Q&A With Sasscer Hill
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Q&A With Sasscer Hill
Mickey Mikkelson who is the publicist for New York Times Bestselling author Tosca Lee, has connected me with many authors these past few days. One of these many authors is Sasscer Hill. Sasscer is the author of mystery novels. Some of her mystery novels are, Murder at the Willcotts Hotel, Travels of Quinn, Shooting Star, Flamingo Road, & The Dark Side of Town.
Q: Sasscer I love mystery novels. I have since I was a child. What made you choose to write mysteries?
A: As a child, I loved the Nancy Drew mysteries. By the time I was a young teen, I became interested in the mysteries found in cop shows on TV. The more literary mysteries drew me in even more. I read everything by authors like Josephine Tey, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie. I plowed through a huge volume of all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries that one of my great aunts owned.
Of course, loving horses and horse books as I do, I was crazy about the Dick Francis books. Wonderful mysteries, action, and adventure. Suspense galore. All my favorite ingredients!
As I grew older, I discovered great authors like Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, and Robert Crais. When I wrote my first book, Full Mortality, the kind of book I wanted to write was clearly set in my mind.
I did not wish to write the great American novel. My job was to entertain with mystery and suspense stories about chasing a dream, fighting the odds, and helping the helpless. I wanted to create a world that’s a bit scary, sometimes funny, always informative, and a reliable destination for escape.
Full Mortality the first Nikki Latrelle novel was short-listed for both Agatha and Macavity Best First Novel Awards. Subsequent books in the Nikki five-book series have won or been short-listed for numerous awards. Other series have also been well-received.
For example, Flamingo Road won the $10,000 Dr. Tony Ryan Award for Best Book in Racing Literature. The Dark Side of Town won the Carrie McCray Competition for Best First Chapter of a Novel and was short-listed for the prestigious Claymore award. The Travels of Quinn was runner-up for a Silver Falchion Award for Best Mystery of 2020.
Q: When did you realize your call to write?
A: Loving horses, action, and adventure, I discovered the Walter Farley Black Stallion books and became addicted to them as soon as I could read. In the fifth grade, our teacher asked my class to write a story. I wrote a scene with a boy and an old man trailering a horse to the races. (Think Alex Ramsey and Henry Dailey)
In my scrap of a story, something was wrong, and the boy was worried. That’s all I recall. But I do remember this – after the teacher horrified me by asking me to read it out loud to the class, I was astonished when I’d finished that several kids raised their hands and asked, “What happens next?”
There is no greater compliment or thrill than for a writer to know readers are eager to know what happens next. Hearing this, way back then, I knew I had something.
Q: If you were to write in another genre which genre would it be and why?
A: I believe it would be supernatural stories. This genre gives the writer a wonderful freedom to create their own world. If the story is grounded in enough truths to be believable, readers can really enjoy this type of novel. In both Full Mortality and Racing from Death, the character Mello had second sight and “knew things” that blindsided other characters in the novel. But the reader knew Mello had “seen” something terrible that might be about to happen. It was a great way to add foreshadowing and tension to the book.
Q: What’s your advice to anyone on how to write great mysteries?
A: I find mystery harder to write than suspense. Creating a clever puzzle that both entertains and mystifies the reader as they follow a trail of subtle clues is not an easy thing to do. I recently read a Mary Higgins Clark novel and was amazed by the intricate puzzle revealed at the end. I write mystery/suspense, and fortunately, in my opinion, this genre does fine with an intricate plot, surprising twists, and those “aha” moments of insight into a character’s psyche, and the underlying elements that created them. I do believe that halfway through your novel an excellent ingredient is a startling plot twist. This would be a moment in time where everything your protagonist thought was real, suddenly turns upside down. He, or she, is left on a broken cliff, desperate to find a new path to survival.
Q: If you’re writing a new novel, can you reveal any details?
A: Currently I am completing two Janet Simpson novellas. This series follows a middle-aged woman who is newly widowed. The daughter of a domineering father and then the wife of an overprotective husband, she’s suddenly alone and very wealthy.
She’s a magnet for conmen who want her money especially when she pursues her dream of being a racehorse owner. Can this clever sleuth use her wits to avoid the conmen and thieves who want her money?
Is she strong enough to save herself?
Of the two new novellas, Murder in the Bluegrass will be available by early summer of 2023, and Murder at the Willcotts Hotel will be out on October 1, 2023. Murder in the Bluegrass takes place at and near Keeneland Racetrack in Lexington, KY. Murder at the Willcotts Hotel takes place in Aiken, SC, at a fictional hotel modeled after the Five Star historic Willcox Hotel. They are both exciting horseracing murder mysteries with twisty plots and plenty of action!
Murder in the Bluegrass
A smidgen of Chapter One
It was late afternoon when the small plane bucked violently before plunging what must have been a hundred feet. My breath sucked in, and my fingernails dug into the armrest.
Coming into Lexington with treacherous air currents and looming thunderheads on the far horizon wasn’t what I’d counted on when I’d booked my first trip to Kentucky.
I exhaled a breath when the plane’s approach grew smoother. Beneath me, mares and foals dotted lush fields of bluegrass. It was an amazing sight. I could clearly see them as we dropped lower. But if we were flying over a farm, where in God’s name was Bluegrass Airport?
Suddenly, the tarmac rolled smoothly beneath us. Seconds later, we touched down as easily as a feather floating to the ground. I rolled my shoulders to ease the tension and rubbed at a crick in my neck. At sixty-one, I seemed to get more of those every day.
Two racehorses I owned had been shipped to Keeneland Racetrack for the spring meet. I’d decided to fly in a couple of days early, eager to see that they’d arrived safely and my trainer, Leonard Cushman, had them comfortably settled.
First, I needed to see about my own accommodations at Stone Castle Farm owned by Conor and Grace O’Sullivan. They were cousins of a man named Tom Ryan, who my friend Kate Perkins had been dating for a while. Grace O’Sullivan’s maiden name was Ryan, and Tom had finagled an invitation for us to stay with the family during Keeneland’s April meet.
I had no idea what these Kentucky O’Sullivans were like or what our living arrangements would be. Kate, of course, had insisted it would be terrific.
“They’re very wealthy,” she’d said. “They own an amazing stud farm and a huge shipping company, started by Conor’s grandfather or great-grandfather. They have a box at Keeneland and are members of the track’s clubhouse. Very chic, very elite.”
I’d restrained myself from asking, “But are they nice people?”
Q: Does Hollywood have the interests or rights to any of your novels? Hollywood is long overdue for originality and could use more book ideas.
A:How I wish this were so! So many fans say, “I read your book, it would make a great movie.” They ask me if this is happening and I always tell them that I need to know someone who knows someone in the business, but I don’t. I ask them if they know anyone and they never do.
Q: Is it fair to say that the characters and worlds within your books are based on real places and people? I love it when authors can use real life to create a fictional world and fictional people.
A: Absolutely. I bred, raised, and raced Thoroughbred racehorses for thirty-two years. The characteristics and personalities found in racing are an endless source of inspiration–the risk, the beauty, the speed, the endless opportunities for skullduggery, and the extraordinary “Upstairs Downstairs” quality of the people who inhabit the life.
Picture the winner’s circle. Notice the poverty-level groom who holds a hundred-thousand-dollar horse for a trainer who may be living large, or only hand-to-mouth. With them stands the rich or possibly almost-broke-owner who may also be a white-collar criminal. Or he might enjoy a golden life of lofty social status. Now, notice the jockey up on the winning horse. Did you see him make the sign of the cross before he risked his life once again to mount a thousand-pound animal who races in a mob at speeds up to 40 miles an hour? I have, many, many times.
Now watch the horse, the real hero of this group in the winner’s circle. He might be sore, or tired, but he still dug deep to find the heart and courage to pull out the win. They are amazing animals, and I am so lucky to have bred, raised, and owned a few of them.
The cheating, the pageantry, the criminals, the heart and courage–– I’ve seen it all.