What a delight to interview Suzanne Baginskie who has created an exciting series of standalone novels, all featuring FBI characters. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her bio and contact/buy links:
First off, congratulations on your FBI Affairs series of novels! I don’t know too many writers whose publishers offer them five-book publishing contracts like the one you received from Magnolia Blossom Publishing—mighty impressive! Can you tell our readers a bit about your novels and what inspired them?
Thank you very much, Lynn. My FBI Affairs series features strong FBI female agents who work alongside their macho male partners in the FBI division of Cybercrime, Homicide, and Human Trafficking. The first novel involves a female agent who charades as an accountant in a Las Vegas hotel on a covert mission to seize evidence of an offline sports betting scheme. She secures the proof and forwards it to FBI headquarters. Someone murders the hotel CEO before she can escape. Her cover’s blown, and the mob issues a kill contract on her. She has to testify against them in seven days. With a target on her back, she goes on the run with her four-year-old daughter. FBI assigns her old partner and lover to protect them. He’s unaware she has a secret, one her assailants already know.
As an avid mystery and romantic suspense reader for years, my actual series was inspired by a Harlequin contest for a romantic suspense novel. I took a chance, wrote my first book, DANGEROUS CHARADE, and submitted it. There were seventy-five entries, and my novel survived into the last group of ten, but it didn’t win. Little did I know then, it was destined to snag a future contract and I’d finally become an author.
Many mystery series writers make the choice to stick with a recurring protagonist from book to book. You’ve made a different choice to create a new protagonist associated with the FBI for each of your novels. What made you decide to go that route?
There’s a story behind my FBI Affairs series. When Magnolia Blossom Publishing advertised, they were looking for romance novels, and I submitted DANGEROUS CHARADE. One week later, I was offered a five-book contract through a Zoom video call. Before they published it, they asked for a series name. Book two was almost completed with different characters, but the premise was still FBI. The terrible dangers the agents face together, and their goal of staying alive allows an emotional relationship to blossom between them. I chose the word Affairs since it hinted at the hazards of working undercover and also their affairs of the heart. Thus, the FBI Affairs series was born. I continued the theme and finished DANGEROUS REVENGE-Book two, and DANGEROUS INNOCENCE-Book three. Each of my novels introduces you to new FBI protagonists who are involved in bizarre criminal situations. They can be read in or out of order, as each novel is a standalone.
I know you were formerly a paralegal. Has your legal background been helpful in penning your novels?
I believe my novels are inspired by the path my life has taken me. I was employed twenty-nine and a half years as a paralegal/office manager at the same law firm. In my spare time, I volunteered for nine years at the Sheriff’s Office as Corporate Secretary, and supervised their Citizen’s Academy workshops and meetings. I also worked for the Supervisor of Election at the federal and state elections. My life has evolved with a fascinating career focused on law, crime, and justice. I have been educated on lots of criminal activities in my past. They all pointed me in the direction of writing characters who thrived on dangerous ventures, and took ultimate risks, and in the end fell in love along the way.
How did you go about researching the workings of the FBI to lend authenticity to your work?
This is a harder question, Lynn. There’s lots of researching to do, but computers have made that much easier. I have watched many mysteries, thriller, and crime television shows for as long as I can remember. My mother introduced me to Perry Mason at a young age. I don’t really care for simple romance movies. (Note: I hope not to offend those who love them.) I desire to view more complex issues, Like Law and Order, the Twenty-four series and Homeland shows. I also loved the James Bond movies and have recently devoured all the latest Netflix series such as Peaky Blinders, The Recruit and Treason. I have a taste for law-breaking crime, murder with bullets and bodies, and sirens. I did work for a criminal lawyer and the local sheriff, afterall.
For many years, you wrote short stories, poems, and articles. What led you to make the move to penning entire novels, and how did you prepare for that transition?
All those years, my main goal was to write a book that had only my name on the cover when it was published. I raised two children and did my writing on the side. When I retired along came our Covid-19 pandemic. A dreadful time, but something good happened in that secluded period of my life. With time on my hands, I took that Harlequin contest manuscript and rewrote it. In 2021, I submitted it to Magnolia Blossom Publishing and my author dream finally came true. The transition to longer works was easy for me. As an analytical person, I sat down in my chair and wrote on my own schedule. Each book is a challenge and lots of work. The only problem I’ve encountered is learning the marketing side of my series.
A related question: Have you found writing novels more enjoyable and rewarding than your previous writing projects?
Yes. I don’t have to worry it will get rejected, for one. My daily walks really help me develop the plot lines and characters for my novels. I’m a morning person and I start each day with coffee, and then take a four-mile walk. That’s when my best ideas flow. I sort of get into a trance-like state at times. Once I have the theme, the time and place are next. I research on the computer, and I do enjoy the process. One secret of mine is using my family members first or last names and surprisingly they have noticed. Rewriting is challenging, but eventually it all comes together in the end.
What are you currently working on writing-wise?
My fourth novel in the FBI Affairs series will be titled DANGEROUS UNDERCURRENTS. My husband and I have cruised so much since we’ve retired, I figured out a crime and story to get my FBI agents off dry land and onboard a cruise ship. During my cruises, I’ve written many stories throughout the years on sea days with my iPad and attached keyboard, while staring at the bluest ocean for inspiration. I’ve also donated my three-book series to the cruise ship’s library in hopes of finding new readers.
What advice would you give to aspiring mystery/romantic suspense writers?
I would encourage them to read Stephen King’s book, ON WRITING, and also THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron. Join critique groups and start writing daily. Read ten books on the genre you choose to write. Attend conferences and network with other new writers. Once you start, you’ll acquire a fever of sorts, and your writing knowledge will evolve.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, or wish I’d asked you that I didn’t?
Yes. Why are critique groups and writing organizations important?
Joining an experienced critique group to review your writing and returning the favor by reviewing your partners will really open up a new world for you. You’ll need big shoulders to take criticism, but in the end, you’ll learn from others and improve your writing skills immensely. I currently have belonged to the same writing critique group called ‘Literary Ladies of Crime’ for the last fourteen years. Without that group I may never have been published. I’m also a member of Mystery Writers of America, Florida Mystery Writers, Romance Writers of America, Sisters-in-Crime, Florida Gulf Coast Sisters-in-Crime, and the Short Mystery Fiction Society. These organizations hold yearly conferences and some of the others Zoom lots of seminars to help educate writers seeking publication. I highly recommend them.
Suzanne Baginskie and her husband, Al, left New Jersey and relocated to the west central coast of Florida. She’s been writing ever since her mother gifted her a five year diary for her eighth birthday. Unknowingly, her mother’s inspirational nudge helped the writer inside her emerge. She recently retired from a law firm as a paralegal-office manager. Now she writes daily, spinning tales of romantic suspense that pair tantalizing mystery with compelling romance. She starts each day with a four mile walk and meditates on her current writing project. A voracious reader, she supports her local library association as a friend. She loves traveling, especially on cruise ships. Most sea days on board, you’ll find her plotting stories outside on the deck gazing at the ocean. Currently, she is working on her series.
Book Buy links:
DANGEROUS CHARADE: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09JPCX2CX
DANGEROUS REVENGE: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MXJVCPM
DANGEROUS INNOCENCE: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09YJ6QCKW