Thursday, April 3, 2014

Interview and Book Giveaway with Suzanne Hartmann

by Jeff Reynolds

This is the second time I've had the privilege of interviewing Suzanne Hartmann on this blog, and we'll be giving away a copy of her latest book Conspiracy.  Rules are below, including how to get an extra entry into the drawing. Also, don't miss her telling about the details of the Facebook launch party for Conspiracy.

Congratulations to Heather Day Gilbert!

Jeff Reynolds:  Last time you were on, I asked about the inspiration for your story, but I neglected how you got started in writing. Do you feel it was more an interest you always had or a call?

Suzanne Hartmann:  
Actually, the two are intertwined. I mentioned in my previous interview that the stories which eventually became the first story in the Fast Track Thriller series began as scenes I created to entertain myself while sitting through my kids’ various activities. But the idea to craft them into a novel didn’t even enter my mind until a thought popped into my head while I was taking a walk. It came out of the blue, and it took several weeks of prayer to determine that it was a God-nudge not an early mid-life crisis. So I began researching NASCAR (since I wasn’t at fan at the time), and a couple of months later started writing. Since then, God has led me on an amazing journey full of doubts, anguish, inspiration, and joy. But He has faithfully encouraged me every step along the way

JR:  The second installment of your Fast Track Thrillers has just crossed the starting line. Could you tell us about the series and your new release?SH: Conspiracy picks up only a few months after the dramatic, surprise ending to Peril, and we rejoin Joanne Van der Haas, a top-secret agent with enhanced strength who works for the nation's most clandestine intelligence agency. Her boss is accused of selling government secrets, and she must choose which to trust: the man she's worked with for many years or the NSA’s evidence. When the heat turns up and a traitor threatens those she loves most, Joanne’s friend, NASCAR champion Stuart Jackson, is the only person she can trust to help her follow the trail of clues. Although untried in the intelligence field, Stuart is willing to face the danger in order to bring the truth to light and keep Joanne from being implicated.

JR:  I have the impression that you've dealt with several obstacles both on the writing track and off. What has it been like, and what lessons has God taught you through the false starts?

Yes, I have, Jeff, both the typical obstacles any new author must negotiate as well as medical issues, including a major surgery last year that led to another trip to the OR in the midst of the editing process for Conspiracy. The main thing I’ve learned from both types of obstacle is the need to keep my eyes on Jesus. When I put my focus on people, I will inevitably be disappointed. But when I lay my troubles at God’s feet, I can rest in the knowledge that He will meet all of my needs. Much easier said than done, but He continually shows His faithfulness when I look to Him as my provider.

JR:  In the previous interview, I asked you about your non-fiction book, Write This Way and you shared about filtering as it relates to POV. Any other interesting facts that might help writers here in their literary qualifying attempts?

Another stylistic error I address in Write This Way that I don’t see talked about much is the unnecessary use of small movements: turning, reaching, walking across the room, etc. Every action involves multiple smaller actions, but we don’t want to bore our readers with every single, tiny action required to accomplish something. For example, I could write, “James made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” That involves many steps, from reaching into the cabinet to pull out the jar, to spreading the jelly. But since readers are familiar with how make a PB&J, we don’t need to include every little step. In the same way, readers automatically fill in little actions like reaching out before touching someone, or walking across the room to answer the door, or turning towards the window before looking outside. So we can leave these small motions out when writing.

JR:  Speaking of writing, I found your characters captivating, including supporting ones like George. What helped you develop that good a pit crew to keep the story running?

 Thank you so much! I tried hard to create the type of characters readers want to get to know and read more about. The fact that you found them captivating thrills me more than you can know. The main thing I did to generate such characters is to make sure they were realistic. A huge factor in doing this is motivation. Whether for one of my protagonists or someone only in one scene, I continually asked myself, “How would this character respond?” “What would she do next?” and “What would make him do that?”

JR:  Again in the earlier interview, you mentioned getting writing ideas while driving your children around and how your daughter got interested in NASCAR. Could you tell us about your family? And have you ever made it to a NASCAR race?
SH:  My wonderful husband Steve and I celebrated twenty-five years of marriage this year, and we have three children: Andrew, David, and Rachel. We have homeschooled for sixteen years, and graduated both of the boys, so it’s just Rachel and I at home now.

I attended numerous NASCAR Nationwide and Truck Series races during the four years I volunteered with Midwest Raceway Ministries at Gateway International Raceway in the St. Louis area. It wasn’t until two years ago, however, that my husband and I attended our first Sprint Cup race at the Kansas Speedway. While we were there, we were blessed to be able to meet Jimmy Makar, the General Manager of Joe Gibbs Racing and the person who wrote the foreword for Peril, as well as Billie Mauldin, CEO of the Motor Racing Outreach, who handed out a hundred copies of Peril at the 2012 spring Bristol race. Both of these gentlemen realized even more than I did that my novel could be a powerful and unique outreach tool, and I am thankful that God led me to a connection with each of them.

JR:  I know that you're working on Revenge, the third leg of this series. Have you thought about what you'll do when your trilogy has crossed the checkered flag?

 Although I have been pondering the idea of a prequel, I have decided to move on when I finish Revenge and concentrate on two partially completed novels. One is also NASCAR-related, but it is a romantic suspense novel. The other—like the Fast Track Thrillers—has a twist of the unusual, but it is women’s fiction.

JR:  Thank you very much for your time. As I've mentioned before, I'm looking forward to reading Conspiracy. Any web pages you want to mention so your admiring fans can keep cheering you on?

 Thank you for hosting me on Sleuths & Suspects again, Jeff. Your readers can find out more about Peril and Conspiracy at my Fast Track Thrillers website at, and I invite all of your readers to the Facebook Release Party for Conspiracy on April 10 on my FB Author Page ( ) For more information about Write This Way: Take Your Writing to the Next Level, readers can visit my blog at, where they will find tons of advice about writing.

Jeff to the readers: 
Now is the time to enter the contest. Three simple steps.
  1. Leave a comment (that's not hard, is it?)
  2. Include your e-mail address so we can communicate with you -- you can spell it out like AuntDotKahm(at)Ant(dot)com
  3. Suzanne included NASCAR, a sport that she wasn't familiar with, in her story. If you were to include a sport or hobby in a book you wrote that you aren't familiar with but would love to research, what would it be?
Suzanne is offering an extra entry into the contest to anyone willing to allow her to add your e-mail address to her update list. (Don't worry about getting inundated -- it only comes out a few times a year.)

I will add yet one more bonus point to the first person who correctly guesses whose endorsement is on the front of Conspiracy. And key word is guess -- no fair peeking at the top. And the person who wrote it wouldn't be guessing.


  1. Thank you for hosting me here again, Jeff. You always have wonderful questions that I look forward to answering. I'm looking forward to reading the comments, especially the answers to your question in #3. Love the Extra Bonus Question. Very appropriate!

  2. Posting for Debbie Reynolds, who is having trouble posting her comment here: I really, really have to find out what happens next!! Yes you can udate me Peril was the guy from Joe Gibbs. I rember seeing this one is a lady writer; can't rember her name Bet I lose that one. But I did not go back and look.

  3. Hi Suzanne,
    It's great to see you back at Seekerville. I love your stories.

    If I added a sport to a story it would be tennis, basketball, or football. Although I've watched enough baseball games to write about it too.

    I wish you great success with this book, Suzanne!

  4. Suzanne, you may add my email to your update list: jennismith1983(at)gmail(dot)com. I enjoyed the interview and the writing advice you shared! I can relate to how you use chauffeuring and other stolen pieces of time to brainstorm your stories. :)
    If I added a hobby I didn't know in a book I wrote, it would be auto mechanics. The main reason is because I know NOTHING about cars, but I've always thought it would be a good idea to familiarize myself. Using auto mechanics as a hobby or profession of a character would help me personally.

  5. Good to see Conspiracy is out! I finished Peril not long ago and wondered what would happen next.

    If the giveaway is open outside the US, please pop my name into the hat: janet(dot)sketchley(at)gmail(dot)com (an e-copy would be fine and save postage!)

    Suzanne, please add me to your mailing list too.

    I've written one suspense novel including car racing, so if I were to pick a different sport to add I think it might be fencing. I took basic lessons last year and the strategy and movements were beyond me but very interesting.

  6. Love the motivation behind your choice, Jennifer! So true for me too. Also glad to know I'm not the only one who has to steal back time to brainstorm writing ideas.

  7. Jeff may need to have the final word on whether the contests here are open to those outside the U.S. I won't go outside the guidelines set up here for their contests, but if it is up to each individual author, I am willing to send outside the U.S.
    BTW, I love watching fencing! My husband and I attended a gold-medal match at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and we were captivated.

    1. Suzanne and Janet, it is up to the author.

      And I'd love to watch fencing, but they never show it! They'd rather show men's basketball. (I prefer women's BB).

      And I'm in the process of reading Heaven's Prey (Janet's book that includes auto racing). Very good. Though will I enjoy it as much as Amish Vampires In Space? (I'm saying this knowing Janet's a Kerry Nietz fan, as I now am.)

  8. Loved the first book. Yeah, homeschoolers!
    cricket (I'd write a typical English style murder mystery, lol.)

  9. Hi Suzanne! What a lovely cover and interesting topic! Throw my name in the hat! heatherdaygilbert (at) gmail (dot) com! Thanks and all the best w/your writing!

  10. Thank you, Heidi, for your kind words about Peril. So far (if I can do a little shameless promotion with other people's words), people have been telling me that Conspiracy is even better than Peril, and they haven't been able to put it down.
    Sounds like your choice would make a great book. Maybe you should do it!

  11. Thank you for joining the fun, Heather, and for your well wishes. Good luck in the drawing!

  12. And nobody commented on the extra bonus question, on who wrote a blurb featured on the front cover. I'm not sure if I should be surprised or disappointed. The author of that blurb is Heidi Glick, author of Dog Tags and contributor to this blog.

  13. I love this blog, and the interview.
    Suzanne, I would love to be on your mailing list! My email is
    As for what I would like to research for a story is archeology. It probably comes from too many Indiana Jones movies, but I think taking clues from a past civilization and putting them together into a cohesive whole is a fascinating puzzle.