Deb Susan Has Ways of Coping With Secrets

As a transactional publishing attorney and mystery author, you might say secrets are my stock in trade. Most of my work involves issues I cannot talk about in public, and much of my writing … well, yeah. Can’t tell that either.

Unfortunately, I’m also a person who likes to share things.

This creates a bit of a problem.

Not so much with work – the secrets there are not my own, and I’m good at keeping other people’s confidences. More than once, I’ve had people tell me something expecting that I would leak the information. Every time, those people end up disappointed – if it’s a secret, I never tell.

When the secrets are mine, however, I have a harder time keeping them close to the vest. That’s particularly true where the “secrets” are Things That Happen in My Novels. My sleuth, master ninja Hiro Hattori, has a highly developed backstory … none of which I can tell you (yet). He does something really cool to solve the murder in Claws of the Cat – but if I revealed it, I’d ruin the story. Even the title – Claws of the Cat – has a secret meaning. But please don’t ask.Claws of the Cat Cover (50)

And while we’re at it, don’t ask me to tell you the name of Hiro’s kitten.

You see my dilemma.

I love writing mystery novels. I love it so much I’ll forget to eat, forego my sleep, and put off just about any other non-client-related pursuit. I love to talk about writing, and Hiro, and all of the little details that lurk in the shadows where ninjas hide.

Except that I can’t, because most of them are secrets.

And although I would love to talk about them, the worst kind of party-pooper is the one who reveals the twist in a novel or gives away the killer before the end.

I did figure out one secret that I can tell you today, however:

If you’re reading Claws of the Cat and dying to know who the murderer is, don’t skip to the final page to find out.

Why not? Because the killer isn’t revealed on the final page of the novel – but I do reveal a different secret there, so you’ll spoil that one and still not learn the answer you skipped to find.

Does that count as a secret? I hope so.

Because the ninjas won’t let me tell you anything more.

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11 thoughts on “Deb Susan Has Ways of Coping With Secrets

    • Thanks Roz!! I’m so thrilled that you loved it – and I’m hoping you like Book 2 even more! (Everyone in my critique group says it’s even better than Claws, but we’ll see what the readers think!)

    • I’m a sneaky peeker too, Kerry, which is one reason why I decided to make it impossible for people to ruin the experience with the last page. Unfortunately, that second secret will be spoiled if people peek, though, so … maybe I’m not as clever as I thought!

  1. I never read the last page!! I know people who do, but I love the element of surprise, not knowing how a story ends. And even if I think I know, I always love finding out how the author decided to end his or her novel.

    • I try not to, but sometimes…well, I’m weak. Most of the time I hold off, though, because I do love the surprise of knowing how the book ends when I actually get there!

  2. Secrets, secrets…Your post gets me thinking about spoilers. As in, writing your second in the series, what was your strategy for provide enough backstory from the first novel without giving away ITS secrets? I’m writing the second in my series, and my characters’ current states have everything with what occurred in the first novel. Don’t know if you had this problem while writing your second–the balance between providing just enough backstory from the previous novel without giving it all away…

    (That said: I’ve heard it doesn’t really matter. That readers will read anyhow. I read Louise Penny’s novels out of order, and she definitely gives away some endings from previous novels…Didn’t bother me. But that just may be me.)

    Love the cover!

    • You’ve hit on one of the hardest things about writing a series. It took a lot of thinking for me to tell the second story without giving away too much from Book 1 – and Book 3 is proving harder still (in part because three of the secondary characters from Book 1 and Book 2 become the focus of Book 3). One of the hardest things, for me, was referencing the prior crimes without giving away the murderer’s gender – which would cut the suspects down for people who hadn’t read those earlier books. Not mentioning a name was easy – writing the books in a way that didn’t even give away gender or important clues was much, much harder. Ultimately, I think it helps to shift the setting (my second book takes place mostly inside the shogun’s compound) but even then, I had to stay on my toes!

      A bigger issue for me is dealing with certain major backstory reveals – things I’ve hidden in Book 1, but reveal in Books 2 and 3 and then will have to reference in later novels. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to handle those, but I’m working hard to find ways to keep the secrets “secret” and not spoil the previous stories in later ones.

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