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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Spotlight: Susan Oleksiw

Good Morning Friends and Happy Easter to Each of YOU!

Thank you for taking a moment out of your holiday weekend to stop by. It is my pleasure to bring to you another fellow 5 Star author, Susan Oleksiw with her Anita Ray Mystery book, Under the Eye of Kali.

Every time someone asks me where I get my ideas, I instantly have an image of the person opening a notebook, writing it down, and then checking her calendar, so she can plan to go there, wherever “there” is and pick up some ideas, along with stopping for yogurt at the supermarket and the post office for stamps. I am tempted to say, “I subscribe to a magazine called IDEAS.” Or how about, “I steal them from my grandmother’s stash. She never used hers up.”

The truth is, no one knows where ideas come from because they don’t come from somewhere else. They are there, in front of us, in our brains, or sitting on the page open on the computer or rolled into the typewriter. And, again, truthfully, I wish there were someplace to go to get them. The discovery of Anita Ray is a case in point.

For several years I had tried writing about India, and whatever I wrote came out miserably. The story was awkward, the characters alien or flat or just strange. I couldn’t get the hang of a good story about India. I was frustrated. Perhaps I was too close to the idea? After all I’d been in love with India since I was a young girl; I’d studied the country and its culture and history all through school (I went to advanced schools). I’d lived there, written academic articles about it. Perhaps I was having trouble finding a popular India to write about.

After several false starts I decided to just write a mystery that hinged on something interesting about India. The result was the short story “A Murder Made in India.” And in this story emerged Anita Ray, the unmarried niece of the owner of Hotel Delite, a young woman who would rather take photographs than eat, who hated the idea of work, and who had managed to fend off her aunt’s ongoing efforts at an arranged marriage. The story was a success, it seemed, and appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in 2003. I had loads of fun writing stories about India in which Anita Ray wielded her camera and investigated murders among relatives, friends, and strangers. The idea for the first story, when traditional India collides with modern India, pointed to an unlimited supply of mysteries.

Once Anita Ray as a character was established in my mind, along with circumstances that could lead to murder, I had little trouble expanding her stage, so to speak. I made one of my many return visits to India working out in my mind a story idea that would be substantial enough for a novel-length mystery. As I sat at breakfast one morning listening to other Westerners enjoying their meal and getting to know each other, the idea for the novel began to take shape. Strangers meet, share a few personal details, and soon are linked in an intricate web of lies, deceit, and murder.

Under the Eye of Kali appeared in 2010. The story takes the reader into Anita Ray’s world of a resort catering to foreigners where old grudges are acted out, the workers behind the scenes live double lives, and anyone can assume a new identity. The reader meets the restaurant owners, the tailors and booksellers, the touts and fruit sellers, and all the others who work mostly out of sight but are ever present. The murder occurs among foreign guests, and the reader gets to know them too, and enjoy their experiences in this strange land.

As I began writing the story of two women who travel through India, one of whom ends up dead and the other nearly so, I heard the voices of people I’d met long ago, during my first visits to India in the 1970s and 1980s. Out of the blue I heard the young man, probably still in his twenties, asking about how a certain sports team was doing back in the States. In those days, news about local matters traveled slowly if at all. Prompted by the curious way he posed the question I asked how long since he’d been home to the States. Something distracted me, and when I turned back he was gone. In less than a minute he evaporated. My husband commented, he was probably AWOL from Vietnam and my question had spooked him. I’ve never forgotten him, and more of that encounter will probably appear in another story, triggered by a character who makes an offhand remark and opens a door to murder.

This is where ideas come from—everywhere and nowhere, and somewhere we can’t find but we stumble into when we need it.

Under the Eye of Kali is the first in the Anita Ray series, and explores Anita’s home territory of the resort area where Hotel Delite is located. The Wrath of Shiva is the second in the series, and takes Anita into an old family estate. I’ll talk about the ideas behind that book next month.

To learn more about Susan and her books, go to www.susanoleksiw.com

Her books are available through Five Star/Gale, Cengage Learning and on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords.

Well Friends, hope you enjoyed this spotlight. Thanks again for taking the time to stop by and once again....

Have a BLESSED & Happy Easter holiday!


1 comment:

Alice Duncan said...

Very much enjoyed your blog post, Susan. I want to read UNDER THE EYE OF KALI, because I love books set in India (and enjoyed the sequel) and would kill to be able to get East Indian food here in Roswell (that I don't have to fix myself). And you're so right about where ideas come from. Who knows? They just do.