Susanna Calkins wears a lot of hats. As a wife, mother, educator, faculty developer, researcher, blogger, and—now—novelist, Calkins performs a daily juggling act that sometimes leaves her writing in some of the strangest places.
In fact, it wouldn’t be unusual to find the Evanston-based writer working away in the wee hours of the night, wrapping up editorial revisions on her forthcoming second novel, penning a blog entry, or otherwise trying to meet some kind of deadline. When it comes to writing, Calkins will work just about wherever and whenever possible.
“I’m not one of those people who needs five hours of untouched time,” she says. “I’ll write a scene on the bus. When I’m waiting for a doctor’s appointment, I might write a scene. I just try to seize the few minutes I can.”
Switching gears seems to come somewhat easily for Calkins. Whether focused on family, her job as associate director of the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University, or her burgeoning career as a writer, the charming brunette seems comfortable in just about any hat, in just about any location, and in just about any era.
Calkins’s debut novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (Minotaur, June 2013), is set in 17th century London, a place Calkins has lived in—though, of course, in a different time. The London Calkins more recently spent time in found her pursuing her PhD in history while working and researching aboard The Golden Hinde, the reconstructed galleon of Sir Francis Drake.
That experience—and her love of history as well as her self-confessed “morbid curiosity” with murder—played a hand in setting the stage for A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, in which Lucy Campion finds herself in the midst of a mystery. Living and working in London for a spell helped provide Calkins with information and details that have made her book come alive.
In fact, Calkins’s first novel has earned all sorts of praise from readers, fellow authors, and reviewers. “Terrific,” “high-quality,” “believable,” “engaging,” and “absorbing” are just a few of the terms used to describe her freshman effort.
Part of that praise comes from the carefully drawn world Calkins has created, a world that readers will get to visit at least once more: The second Lucy Campion book, tentatively titled From the Charred Remains, is scheduled to publish in 2014.
Publishing her second novel seems to have Calkins just as excited as she was with her first (though her first novel wasn’t her first book: Calkins earlier coauthored a professional reference guide, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: The Reflective Professional). Honing details, getting the flavor of the era just so, developing characters from minor players into major players—all of that has Calkins excited about From the Charred Remains.
While the forthcoming release of her second novel certainly has her excited, Calkins also is happy about yet another hat she gets to wear: panelist. Or, rather, fellow panelist. Upon learning that she would be sharing a dais later this month at the 44th Bouchercon with some of her favorite mystery authors—among them Anne Perry and Caroline Todd—Calkins barely knew what to do with herself.
“When you meet someone who inspires you, it’s like ‘Oh, my gosh!’” she says, noting that she’d be happy to just listen to Anne Perry during the entire conference session. “I think I’ll just be glad to have her talk. I really want to ask her questions.”
At the rate she’s going, Calkins likely soon will—if she hasn’t already—inspire a generation of up-and-coming mystery writers herself, just like her real-life heroine Anne Perry has. With one highly praised novel under her belt, her second book in the works, and a few manuscripts waiting in the wings, Calkins may well find herself wearing yet another hat: bestselling author.
Learn more about Susanna Calkins.