A Day of Beginnings by Susan Oleksiw

This month seems to be a time of new beginnings for me and for Ladies of Mystery, with four new writers joining the blog. I already know several of my colleagues from their books and blogs, and I’m delighted to find myself now writing among them.

Unlike many mystery writers, I came to crime fiction relatively late, in graduate school. Someone gave me a copy of They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie, and in the first few pages I knew this was the writer for me. I had the book in hand when I went to see my professor, and he saw it and smiled. “I read those when I was trying to improve my English,” he said. He grew up speaking Dutch and French, studied German, and then learned English. So, instead of talking about my research, that day we talked about Agatha Christie.

Christie’s influence, along with that of a number of other British writers, is obvious in my first series, the Mellingham series featuring Chief of Police Joe Silva. After reading lots of British and American mysteries, I knew not only what I wanted to write but what I didn’t want to write. I did not want my detective, in this case a police chief in a small town, to be depressed, an alcoholic, divorced, alienated from his birth family or children, a broken-down guy trying to get it together. (I said this once in a conference, and hilarity and applause ensued.) Joe is single but working on it in the first three books, calls his parents every week, and gets along with his siblings. He speaks Portuguese and is easy going except where crime is concerned. He knows what it takes to manage life in a small town.

In the Anita Ray series I got to indulge my love of India–palm trees, sunshine, the ocean, spicy food, lots of color everywhere. Anita is a young Indian-American photographer living at her aunt’s tourist hotel, resistant to marriage and a magnet for murder, to the despair of her Auntie Meena. When a reader picks up one of these books, I want her to smell the spices, feel the heat and the cooling breeze, and spot the moon through the palm leaves at night.

My third series features Felicity O’Brien, farmer and healer, who finds a body on her land while an out of town buyer is offering outrageous sums for what she considers substandard farm land. This story was fun to write for very different reasons. I got to explore a life I lived briefly but relived for years while listening to my parents and older brothers reminisce about our long-gone farm.

You can probably tell that setting is all important to me, and it’s the first element I think of when sitting down to write. Instead of a book in one of the series, right now I’m working on a stand-alone that covers some of the issues I explore in my earlier novels–the clash between old and new, the shock of unexpected change and how people cope with it. I plan to share some of these thoughts and others on writing issues here on Ladies of Mystery.

But today, while new readers are getting to know me, I’ll be driving most of the day to pick up our new dog, a rescue lab waiting for us in Brattleboro, Vermont. No doubt this pooch will play a role in a story to come. So, yes, today is a day of new beginnings, and I have lots to be excited about. Next month I’ll have photos of our new dog and more.



12 thoughts on “A Day of Beginnings by Susan Oleksiw

  1. Great post to establish yourself on the blog! I like main characters who aren’t so down trodden you wonder how they get out of bed in the morning. I have to get a book from each of the you new members so I know what and how you write to recommend you to readers. Thank you for being part of our blog!


    1. Thanks, Paty. I’m delighted to be here. Introductions are challenging because I never know what people want to learn, so I’m glad this one worked.


    1. Hi, Jacquie, thanks for the compliment. I feel fortunate to join this group of accomplished writers who share my interests and approach to crime fiction. I hope you’ll check in regularly.


  2. I can’t imagine writing more than one series yet I know many authors like you, who have pulled it off. Agatha Christie has influenced so many mystery writers. I remember my first oral presentation when I was a freshman in high school and had to give a oral report in front of the class on “And Then There Were None” (later called Ten Little Indians). I was so scared to talk in public then, I botched the oral report, but I sure enjoyed her book and so many others she wrote. She had an influence on me too. I enjoyed your post.


    1. Thanks, Linda. When I began writing, I never imagined writing more than one series, and here I am. I always wanted to write something non-academic about India but hadn’t considered fiction until much later. We can do more than we think, and Agatha Christie is still one of my favorite writers.


  3. Hi Susan. The positive attitude you’ve given your protagonist is something I insisted upon, myself, in my books. I was tired of female detectives being alienated from everyone and only owning one black skirt in their wardrobe, hauled out for dates, weddings, and funerals. Congratulations on the new furry member of your family. We have two rescue cats, but I sometimes wonder just who rescued who. Can’t wait to read your books!


    1. Thanks, Heather. I’m gratified by the number of readers who have thanked me for creating a protagonist who isn’t a downer, pretending to carry the world on his or her shoulders. Most of the police officers I’ve met are upbeat men and women who care about the people they come in contact with. I wanted Joe to be like that. Yes, rescue animals bring a lot into our lives.

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  4. Glad to meet you. I love the good values of your police detective. Hallileluia!
    And I’m eager to check out the India series. Did you ever read Far Pavilions?
    Can’t wait to see pix of your dog, books, and self!


    1. Thanks for the welcome, Jackie. I have Far Pavilions but it’s still on my TBR bookshelf, along with a dozen other novels about India I picked up on my last trip. I’ll get to it, but first will come the pix of the new dog.


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