Susan Strecker will celebrate the release of her second novel, “Nowhere Girl,” at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison on Tuesday evening, March 1st, at 7:00 p.m. This event is free and open to the public; registration is preferred, and can be completed online or by calling the store at 203-245-3959. Copies of the book will be available for purchase/signing. Location: 768 Boston Post Rd. (See below for a listing of the author’s other local events.)
Today, Hartford Books Examiner welcomes Susan Strecker.
Ms. Strecker is the author of “Nowhere Girl,” out tomorrow from Thomas Dunne Books. Her debut novel, “Night Blindness,” was published in 2014 and selected as an Indie Next pick. Strecker attended college at Drew, where she studied psychology and writing, and later earned a Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Southern Connecticut State University. She makes her home in Essex, CT, with her husband and their two children.
Early response to “Nowhere Girl” has been enthusiastic. Kirkus Reviews praised: “A novel about great loss and refusal to surrender to the pain of this loss, showing instead how one can learn to live with it and, ultimately, find forgiveness and love as a survivor. Compulsively readable.” Further, Pop Sugar included the title in its “26 Books You Should Read This Spring” feature while Books for Her noted: “Read Nowhere Girl before it makes the best-seller list—it’s that good! … The story has a depth and constant tempo that makes it easy to recommend.”
From the publisher:
In Susan Strecker’s Nowhere Girl, sixteen-year-old Savannah Martino is strangled to death in an abandoned house. The police rule Savannah’s murder a random attack of opportunity, which prompts the small New Jersey town to instigate a curfew and cancel football games. Isolated and afraid, Savannah’s sister, Cady, continues to communicate with Savannah through dreams. Cady knows Savannah in ways no one else knew: The beautiful, ethereal twin everyone thought was an angel was actually on the road to self-destruction.
Years later a chance encounter while researching her latest novel coincides with an unexpected call from the once-rookie cop on Savannah’s case, Patrick Tunney, now a detective, who tells Cady that Savannah’s case has been reopened. Through new evidence, it has been determined that Savannah’s death wasn’t a random attack and that whoever killed her sister loved her.
Despite years of interviewing convicted killers, profilers, and psychiatrists for her bestselling thrillers, Cady isn’t prepared for the revelation that someone close to her could have killed her sister. Cady is drawn into a labyrinth of deception and betrayal reaching all the way back to her childhood that will force her to find the strength she never knew she had in order to face the truth.
Now, Susan Strecker reveals a few pages from the book of her life …
John Valeri: As a child, did you wear your literary lust loud and proud or were you a closet bibliophile?
Susan Strecker: I was the kid who was happier sitting under a tree at recess reading than playing. I wasn’t the most outgoing child and it was easier (and often times more fun) to get lost in a great story than join my brothers and neighborhood kids in the cul-de-sac on our street to play Kick the Can or Capture the Flag. Once I started reading something that I really loved, I’d lose track of time until I didn’t even notice that it’d gotten dark in my room or that everyone had been out playing. For better or worse, I haven’t outgrown that habit and almost always carry a book with me, no matter where I go.
JV: What book(s) were you likely to be caught keeping company with under the covers?
SS: I loved loved loved The Black Stallion series. I think there were about twenty books in total and I read them all, multiple times. Then I bought them for my kids and started reading them at night to my children, but mostly to myself. I also loved “Little Women” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”
JV: What are you reading currently & what is your initial impression?
SS: I’m doing something now I’ve never done before. I’m double fisting two books at once. The first is called “The Center Cannot Hold.” It’s a memoir-ish tale about the author’s experience with schizophrenia. It’s research for my sixth book which will deal with a woman who is educated in psychiatric illnesses when she experiences a psychotic break. I’ve read about people who commit horrific crimes because they heard voices instructing them to do so. My retort has always been, If I heard a voice telling me to push someone in front of a train, I’d surely know not to do it. But, it’s not that simple and I am fascinated by the question of “What happens when you know you’re losing your hold on sanity?” I’m not sure this book can help me understand that quandary, but it’s a great read. The other book I’m alternately enjoying is one by Ann Leary called “Outtakes from a Marriage.” I read another of hers (at the suggestion of my Kindle) and thought it was lovely. I believe this one is going to put an unusual spin on a very old dilemma and I can’t wait to find out what it is.
JV: What one book do you always recommend when asked?
SS: Ugh. Do I have to recommend just one? My go-to book is “The Prince of Tides” because it is my all- time favorite and Pat Conroy should be worshipped by the masses. But, his writing is dark and disturbing. While that is what makes me revere him and his books, I understand that not all of us enjoy that kind of stark storytelling. So, I also tell people they must must must read Suzanne Kingsbury’s “The Summer Fletcher Greel Loved Me.” It’s like reading three-hundred pages of prose poetry.
JV: Which of your own books would you suggest to readers & why?
SS: Eek! That’s like asking which of my kids is my favorite. I think I’d suggest different books to different people. My first novel, “Night Blindness,” deals with a family who has lost a son and is grappling with a life-threatening illness. I’ve gotten many letters from readers who’ve been through similar experiences saying that I put into words what they have not been able to express, and that has helped them with their grief. Writing is a craft, and I have gotten better at it with experience. Thus, I am more likely to recommend my second book, “Nowhere Girl,” if I were thinking about one that has left an impression on myself. It’s dark (Mr. Conroy would be proud) and at times was difficult to write. But, it looks at an ordinary person who has experienced great loss (her identical twin sister was murdered) and what she has to do to get by. Cady (the main character) is a bit of mess and plain lost without Savannah. But, ultimately, she learns to live through her sister’s death, not just around it. Then there’s my third book which hasn’t even found a publishing home yet. Don’t tell my first two, but it might be my favorite. It’s tentatively called “Night Falling,” although I learned the hard way not to get attached to titles (that’s a topic for another interview). It’s about a single mom and her eight-year-old son who move to a tiny, idyllic town in coastal Connecticut. They experience an interesting group of parents and children and have quite a time adjusting to their new life. January’s husband is dead and there’s a backstory there—of course, and that, among other things, makes her and her son an anomaly to the point where sometimes she feels like a zoo animal on display. I LOVE this book and would recommend it to any mom out there for a few reasons. First, it was super fun to write. I will admit that a few chapters and/or characters were inspired by my life as a mom. I took much literary license with my characters and I often found myself laughing out loud while writing. That almost never happened with the first two books. I’d tell people to read it because January is an outcast. She doesn’t have a husband. She rarely brushes her hair. She thinks it’s a waste of time to put on nice clothes to fetch her son from school. (She and I are a lot alike—minus the single part). I think this book will touch many people because feeling like we’re not perfect or we’re somehow doing it wrong is a pretty common theme among many, many mothers. January certainly is not a perfect mother or person, but she has a good soul. She makes mistakes, says and does stupid things, and in the end still manages to raise a pretty great kid. “Night Falling” is a story that will remind us that sometimes trying is good enough and we’re less alone than we think.
JV: Is there a book or author that readers would be surprised to know you’ve read and liked?
SS: Hmm. Yes and no. I am noisy in my worshipful love of Pat Conroy and Jodi Picoult, so I don’t think anyone would be surprised to know that I’ve read (and loved) all of their books. Jodi Picoult is a little dark, and I LOVE that sometimes her main characters die. I tried to make one heroine have a very unhappy ending to her tale, but I got outvoted by my editor. However, I have a girl crush on Jennifer Weiner and her books are happier than some others that I read. “Goodnight Nobody” is one of my go-to books for inspiration.
JV: Who is the one author that would, or did, make you weak in the knees upon meeting?
SS: I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that meeting Pat Conroy would complete me. The only thing better than meeting him would be getting close enough to lick him.
JV: Has there been an “I’ve made it” moment in your career?
SS: When “Night Blindness” came out, a reviewer compared me to Jodi Picoult. I could have died happy that night.
JV: What is your greatest literary ambition?
SS: If I’d known when I started writing how difficult it was going to be, I can’t say for certain that I would have chosen this vocation. Publishing is a fickle lady and it’s difficult, at times, to keep moving forward. That said, my ambition is to keep writing books that people want to read. I have seven authors who I track, so I can run to the bookstore and buy their new releases on pub day. I hope that one day I will be that author for someone.
JV: Fill in the blank: Hartford Books Examiner is _____.
SS: … amazingly lucky to have John Valeri on staff!
With thanks to Susan Strecker for her generosity of time and thought and to Skye Wentworth, Book Publicist, for helping to facilitate this interview.
Don’t forget: The author will appear at R.J. Julia Booksellers this Tuesday evening, March 1st, at 7:00 p.m.
Ms. Strecker will also appear at the following:
· Bank Square Books’ Delicious Discussions at the Mohegan Sun Casino’s Michael Jordan Steak House on Wednesday, March 9th, at 12:00 p.m. (Tickets are $40/each and include lunch, dessert, and a copy of the book; contact Kate McDonald at email@example.com or (860) 889-2365 x.127 to register.)
· Written Words Bookstore in Shelton on Sunday, March 13th, at 3:00 p.m. (Coffee + Conversation at Three Bridges Coffeehouse; pre-registration/payment required.)
· Burgundy Books in Westbrook on Thursday, March 17th, at 7:00 p.m.
· Essex Library on Sunday, March 20th, at 2:00 p.m.—in conversation with John Valeri, Hartford Books Examiner.