Today Suzanne Trauth is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about No More Time, her latest novel in the Dodie O’Dell mystery series.
Welcome, Suzanne. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
ST: My novel No More Time is the fifth book in the Dodie O’Dell mystery series. The series takes place, for the most part, in Etonville, New Jersey, a small town a stone’s throw from New York City. Dodie grew up down the Jersey Shore and lived and worked in Candle Beach. But after Hurricane Sandy destroyed her home and the restaurant she managed, Dodie came north to Etonville where she manages the Windjammer restaurant. Next door to the Windjammer is the Etonville Little Theatre, a community theatre whose members are Dodie’s good friends. In fact, Dodie pops over to see rehearsals and has been known to help out with costumes and lights. Until she gets involved in a murder investigation due to her infamous instincts. Then Dodie becomes Etonville’s amateur detective – but don’t tell her she’s an amateur!
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
ST: Dodie and her current love interest, Etonville’s police chief, have decided to return to the beach for a summer vacation. So…No More Time takes place down the Shore where Dodie’s ex-boyfriend is implicated in the murder of his former business partner. Out of loyalty, Dodie gets drawn into the investigation. Meanwhile, the Etonville Little Theatre is in Candle Beach to take part in the NJ Community Theater Festival. Dodie has agreed to help cater the opening night reception by suggesting theme hors d’oeuvres to match the play titles in the festival. She’s done theme food at the Windjammer restaurant to match the Etonville Little Theatre productions, like Italian night for Romeo and Juliet. So she’s good at it…usually.
My background is in theatre and I visit the Jersey Shore nearly every summer so ideas for this mystery came naturally: a theatre festival, a body on the beach, a trail of clues that lead the reader down the boardwalk, through an arcade, and onto boats.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
ST: Every book in the series features a play by the Etonville Little Theatre and theme food provided by the Windjammer restaurant. The series is about theatre, food…and murder!
For No More Time, the theme is “acting.” The primary acting is done by the community theatre folks in the festival; but Dodie discovers that quite a few others are “acting” as well: her ex, the murderers, even her boyfriend the police chief! So acting is threaded throughout this mystery.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
ST: Most of my characters have been with me for a few years…some literally popped into my head without warning, such as my main characters Dodie, police chief Bill, Dodie’s BFFs Lola and Carol. Since Etonville is a small town, a cast of quirky characters is certainly in order. For minor characters, I created the batty Banger sisters, the police code-loving dispatcher Edna, grumpy Vernon and his choir-director wife Mildred. Since each book features the antics of the community theatre, there are lots of opportunities for eccentric characters that come directly out of my theatre experience—the anxious director, the cliché mangling stage manager, the egotistical leading man. And of course each novel has a few new characters who are responsible for the murder!
I love them all! They’re like family. I must confess, however, that Dodie feels like an alter ego. She gets to say and do things I’d love to say and do! I also get a kick out of Penny. Not only is she the uber-stage manager with a whistle, she is my book’s comic relief as she makes her cliché-ridden pronouncements.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
ST: Etonville is based on a few northern New Jersey towns that I know well. But No More Time takes place in a shore town—Candle Beach—that is based on a beach town I’ve visited frequently. But just to get details correct, I spent a few days last spring ambling around the town, taking pictures, stopping in bars and restaurants, visiting the boardwalk arcade. I got a ton of great ideas that went right into the novel!
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
ST: Spending time at the shore location, of course. But also I did research on a variety of topics: murder weapons, criminal activity, police departments down the Shore, seafood recipes for the restaurants Dodie and Bill visit, and digital forensics—which plays a part in every murder Dodie solves. Since I spent decades in theatre as a director, teacher, producer, and writer, that aspect of the novel came easily to me.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
ST: Thanks for taking the time to read this interview. Grab a copy of No More Time and head to the pool or beach!
Thanks for answering my questions, Suzanne, and good luck with No More Time, the latest book in the Dodie O’Dell Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Suzanne Trauth is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and a former theatre professor at a university. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, the Dramatists Guild, and League of Professional Theatre Women. When she is not writing, Suzanne coaches actors and serves as a celebrant performing wedding ceremonies. She lives in Woodland Park, New Jersey.