed it as much as I did all those years ago. 

Name three fun facts about you or your work.

Each of my books has a medical theme—I wrote a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Granny Can’t Remember Me. I wrote a middle grade medical fantasy, The Antidote, about a family of doctors going back generations and a boy who can see disease. The Fog Ladies cozy murder mystery series has a young doctor as a main character, along with spunky senior sleuths, and the first book’s mystery turned on a medical diagnosis.

Each book has several public service announcements hidden inside. 

1. In The Antidote, I describe how to do a Heimlich maneuver and when to use an AED, an Automated External Defibrillator

2. In The Fog Ladies, Book 1, get your colonoscopy, make sure your stairs are safe, and in Book 2, don’t cut a bagel in your hand and don’t get a jailhouse tattoo.

3. In The Fog Ladies: In the Soup, Book 3, keep your dog lean for longevity and two car accidents in two weeks is too many.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?  

Definitely characters. My Fog Ladies, spunky senior sleuths and one overtired young doctor-in-training, are the crux of each story.  

How do you interact with your readers?

     I love to meet with book clubs and have done a lot in person locally and across the country virtually. I love the discussions about people they know who are similar to characters in the book, and the themes they bring up, like whether people ever change, or how different people handle the loss of a spouse, or what makes a good parent. 

     One of the funniest interactions was recent, when an elderly lady said, “I’m enjoying the book, but when am I going to meet the old ladies?” I said the Fog Ladies should have been there from the beginning, and she said she was 50 pages in and had only met a twelve-year-old boy and an evil entity. Turns out she had bought the wrong book! She was reading The Antidote, my middle grade medical fantasy about a boy who can see disease and battles the creator of all illness. She definitely had not met any Fog Ladies!

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

Music. Many adults wish they could play music better, and I am no exception. Because of this, we introduced our children early to music lessons and they are now excellent at classical guitar and jazz piano. But my husband and I, who took lessons along with them, are pitiful. While we could remind and encourage them to practice every day, even if only for ten minutes, we would find ourselves exhausted at night, and even ten minutes seemed too much. The kids’ skills grew exponentially and ours grew flat. But if I couldn’t fail, I’d start again.

Who is your audience?

Cozy lovers of all ages will appreciate the humor and poignancy of the stories, and the whodunnit aspect to the murders. With the feisty elderly ladies, the series will especially appeal to lovers of Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher.

Help the local soup kitchen win big prize money for the best big pot of soup. What could be a better cause? How could a group of little old ladies get into trouble with that?  Well, when they are feisty, independent, and have a tendency to speak for the group, it is actually easy, especially when a particularly annoying man ends up in the pot. When the director of the soup kitchen is arrested most of the Fog Ladies set out to find out who really dunnit and there is no shortage of suspects. Is it the real estate developer, the model/girlfriend, the ex wife, or the unstable homeless man who took an immediate dislike to the dead man? Or is it possible the police really do have their man?

I love how every woman in the group has a voice and a distinct personality. They are a disparate group, yet one can’t imagine them as not part of the whole. They are fiercely loyal to each other, but they aren’t afraid to get under each other’s skin.  It takes a bit of insight from each of them to solve the crime. While the ladies are tracking down suspects and asking intrusive questions, Sarah is dealing with her mystery; she and Andy are suddenly not getting along. Is it simply overwork, or is there something more going on?  As enjoyable as this sleuthing was, I have to admit, I was on pins and needles with this secondary plot line. I also completely fell in love with Boris. I have a soft spot for Newfies anyway, but he is a real sweetheart despite doubling his size overnight and taking over poor Alma’s life. 

They can be snarky and snippy but these ladies are everyone’s great aunts and they have a story that is fun to read. This book, despite being book three in a series, reads well as a stand alone.

The author is not afraid to touch on sensitive topics, like mental illness, substance abuse, and homelessness. She creates characters that are real and relatable. Late in the book a character admits to having been homeless for a time and talks about how that motivates their actions in the story. It is powerful moments such as this that drive the story.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advance review copy for free through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

Find out more about previous books in the series and the author. Click into Guest Post: Cozy Tropes I Love by Susan McCormick

From the Inside Flap

“Poor Boris,” said Harriet Flynn. “I hope he’s all right.”     “Yes, that poor little dog. He must have seen the whole thing. Oh, dear. Oh, dear,” said Alma Gordon     Enid Carmichael’s own dog, Snowball, would be mighty upset if he saw her topple into a soup pot. Well, maybe not upset. Maybe more interested in the soup. Mrs. Carmichael had been in intensive care once for a whole week, and when she returned the dog showed how much he missed her by eating her “Get Well” fruit candies. He had diarrhea for days. Boris sounded more distraught.     “I told the soup kitchen I would come back this afternoon to help them clean up. I said we’d all come. It’s too big a job for the two of them, and they’re pretty shaken,” Frances Noonan said.     Just like her to volunteer them all, Enid thought.     “Of course we’ll come,” Harriet Flynn said.     What was it now with Harriet Flynn? She was suddenly as much a do-gooder as Frances Noonan.     “Oh, dear. I don’t know if I want to see that big pot,” Alma Gordon said.     “What about the soup?” Enid Carmichael said. “No Big Pot Soup Contest? The judges aren’t coming?     “There was a man in the soup,” Frances Noonan said.     “But he must be gone now,” Enid persisted.

The Fog Ladies are back, in the third installment of this endearing cozy murder mystery series.

“There was a man in the soup.” When the Fog Ladies volunteer at a San Francisco soup kitchen, these spunky elderly friends plus one overworked young doctor-in-training envision washing and chopping and serving. Not murder. Now the soup kitchen is doomed, and the mysteries have just begun. Was the death rooted in a long-ago grudge? Can they save the soup kitchen? Will they find the killer? Could the Fog Ladies, too, end up “in the soup”?

Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N Bookshop

Susan McCormick is a writer and doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. Susan served as a doctor in the U.S. Army for nine years before moving to the Pacific Northwest and civilian practice as a gastroenterologist. In addition to the Fog Ladies series, she also wrote Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and The Antidote, a timely middle grade medical fantasy released May 2021. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons. She loves giant dogs and has loved an English Mastiff, Earl, and two Newfoundlands, Edward and Albert.

Social media links – Website – Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – GoodReads – BookBub


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