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Homeschooling can be murder by Susan Lyttek

Army wife and homeschooling mom, Jeanine Talbott finds herself in an impossible situation—she would rather ignore her husband’s transfer orders and stay put.  So she lets James pick out the new house and move their goods while she slowly wraps up the life she’s come to love. 

As she pulls up to their new residence, she discovers her darling bought a charming fixer-upper with rather unexpected neighbors—a Civil War graveyard full of them.

As the family, including kids Justin and Josie, gets settled in Gentle Springs, strange noises come from the cemetery.  Then, James goes TDY (temporary duty assignment) to California.  While he’s gone, their dog, Jelly, escapes the yard and finds a fresh body in the cemetery.  Suddenly, the Talbotts have two mysteries on their hands: who killed the treasure hunter, and what secret was he trying to unearth at the tomb of town hero, Captain Cooperton?

Unputdownable is the best way to describe this wonderful novel from Susan Lyttek. Learning about history has never been so deadly or so interesting, when an army transfer moves the Talbott family to a home next to Gentle Springs cemetery. Resisting the move, the scary goings on at the ‘neighbours’ doesn’t make the place any more homely for Jeanine.
Can’t recommend this book enough. Funny, scary, and with charming kids determined to put what they’ve read in books to good use, this book is definitely a keeper.

Buy Link: 

I sent Susan my author interview and I've never had anyone answer almost ALL the questions before :) It makes great reading.

How did you come up with your premise? I originally came up with the idea on spec for a mystery series, but they cancelled further publication before my title even came under consideration. On a more positive side, I had always thought there should be books for the homeschooling mom… just for fun. We read all kinds of things our kids to or to prepare to teach them, but very little to kick back.
a.       Is there a story behind your book?  I had the idea of the mom first. I would definitely befriend Jeanine Talbott. I kept thinking about her and talking with her in my head. So she was pretty well-developed when I decided to try NaNoWriMo. The first draft of Homeschooling Can Be Murder was created that month.
Yay another Nano person. My first published novel was a nanowrimo one too.
b.      How did the story evolve? After that, I tweaked it and expanded it a bit until I liked both mysteries. A homeschooling family were my test readers from the get-go. If they didn’t like something, I chucked it!

Are there any fun tid-bits about this story you can share with us? I think the most fun character is 10-year-old Justin. As an amateur taxidermist, he becomes the family’s forensics expert.

How did you decide on the setting? I live in the southeast U.S., which while not as rich in history as Europe, is about as chock-full as you can get on this side of the Atlantic. I wanted two levels of mystery with one being historical so I needed nearby history to pull from. Also, having been in the military and having many friends currently in or priors, too, I wanted to honor them with an ideal post.

When will it be released? July 20, 2012

Where were you born? I was actually born on an Army post in Virginia when my dad was in the service. I only spent a few months there. I grew up near Chicago.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Tricky question. I’ve loved many places that I would still call home: the German Rheingau, San Antonio, Texas, Geneva, Illinois, to name a few. I wrote a poem called Homeheart years ago to explain how these places get carved into your life and carve you in turn. I think one of the great wonders of heaven will be that we can see and live in the best of what the world had been meant to offer. 

What is the funniest thing that ever happened to you or you witnessed that made you laugh so hard you couldn’t catch your breath? I don’t know, but I’m sure it had to do with my husband, Gary. One of the reasons I married him was his spontaneous and amazing sense of humor.

What hidden talent do you possess outside of writing... something you do for fun, but are good at? I do have a flair for hand needlework. I don’t do it often (like maybe two hours in the past year), but the presents I make get saved. As hinted in #5, I’m also a black belt in tae kwon do.

What’s your favourite colour? Red. Most definitely. In tae kwon do I teased my teacher that I couldn’t go for my black belt because I liked red too much. I managed to overcome that, though.

What music groups/artists blast from your CD player while you write? I have over 3,000 songs loaded on my iTunes from classical to Celtic to rock to jazz. I need music to write. What I listen to depends on what I’m writing. Currently, I have a 70s and 80s mix in that has both secular and Christian artists: Petra, Rez Band, Kansas, Moody Blues, The Choir, etc.

What are you most passionate about, other than writing? Homeschooling obviously. My husband and two sons.

Name some of your most favourite things. I like playing computer puzzle and mystery games. I need a timer to keep from playing too long! I also can’t fall asleep without reading a chapter of a book. In the Bible, I can get stuck in Isaiah for months because I love it so much.

What got you interested in writing? I’ve always written. My dad was a textbook editor and my mom was a librarian. Enough said?

Why did you begin writing?  How long have you been writing? Post Christ, I’ve been writing since 1987. I burned over 90% of what I had written as a child and teen. I became seriously involved in the occult starting at 13. When I came to the Lord at 23, I sacrificed my writing to Him. It was two years before He brought writing back to me.

What advice would you give a new writer just starting out? Serve. Write newsletters for your church. Write poems for new mothers. Give your writing away to those who need it. We serve the Living Word and He has an abundance more for you to make a living from if you need to. That said, the writer is worthy of his or her hire and you need to know when others receive pay for a service that you probably should, too.

Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? Oh yes. I call it fear block. It always stems from abject terror of success or failure or not measuring up in general. If so, what do you do about it? I’ve handled it very badly. Rather than writing what I’m called to, I’ll write what pays or gets published just to bump up my ego. Or procrastinate on everything.

Who is your favourite author and why? C.S. Lewis. He wrote every style and didn’t worry about platform. Besides, I’ve read Magician’s Nephew at least forty or fifty times.

What, in your opinion, are the most important elements of good writing? Good verbs, natural sounding conversation.

How do you develop your plots and characters? I don’t know. I’m a seat of the pants writer, for better or worse. I have tried, numerous times, to use outlines, plans and whatever else I’ve learned at conferences. I feel totally strangled. Sometimes I get a title first, sometimes a character, sometimes the end, sometimes the opening scene. I often dream a part or parts of a book. Then I note that down. It can be years, as with one book that I’m about three chapters in right now, before it turns into anything. Or it can overwhelm me and I write the rough draft fairly quickly. I try (try is the operative word because I often fail) not to stress about the randomness of it all.

When you write do you start with a plot outline, a character sketch, how do you begin? How do you stay on course? I stay on course by making sure I write at least a couple of hours most days.

Are you working on anything at the present you’d like to share with us? I have three books in progress at the moment. One, a time travel fantasy called Mapmaker is in the research part. It begins in the Middle Ages and I want to make that convincing. Another is a historical romance about the apostle Peter’s wife that I started a long time ago and I picked up again after reading Luke. Lastly, is a sci-fi about evangelizing (and finding) Atlantis. I finished the rewrite of Killer Field Trip, the sequel to Homeschooling Can Be Murder, last week. Cool a sequel.  :)

What are you reading now? Nightmare’s Edge by Bryan Davis. It’s the conclusion of the Reflections from the Edge trilogy.

What books or authors have most influenced your own writing? So many. I read, while not as much as I would like, still quite a bit. I go through about four novels a month.

How do you come up with the titles to your books? If they don’t seem obvious, I ask my trial readers.

When did you first consider yourself a writer? In second grade when my teacher chose to read my story to the class.

Describe your writing space. I have a desk in the family room with my laptop and files on it. It takes up about four square feet. But, my laptop, my briefcase, my reading glasses and even the sheers I look out to watch the birds are all red. I keep a stuffed version of Jelly (the Talbott’s bulldog) on my desk to help inspire the mysteries.

What was the hardest part of writing your book? Deciding who did it and why.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? Spend time with my husband and boys.

Where do you get your inspiration from? The Bible, dreams, people around me, overheard conversations in restaurants (or anywhere), books, or sometimes by playing with combining total opposites.

What did you want to be when you grew up? An archaeologist. My dad arranged for me to go on a dig when I was 12 or 13. I spent the better part of one day digging at a Native American burial site in Illinois. That cured me. Unless you’ve done that, you have no idea what utter tedium and boredom is.

What do you do in your spare time? (Assuming you have any ;-) ) I like to experiment with new recipes on long cold weekends. I’d love to attend a vegetarian cooking school at some future point. I’m not vegetarian, but I like every vegetable. I can’t say that about meats.

What genre would you like to explore that you haven’t tried to write in yet? I don’t think there’s much that I haven’t tried writing.

What would you never see yourself writing? True crime, horror, anything anti-Biblical

Do you really, really want a dog? Not really. I like dogs, but they make me sneeze and I find them too needy. However, I’m miserable without a cat in the house.

Do you hate how you look in pictures? No. Usually they’re kinder to me than the mirror.

Do you have any strange handwriting habits, like capitalizing all your “r”s or dotting your “I”s with heart (or anything like that)? Not really.

What is your strangest habit? Getting my pedometer to turn green. I’m known to march in place about bedtime to turn it green and make my step quota. My three guys laugh a lot about that.

You can erase any horrible experience from your past. What will it be? Unfortunately, I have too many to choose from. But I keep thinking God will put the remainder to use. Then, they’re worth it. After all, I’m still here.

When you looked in the mirror this morning, what was the first thing you thought? Thinking? Who thinks first thing in the morning? I’m stumbling to the coffee pot.

What were you doing at midnight last night? sleeping

What’s a saying you use a lot? Can’t think of one. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I do use “though”, “after all”, “actually” and other qualifying words a lot. *** My son said “Power of the coupon!” If you see me buy anything without shopping around or trying to save money on the purchase, I’ve been taken over by an alien.

Have you ever eaten a crayon? I’m sure I did. Few things escaped my mouth between ages three and five.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten? Raw anemone in the south of France. Yuk.

What is your favourite animal? Cats to snuggle. Horses to watch run. For some reason, seeing a horse run free at full gallop always makes me cry.

What do you want to know about the future? Nothing. It’s more fun imagining than knowing.

What is your heritage? I’m as close to a purebred as you get in the States. Both sides of my family came from Sweden. I do have a French ancestor that a Viking relative stole if the family stories are true.

Have you ever cried during a movie? Many, many times.

Do you sleep with the light on? Only when Gary’s out of town.

What is your favourite pizza? Chicago deep dish with mushrooms, artichokes, spinach, onions, peppers and pepperoni

Are you a morning person or a night person? I work best in the morning. But don’t talk to me and expect me to be conversational until I’ve had two cups of coffee and/or tea.

If you were granted three wishes by a genie, what would they be? Slow each happy moment, speed each painful one, and help me keep learning with a willing spirit

If you could go anywhere to tomorrow, where would you go? On a cruise

If you could see anyone tomorrow (dead or alive), who would it be? Don’t know. I would kind of like to meet one or more of my characters in the flesh!


Marianne Evans said…
Great interview! Susan,the book sounds incredible, and I can't wait to read it! Clare, your blog is such a treasure. I just love ya to bits. :-) blessings ladies, and keep up the great work!!!
Susan Lyttek said…
Thank you for the compliments, Clare! I had a lot of fun with your questions.
Patty said…
The book sounds like a lot of fun! And it's great to get to know you. :)
Donna B said…
Wow, the book sounds great! Wonderful interview!
Lilly Maytree said…
I'm a homeschool fan, myself, Susan, (not to mention mysteries and history!) and am very much looking forward to reading HOMESCHOOLING CAN BE MURDER. You are definitely a writer after my own heart.

Clare, in this interview... you left no stone unturned!
LoRee Peery said…
What a treasure, I'd like to hole-up overnight with the two of you for a gab session. "Fear block" should be a new writer's term. I've already written this book on my to-purchase list.

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